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All articles by Gene Perry

In The Know: Two biggest factors in local schools’ ability to sink or swim

by | February 8th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Two biggest factors in local schools’ ability to sink or swim: News headlines about midyear state funding cuts for public schools have all been million-dollar totals and political debate over root causes and potential solutions. But the impact on local school districts is already beginning to trickle down in the form of employee layoffs, eliminated teacher positions, hiring freezes and canceled purchase orders. Districts that began the year the most cash-strapped and that rely the most on funding from the Oklahoma State Department of Education are having a much more difficult time keeping their budgets in the black amid midyear cuts expected to reach at least $67 million [Tulsa World].

School board leaders support penny sales tax hike proposal: When I was asked to join the committee supporting “Oklahoma’s Children — Our Future,” a penny sales tax proposal for public education, I didn’t hesitate to say YES! For the People is about solutions, and a long-term funding plan for education is one of the key recommendations. A funding plan is also one of OSSBA’s top legislative goals. I’m sure you’ve heard criticism of the proposal by now. No plan is perfect. OSSBA’s board of directors voted to endorse the proposal, but only after lively discussion. Still, the decision was unanimous [Mike Mullins / Tulsa World].

State revenues plunge in January: The oil bust drove down tax receipts by more than 13 percent last month, the largest drop in over five years, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Friday. January tax collections of $985.4 million were down by almost $150 million compared to a year ago. It is the first double-digit percentage reduction in monthly gross receipts since the treasurer’s office began tracking them in March 2010 [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Two biggest factors in local schools’ ability to sink or swim

Weekly Wonk: Top priorities for 2016; reactions to Gov. Fallin’s budget; & more…

by | February 6th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week, OK Policy shared our top priorities for the 2016 legislative session in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, voting and elections, economic opportunity, education, and criminal justice. We released a statement that Governor Fallin’s recurring revenue proposals are a good starting point for closing the state budget hole, but there are more sensible revenue options that should be considered. We also released the 2016 Legislative Primer, our popular guide to Oklahoma’s legislative process in a concise, user-friendly format.

In his Journal Record column, David Blatt discussed why this may be the year Oklahoma commits to a smarter approach on criminal justice. A guest post by Rogers State University student Andrew Hocutt described his proposal for boosting the minimum wage that was awarded Best Legislation in the Senate by the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update summarized 20 measures that have been filed to change Oklahoma’s judicial system this year. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke on a panel at Rose State College about “America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Liberty.” Video of the panel is on YouTube.

continue reading Weekly Wonk: Top priorities for 2016; reactions to Gov. Fallin’s budget; & more…

In The Know: No chance for teacher pay raise, House minority leader says

by | February 5th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

No chance for teacher pay raise, House minority leader says: The state expects to have at least $900.8 million less to allocate in crafting the fiscal year 2017 budget. To close the hole, Fallin has suggested the review of sales tax exemptions, an increase in the cigarette tax and applying the sales tax to services, among other things. Meanwhile, the state is facing a teacher shortage. Inman, D-Del City, said tax increases would require a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, which is unlikely to happen [Tulsa World].

Plan to fund Oklahoma teacher pay increase draws opposition: Millions of dollars in property tax money dedicated to school building funds could be diverted to teacher salaries under a proposal supported by the governor. There is up to $200 million in unused building funds that could theoretically be applied to teacher salaries if legislation was passed to permit this, said John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. House Minority Leader Scott Inman criticized the building fund proposal, saying it “would shift the tax burden for educational support from a state tax base to local property owners, such as Oklahoma farmers and ranchers” [NewsOK].

