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All articles by David Blatt

Six takeaways from Tuesday’s vote

by | November 14th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (2)

I-votedWhile most of the attention in Oklahoma last week focused on the geological earthquake that shook the state and the political earthquake that shook the nation, the state election results got less detailed coverage. Here are a few of our important takeaways from the vote:

Turnout was up

A total of 1,451,056 Oklahomans cast ballots for President, according to data provided by the State Election Board. That’s 132,000 more than the Presidential votes cast in 2012 (1,332,872), a 9.9 percent increase, but almost identical to the numbers in 2008 (1,462,661) and 2004 (1,463,758). Oklahoma saw a big increase in early voting: over 152,000 people took advantage of in-person early voting, compared to a previous high of 114,000 in 2008. The turnout rate of registered voters was 67.3 percent, also up from 2012. We won’t have numbers on the turnout rate for eligible voters — which includes those who are not registered to vote – until the Census Bureau releases data from its voter survey, but it should be up slightly from the 52.4 percent of eligible voters who voted in 2012.

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Who’s not voting, and why

by | November 7th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (0)

With Election Day tomorrow, many of us are busily getting prepared to exercise one of our basic civic rights by attending candidate forums, poring over election guides, studying the seven state ballot measures, and reviewing sample ballots.  But many Oklahomans — close to half — will likely not vote on November 8th. Who are these non-voters, why aren’t they voting, and what can we do about it?

Who Doesn’t Vote

Four years ago, just 51.3 percent of voting-age Oklahomans cast a ballot in the Presidential election, one of the lowest turnout rates in the nation. Two years ago, turnout in Oklahoma and nationally fell to its lowest level in decades, with fewer than one in three (32.3 percent) of eligible voters in this state casting a ballot in the contest for Governor and other state and federal races. Nationally, turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was just 41.9 percent of the voting-age population.

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Fact Check: The claim that less than half of SQ 779 revenues will go to teachers is false

by | November 1st, 2016 | Posted in Education, State Questions, Taxes | Comments (18)

A central claim being made by opponents of State Question 779, the ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by one percentage point to boost funding for education, is that less than half the money will go to raise teacher pay. This assertion is made repeatedly on the homepage and campaign ads of the group leading the No on 779 campaign and has been repeated by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and other organizations.

The assertion is false. SQ 779 clearly provides that of all revenue received by the new one-cent tax, a full 60 percent will go to teacher pay.

Here’s how it will work. Under the new language to be added to the state Constitution, 69.5 percent of all revenue from the one-cent sales tax will go to common education. How common education’s share will be allocated is spelled out in Article XIII, Section C.3.A.1  and Section C.4, as follows:

continue reading Fact Check: The claim that less than half of SQ 779 revenues will go to teachers is false

Claims that SQ 777 will boost food security are hard to swallow

yes-on-sq-777-facebook-post

Photo by Yes On 777 campaign.

Note: This is an expanded and revised version of a column that appeared in the Journal Record.

Vote Yes on State Question 777 or else more Oklahoma children and seniors will go hungry?

That’s the highly misleading message that supporters of the so-called Right to Farm amendment are asking Oklahoma voters to swallow.

The campaign for this amendment is being sponsored primarily by the Farm Bureau and other major agribusiness associations. If approved in November, SQ 777 would entrench in the state Constitution the right to engage in far-ranging agricultural practices. The Oklahoma Legislature and local governments would not be allowed to make any new laws regulating the use of agricultural technology, livestock procedures, or ranching practices unless they could be shown to serve a “compelling state  interest” and meet a legal standard of “strict scrutiny.”

Strict scrutiny is the very highest level of constitutional restriction — one that’s currently reserved for laws that discriminate on the basis of race or deprive people of fundamental rights like free speech, gun ownership, or freedom of religion.

continue reading Claims that SQ 777 will boost food security are hard to swallow

Oklahoma becomes a leader at managing volatile revenue (Guest Post: Robert Zahradnik, Jonathan Moody, and Steve Bailey)

by | October 4th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)

Robert Zahradnik is a director and Steve Bailey and Jon Moody are senior associates with The Pew Charitable Trustsstates’ fiscal health team. This post originally appeared on the Pew blog and is reposted here with permission.

Volatile revenue sources can create problems for states that rely on them for recurring budget expenditures. During good times, these unstable revenue streams can produce large surpluses that allow policymakers to expand programs or cut taxes. However, dramatic revenue declines often follow those unexpected booms, causing large budget holes and leaving lawmakers scrambling to balance the books.

