Energy driving Oklahoma's economic recovery

Gross tax receipts up for the last 12 months for the first time in two years, state data show.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Updated Sept. 7, 2017 at 11:09 AM
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Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The state energy sector is the primary driver of the economic recovery underway in shale-rich Oklahoma, the head of the state treasurer said.

Oklahoma is home to about 4 percent of the total petroleum reserves in the country and accounts for as much as 5 percent of the total crude oil production. Its economy was battered after crude oil prices hit historic lows in recent years and curbed spending in exploration and production.

The state Treasury Department said gross tax receipts for the past 12 months were higher year-over-year for the first time since August 2015, showing recovery was clearly entrenched.

"Oklahoma's economic recovery, slow and steady, continued through August," State Treasurer Ken Miller said in a statement. "The energy sector remains the primary driver of the state's economic expansion as evidenced by the continued rise in oil field employment and gross production tax payments."

Tax receipts from oil and natural gas production in August brought in $43.8 million, an improvement of 37.6 percent from last year. For the past 12 months, total gross production taxes were up 34.3 percent.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in May modified a gross production tax on current producing wells in a step she said would add about $92 million to the 2018 fiscal budget and suspends various rebates for the industry.

The governor said the measure would help keep the state government open and running, and the treasurer said that was starting to show up in August tax receipts, adding $16.7 million to state coffers. The largest contribution, about $10.7 million, came from a new sales tax on motor vehicles.

After new tax measures were introduced, Sen. Bryce Marlatt, the chairman of the state energy committee, said the energy sector is the backbone of the state economy "and when the industry prospers our state prospers too."

Fallin revised a proclamation last year that called on Christians to observe Oct. 13 as a day of prayer for the oil sector to include members of all faiths. The decree stated that people of all faiths recognize oil was "created by God" and had significant contributions to the state economy.

Shale work in Oklahoma is under close monitoring because of a new fault located in the region by the U.S. Geological Survey. Two magnitude-2.7 tremors were reported in the last 24 hours in Oklahoma by the USGS. The USGS found the disposal of oil and gas-related wastewater is the "primary reason" for an increase in seismic activity, a process that's different from hydraulic fracturing.

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