The Liberty think tank, CATO Institute, recently released an in depth study of all 50 states and prescribed reforms for each state. Oklahoma ranks high, but just a few more reforms could result in leading the nation in personal & economic freedom. Oklahoma now ranks 3rd, as of 2014 comparisons.
Among the Policy Recommendations are:
As noted earlier in this book, Oklahoma is the most improved state for the 2000–2014 period. Moreover, although the Sooner State’s personal freedom lags its economic freedom, it has made significant progress on both dimensions.
Oklahoma is one of the lowest-taxed states in America. However, it is also fiscally centralized. Local taxation is about 2.9 percent of personal income, while state taxation is 4.6 percent of personal income. Government subsidies are lower than average but have risen a touch over time, to 0.06 percent of personal income. State and local debt is much lower than average (11.4 percent of income), and government employment is much higher than average (15.2 percent of private employment). Oklahoma has managed to cut its debt even as its tax receipts fell significantly as a share of the economy.
Land-use regulation is light in Oklahoma, although the state has not restrained eminent domain for private gain. Labor law is excellent, with a right-to-work law, no state-level minimum wage, a federally consistent anti-discrimination law, and lighter workers’ compensation mandates than most states. Occupational licensing has grown over time, but not as much as in most other states. However, nurses’ practice freedom remains fairly restricted. Insurance freedom is high, and rating classification prohibitions were eliminated in 2013–14. The state does have both general and gasoline-focused sales-below-cost prohibitions. The court system is relatively good, due to tort reforms in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Oklahoma’s incarceration rate, adjusted for the crime rate, is more than a standard deviation higher than the national average, but it has not been changing much recently. Meanwhile, victimless crime arrest rates have been declining since 2006. Civil asset forfeiture reform has not gone far. It is still possible to get sentenced to life in prison for a single cannabis offense not involving minors. And a two-year mandatory minimum exists for even small-scale cultivation. For a state without a government liquor monopoly, Oklahoma does poorly on alcohol freedom. It has statewide blue laws, a happy hour ban, a total ban on direct wine shipment, and a ban on wine and spirits in grocery stores. Gambling expanded significantly in 2011–12. Educational freedom has grown recently with a very limited voucher law in 2010 and a modest tax benefit for contributions to private scholarship funds enacted in 2011–12. Homeschools and private schools are virtually unregulated. Tobacco freedom is relatively good, although new smoking restrictions in bars surfaced in 2013–14. The state was forced to legalize same-sex marriage, suspending its super-DOMA, in 2014.