NORMAN — The pace of Oklahoma’s economy recovery slowed during 2012, State Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday as he released the state’s monthly gross receipts to the treasury report.
“December receipts were 1.5 percent better than the prior year, and total year collections surpassed the previous year by 3.8 percent,” Miller said. “That compares to growth last December of 11.1 percent and a 2011 growth rate of 9.6 percent.”
Miller said sales tax collections indicate a healthy Christmas shopping season in Oklahoma. December sales tax collections, reflecting sales between mid-November and mid-December, were $20.45 million, or 5.9 percent higher than the last holiday shopping season, a similar growth rate to sales during the same period in 2011.
December was the eighth time in the past year that collections exceeded those of the same month in 2011. In four months in 2012, collections dipped slightly below prior-year collections, according to Miller’s press release.
“Twelve-month collections now stand more than $1.7 billion higher than in February of 2010. Since we hit the trough almost three years ago, almost 90 percent of the revenue lost from our peak in December 2008 has been recovered,” he said.
Averting the cliff: Miller said the fiscal cliff deal reached earlier this week by Congress and the president brings good news and bad.
“The good news is that 98 percent of Americans will avoid a tax increase and the Bush tax cuts were made permanent, providing needed certainty to families and small businesses,” Miller said. “Quite obviously, that’s good news for the Oklahoma economy, as it is never advisable to raise taxes during a recession or weak recovery.
“Oklahoma’s recovery has been stronger than in most other states, but we need our country to do well so we can continue our economic gains.”
Miller said the bad news involves Washington’s appetite for spending.
“This deal does nothing to address Washington’s overspending that must be corrected, lest our federal leaders spend this country into oblivion,” he said. “During the coming months, policymakers must be cognizant of the near-term weak recovery but must finally get serious and implement a long-term solution that safeguards the economic and national security interests of our country.”
Miller said the biggest problem with spending cuts that would be started in two months if no further agreement is reached is that they disregard entitlements.
“Unfortunately with sequestration, the cuts are heavily weighted toward defense spending when the real problem, entitlement spending, is largely ignored,” he said.
“A strong defense is critical to our nation’s security and our state’s economy. Studies show Oklahoma could lose up to 20,000 jobs, including 4,000 military positions, if sequestration is triggered.
“This would be devastating to Oklahoma and can be avoided if Congress implements strategic, rather than across-the-board, spending cuts.”
Looking forward: During the past 12 months, figures from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the number of jobs grew by almost 60,000, while the labor force grew by just less than 42,000. During that time, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent to 5.2 percent.
The Mid-America Business Conditions Index anticipates that Oklahoma’s economy will continue its expansion this year. The survey shows that Oklahoma has among the best performing economies in the nine-state region, including in job creation during the last year and in anticipated overall growth in the coming year.