All articles by David Blatt

Lawmakers pushing another unproven tax break with no idea what it will cost

by | March 23rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)
Photo by Ken Teegardin.

Photo by Ken Teegardin.

There’s lots of talk at the Capitol this year about the need for greater scrutiny and control of tax incentives. As we’ve discussed, bills authored by the House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem would evaluate all incentives on a regular basis and collect data on their fiscal and economic impact. Yet at least one measure that would create a new tax incentive of unknown cost and effectiveness is rushing through the Legislature.

HB 1747, authored by Rep. Tom Newell, has been labelled the Rural Opportunity Zone bill. As a way to lure new residents to struggling rural areas, it creates a five-year exemption from all state income tax for anyone moving from out-of-state to a county that is projected to lose population between 2016 and 2075. The bill references a 2012 report by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce that identifies 25 counties, mostly in the Western half of the state, that are expected to see their population decline in the coming decades (see map).

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This nonsensical ‘double dipping’ tax break is costing Oklahoma millions

by | March 10th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)
Photo Credit: Chris on Flickr

Photo Credit: Chris on Flickr

As Oklahoma faces a more than $600 million budget hole, state leaders have consistently said that “all options should be on the table.” With state services already straining from years of repeated cuts and flat funding, a balanced approach to closing the budget gap must include new revenues. One of the fairest and most sensible revenue options involves eliminating one of the most nonsensical quirks of our tax system – the state income tax deduction for state income taxes.

continue reading This nonsensical ‘double dipping’ tax break is costing Oklahoma millions

Education vies for funding down the road

by | March 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

school-children-roadHow do you boost support for education in a year when the state faces a massive budget shortfall? Several bills to provide teacher pay raises have gained initial committee approval, but these bills are unlikely to make it into law given the grim budget situation. The best chance for success for education advocates seems to be a proposal by House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney (R-Cushing) that provides a multi-year $600 million increase in education funding, but not for another three years. Yet even this proposal is far from a sure thing.

HB 1682 creates the Securing Education Excellence Fund. The bill is designed to increase funding for common education by $59.7 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2019. The funding increase would come from income tax revenue that is take off-the-top before legislators appropriate budgets for other state services.

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Proposal aims to get a grip on Oklahoma’s business tax breaks

by | March 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)
Panelists discuss tax credit reform at OK Policy's State Budget Summit.

Panelists discuss tax credit reform at OK Policy’s State Budget Summit.

Oklahoma’s more than 70 business incentives are one of the primary ways the state attempts to create jobs and encourage businesses to locate and expand in Oklahoma. These tax credits, tax exemptions, and cash rebates also have a significant cost. Each year they reduce the revenue that could otherwise be used for public services by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Policymakers have struggled to determine which incentives are working, which are not, and how the state can make sure it’s getting a strong return on taxpayer dollars. Oklahoma has no formal, ongoing method to measure the effectiveness of its incentives. Though legislators have made attempts to review these programs over the years, lawmakers found that an absence of data, direction, and agency coordination stymied their progress. But a new effort aims to provide the evidence they need to evaluate tax incentive programs and invest in those that work.

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Rainy Day Fund 101

by | February 25th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
Photo by Hamed Parham.

Photo by Hamed Parham.

With the state now facing a massive budget shortfall, attention has turned to tapping the Rainy Day Fund to close a portion of the gap. This post gives an overview of the Rainy Day Fund and how it might be used to help close Oklahoma’s current budget hole. The bottom line is that of the $535 million currently in the Fund, up to just under 5/8ths, or $325.5 million, could be appropriated for next year.

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Sleeping dogs of the 2015 session

by | February 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Immigration, Poverty | Comments (0)
Photo by Chris Waits

Photo by Chris Waits

The 2015 session is now underway and it’s clear that this year, as always, will feature heated debates on a multitude of contentious issues, from proposals to expand school choice through vouchers and charter schools to efforts to rein in tax credits to hot-button social issues, such as guns, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

Less noted, but perhaps equally significant, is the low profile of several issues that have been highly contentious in recent years and that many expected to see back on the agenda in 2015. Here’s a review of four issues on which few, if any, bills have been filed and it now appears that minimal legislative action is likely this session.

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Have Oklahoma gaming revenues peaked?

by | February 9th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
Photo by I-5 Design & Manufacture

Photo by I-5 Design & Manufacture

Ten years after Oklahoma voters approved gaming compacts with Native American tribes and racetrack gaming, the state is collecting over $140 million annually as its share of gaming revenues. However, years of growth in gaming revenue have now ended, which may be a sign that the gaming market in Oklahoma has reached a saturation point .

State Question 712, which Oklahoma voters approved in November 2004 with 59.4 percent support, had two principal components:

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Four takeaways from the Governor’s budget

by | February 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
Governor Mary Fallin delivering the 2012 State of the State.

Governor Mary Fallin delivering the 2012 State of the State address.

On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address and  FY 2016 Executive Budget. Her speech emphasized the need to address hurdles in the areas of education, health, and criminal justice that are impeding the state’s progress. However, since the December meeting of the Board of Equalization, which certified some $300 million less revenue for next year’s budget, it’s been clear that efforts to tackle these priority areas would be limited by continued lack of funding.

Here are four key takeaways from the Governor’s budget:

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Budget road certain to be rocky

by | January 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (2)
Photo by _chrisUK.

Photo by _chrisUK.

As we look ahead to next year’s state budget, one thing is for certain: it’s going to be a very rocky ride.

Last month, the Board of Equalization certified $298 million less revenue for next year’s budget than was appropriated this year. As we discussed in this blog post, the initial certification assumes that tax collections will grow next year, despite low energy prices; the shortfall is due to the use of over $400 million in one-time funds from cash reserves and agency revolving funds to balance this year’s budget, as well as a quarter-point cut in the income tax that last year’s Legislature scheduled to take effect at the start of 2016.

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The con-con con

by | January 26th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

editing-constitutionA proposal that could lead to far-reaching and radical changes to America’s time-tested constitution is being pushed in states across the country this year. Oklahoma would be well-advised to resist jumping aboard this particular train.

In Oklahoma and other states, bills have been introduced calling for a constitutional convention, or “con-con,” to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to approve a federal Balanced Budget Amendment, among other possible constitutional changes. Under Article V of the Constitution, a convention to amend the Constitution must be convened if two-thirds of the states call for one. In U.S. history, no convention has ever been convened since the one that produced the Constitution in 1787. Instead, all 27 constitutional amendments have been approved first by a two-thirds vote in Congress and then ratified by three-quarters of the states. 

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