Few states know this unfortunate pattern better than Oklahoma. The state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) is supported in part by oil and gas gross production taxes and corporate income taxes, two especially volatile revenue sources. After contributing nearly $250 million to the state’s GRF in 2000, oil production taxes didn’t even meet the minimum requirement to allocate any funds to the GRF from 2001 to 2004. Similarly, gas production taxes contributed almost $700 million to the GRF in 2008 but less than $100 million in 2015.

continue reading Oklahoma becomes a leader at managing volatile revenue (Guest Post: Robert Zahradnik, Jonathan Moody, and Steve Bailey)

Just Say Yes: Oklahoma voters have a history of affirming most state questions

by | September 28th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections, State Questions | Comments (0)

Oklahoma voters will decide seven state questions in November on subjects ranging from agriculture to the death penalty to the use of public funds for religious purposes. Of the seven questions, three were placed on the ballot through the initiative petition process, while four were referred to the ballot by the Legislature.

What does history suggest about the likely outcome of this year’s ballot measures? OK Policy looked at the results of all state questions in Oklahoma since 1989 using data collected by Ballotpedia.  The results are rather surprising. Of the 83 state questions submitted to the voters in the past 25 years,  65, or 78 percent, have been approved. Fewer than one in four have been rejected.

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Oklahoma and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runoffs

by | August 30th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (1)

empty polling placeLast week, Oklahomans went to the polls to decide 13 legislative primaries and one Congressional primary where no candidate received a majority in the initial primary ballot in June. More precisely, a few Oklahomans went to the polls. Less than one in five registered voters – 19.5 percent – voted in the runoff races in their district. In only one district, SD 19, did turnout exceed 26 percent.

As can be seen from the table, overall turnout in the 14 districts fell by 31.6 percent, or nearly one-third, between June and August. In all but one district, turnout for the runoff was lower than in the primary election. The exception was in SD 41, the highly-publicized contest in Edmond where Adam Pugh defeated Paul Blair. Since barely one in five registered Republicans voted in the initial primary in SD 41 in June, the bar for increased turnout in the runoff wasn’t that high. Three other runoff races saw fairly modest drops in participation, including Republican primaries in SD 19 (Enid) and HD 85 (Edmond) and the Democratic primary in HD 97 (Oklahoma City). Meanwhile, in eight races, turnout plunged by over one-third. The biggest drops were mostly in Tulsa-area seats (SD 39, HD 16, HD 67, HD 60, SD 25), where voters turned out in larger numbers in June to vote for Tulsa’s Mayor in an open primary.

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Bailey Perkins joins OK Policy as new Outreach & Legislative Liaison

by | August 17th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

BaileyPerkins2016Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to announce that Bailey Perkins is joining the staff as Outreach & Legislative Liaison. The full-time position will be based in Oklahoma City.

Perkins will be assuming primary responsibilities for representing OK Policy at the State Capitol during the legislative session, as well as working closely with advocacy groups and coalitions in the Oklahoma City area to help advance OK Policy’s agenda for broad-based prosperity.  The role of legislative liaison had been carried out for the past three sessions on a part-time contract basis by Damario Solomon Simmons.

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Upcoming Event: Sleeping Giant author on how the ‘new working class’ is transforming America

by | August 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, OK Policy, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

sleeping giant2There was a time when America’s working class was seen as the backbone of the economy with considerable political, economic, and moral authority. In recent decades, the working class has transformed as far more female and racially diverse workers have been employed by the restaurant, retail, health care, and other service industries. At the same time, this new working class has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits.

As Tamara Draut makes clear in an important and timely new book, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, this is changing, swiftly and dramatically. As the November election draws near, Tamara Draut will be visiting Oklahoma to discuss her book at a pair of public events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City:

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Sales tax holiday is poor policy

by | August 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

This weekend, many Oklahomans will flock to the stores to take advantage of the state’s annual three-day sales tax holiday weekend. Since 2007, shoppers are allowed to buy clothing items under $100 free of state and local sales tax during the first weekend in August. Many retailers report a major boost in business over the weekend that can rival Black Friday. “It will take all of our available staff to handle those three days,” said the President of Drysdale’s Western Wear in a news article last year.

Sales tax holidays are good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for Oklahoma, right?

Actually, no.

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