Tahlequah Public Schools prepares for $2 million cut for next year: Students and educators across the state are looking at major changes for the 2016-2017 school year as the state braces for one of its biggest budget shortfalls in history. “Our district will prepare for $1.5 million to $2 million less in state aid for the upcoming school year,” said Lisa Presley, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools. “When you hear $1.5 million, that equals 30 people in our district. If there are retirements, some teaching vacancies will have to be filled and others will not” [Tahlequah Daily Press].

continue reading In The Know: No chance for teacher pay raise, House minority leader says

Statement: Governor Fallin’s revenue proposals are good starting point

by | February 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (3)

For Immediate Release

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to Governor Fallin’s State of the State address and budget proposal:

Governor Fallin has rightfully recognized that Oklahoma has a revenue problem and that we must find new recurring revenues to make it through this budget crisis. Her proposals to modernize the sales tax, eliminate the unnecessary double deduction for state income taxes, and create savings with smarter criminal sentencing policies are a good starting point. Oklahoma should adopt these ideas along with other common sense revenue options, such as canceling an income tax cut that was never meant to happen in these conditions, enforcing combined corporate reporting to prevent multi-state corporations from shifting their Oklahoma profits to out-of-state tax shelters, and accepting federal dollars to expand health coverage to working families.

If on the other hand we continue to ignore sensible revenue options and double down on budget cuts, we will do devastating damage to our economy and to critical public services. This crisis will be painful to Oklahoma families who need health care, education, and safe communities, but Oklahoma has the tools to ease this pain if our lawmakers have the political courage to use them.

Demystify Oklahoma’s policy process with the 2016 Legislative Primer

by | February 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (3)

LegislativePrimer2016How many bills made it into law last year? What do legislators get paid? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2016 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more.

Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2016 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. You are welcome to download, print, and distribute the Legislative Primer to anyone who may need it to figure out what’s happening at the Capitol. We also invite you to check out “What’s That?”, our online glossary of more than 50 terms related to Oklahoma politics and government, from “Ad-Valorem Tax” to “Woolly-Booger.”

We hope these tools will help to empower your advocacy for a better Oklahoma. If you have any questions or suggestions for ways we can better inform Oklahomans, let us know.

In The Know: Oklahoma health commissioner proposes cigarette tax increase

by | January 27th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma health commissioner proposes $1.50 cigarette tax increase: Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline said Tuesday he wants to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to pay for teachers and expand the Insure Oklahoma program for low-income workers. The proposed increase is being carried by state Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, as House Joint Resolution 1058, a legislative referendum that would take a vote of the people to enact. Cline said the tax increase would generate $182 million a year while driving down cigarette consumption by about 10 percent [Tulsa World].

OU board to consider $20 million in budget cuts: Oklahoma public colleges and universities are cutting their budgets in response to this fiscal year’s revenue shortfall and a projected $1 billion deficit for next fiscal year. The OU budget reduction plan includes a voluntary retirement incentive expected to yield $10 million in annual savings. Another $10 million in savings would come from the elimination of vacant faculty and staff positions and by reductions in purchasing and travel [NewsOK].

Sand Springs Public Schools administrators discuss ‘Menu of Misery’ from budget cuts and how to mitigate it: A crowd filled the Charles Page High School cafeteria Thursday evening to discuss how the inevitable budget cuts will affect the district in the wake of a $46.7 million funding cut to public education statewide as a result of the state revenue failure for fiscal year 2016. Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller said the reduced funding to public education amounts to $350,000 in cuts to Sand Springs schools so far [Tulsa World].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma health commissioner proposes cigarette tax increase

The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma

by | January 25th, 2016 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (1)

On January 28th, OK Policy’s annual State Budget Summit will include a keynote presentation on “The Failed Kansas Experiment.” In 2012, Kansas enacted major income tax cuts and totally eliminated the personal income tax for owners of certain businesses. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback boasted that these tax cuts would be “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” creating tens of thousands of new jobs. The jobs didn’t materialize, and Kansas is making deep cuts to schools, highways, children’s health care, and many other services even while hiking the sales tax and several other taxes to cover a gaping budget hole.

Our northern neighbor’s economic and budget problems have been well publicized by national media. Governor Brownback’s high-flying claims followed by an equally dramatic crash no doubt helped to attract attention to his state. Oklahoma’s budget problems have not received as much attention nationally, but over the past decade, we’ve conducted an experiment in tax cuts and budget shortfalls that goes even deeper than Kansas.

continue reading The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma

In The Know: Oklahoma’s budget options should include delay of tax cut, GOP leader says

by | January 19th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma’s budget options should include delay of tax cut, GOP leader says: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei said Monday that Oklahoma’s “financial management options” should include suspension of the 0.25 percent reduction in the state income-tax rate that went into effect Jan. 1. