ADA — While Oklahoma’s average median income ranks near the bottom, state taxes increased by a whopping 39 percent in the decade between 1994 and 2004, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Oklahomans on average earned $35,634 in 2004. Only residents of five states earned less: New Mexico (S35,091); Montana ($34,449); Louisiana ($33,792); Arkansas ($33,445); West Virginia ($32,967) and Mississippi ($32,397).

Nationwide, tax burdens increased by an average of 41 percent over the 10-year period.

Oklahomans paid $1,824, meaning their tax burden was more than that of residents of 17 other states. Only one state, Alaska, saw the amount it collects per person decline, according to the Bureau report.

In 2004, Hawaiians paid the most to state government — $3,050 per person on average. Texans paid the least — an average of $1,368.

Analysts blamed the increase in Oklahoma on escalating education and Medicaid costs which have fueled spending growth, which has led to higher taxes.

Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. In an effort to stem rising costs, Congress passed legislation recently allowing states to charge about 13 million Medicaid beneficiaries new or increased co-payments and premiums.

Bureau officials said the wide range in state taxes reflects the variety of government revenue systems throughout the country. The numbers do not include local taxes, which in many states generate most of the money for schools. They also do not include federal taxes.

Nationally, education is the biggest budget item, consuming an average of 31 percent of state spending. Public welfare comes in second at 24 percent. Highways account for 6 percent of state spending and police protection just 1 percent, the report said.

Many Oklahomans received a $45 rebate earlier this year because of budget surpluses.

For additional information, go online at www.census.gov/govs/www/state.html.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry presented a $6.8 billion budget to the 2006 Legislature Tuesday, an increase of more than $600 million from a year ago. Another $600 million is also available for appropriation, a $400 million Rainy Day windfall is building and that money can be dedicated to some programs. When Henry became governor in 2002, he faced a shortfall of $700 million, prompting deep budget cuts throughout state government.

A legislative task force recently proposed overhauling Oklahoma’s Medicaid system and announced it had identified $111 million in savings, mostly in billing errors caused by fraud, abuse or mistakes, that will be reinvested in patient care.

The Medicaid Reform Task Force, formed last year by House Speaker Todd Hiett to examine Oklahoma’s 40-year-old Medicaid program, adopted a series of recommendations to cut costs and transform the program that provides health care to more than 600,000 low-income Oklahomans.

In announcing the recommendations, Hiett said the program threatened to cripple the state’s budget over the next decade due to escalating health care costs, an increasing number of participants and shrinking federal support for Medicaid.

“They recognize that this is a broken system,” said Hiett, R-Kellyville. The system’s budget totals $3.36 billion this year. About 70 percent of Medicaid funding comes from the federal government.

The task force’s recommendations would move Medicaid recipients to a consumer choice system that would allow them to choose from a menu of options and services to match their needs. Task force members said the plan would cut costs and give participants better services and outcomes.

“Recipients will have more options and they’ll have incentives to use the system in a more efficient way,” said Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, chairman of the task force. Steele held a public meeting about Medicaid in the summer of 2005.



State 2004 rank 2004 1994 Percent change

Ala. 46 1,551 1,126 38

Alaska 22 2,035 2,064 -1

Ariz. 41 1,674 1,364 23

Ark. 24 2,029 1,296 57

Calif. 9 2,392 1,587 51

Colo. 48 1,532 1,138 35

Conn. 3 2,941 2,093 41

Del. 5 2,862 2,040 40

Fla. 36 1,756 1,275 38

Ga. 42 1,634 1,247 31

Hawaii 1 3,050 2,550 20

Idaho 32 1,898 1,417 34

Ill. 25 2,005 1,318 52

Ind. 30 1,920 1,301 48

Iowa 38 1,742 1,460 19

Kan. 28 1,933 1,430 35

Ky. 21 2,043 1,489 37

La. 34 1,782 1,018 75

Maine 16 2,203 1,425 55

Md. 15 2,214 1,521 46

Mass. 7 2,628 1,827 44

Mich. 10 2,381 1,497 59

Minn. 4 2,891 1,895 53

Miss. 35 1,767 1,249 41

Mo. 45 1,583 1,119 41

Mont. 37 1,754 1,358 29

Neb. 18 2,082 1,322 58

Nev. 23 2,031 1,635 24

N.H. 47 1,544 739 109

N.J. 8 2,416 1,704 42

N.M. 17 2,103 1,654 27

N.Y. 11 2,377 1,833 30

N.C. 26 1,971 1,490 32

N.D. 29 1,932 1,382 40

Ohio 27 1,963 1,277 54

Okla. 33 1,824 1,313 39

Ore. 40 1,700 1,309 30

Pa. 20 2,045 1,423 44

R.I. 14 2,230 1,446 54

S.C. 43 1,621 1,228 32

S.D. 49 1,378 912 51

Tenn. 44 1,617 1,110 46

Texas 50 1,368 1,062 29

Utah 39 1,733 1,252 38

Vt. 6 2,845 1,438 98

Va. 31 1,903 1,229 55

Wash. 13 2,239 1,825 23

W.Va. 19 2,068 1,405 47

Wis. 12 2,296 1,654 39

Wyo. 2 2,974 1,557 91

Nation - 2,026 1,437 41



The states with the 10 highest and 10 lowest median incomes, and the U.S. median income.



Top 10

State Median income

Conn. $56,409

N.J. 56,356

Md. 54,302

Mass. 52,713

N.H. 52,409

Alaska 52,391

Minn. 50,750

Va. 50,028

Colo. 49,248

Del. 48,770



Bottom 10

State Median income

Tenn. $37,925

Ky. 36,663

Ala. 36,131

Okla. 35,634

N.M. 35,091

Mont. 34,449

La. 33,792

Ark. 33,445

W.Va. 32,967

Miss. 32,397

Nation $43,318



Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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