A strong energy sector has allowed Oklahoma’s economy to grow faster than the nation’s as a whole for the last half-decade.
Now, in the face of plummeting oil prices and uncertain energy markets, Oklahoma officials and local experts express cautious optimism that a resurgent national economic engine will buoy the state’s budget and job outlook.
Still, you can ask any mechanic: Engines need oil and gas.
“We’ve been over-performing the nation because of the energy sector,” said Dan Rickman, Oklahoma State University regents professor of economics. “This is going to switch, but because of [the national economy] we’re still going to grow.”
Gov. Mary Fallin’s budget department, a division within the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES — or “oh-mess,” as the robust agency is colloquially called), factors in an annual revenue and job-growth prediction about Oklahoma’s economy developed by Rickman.
Preston Doerflinger, Fallin’s Secretary of Finance and Revenue, heads OMES. A former city auditor of Tulsa, Doerflinger presented budget and economic prognostications garnered from contracted economists like Rickman to the Oklahoma Board of Equalization on Dec. 18.
“Despite some of the nuances with the budget, our economy remains strong [in Oklahoma],” Doerflinger told the Board of Equalization, whose members include Gov. Fallin, five statewide elected officials and the president of the Board of Agriculture. “If we do have some energy sector shrinkage, our number could drop a little bit.”
Read more on this topic in upcoming issues of Oklahoma Gazette!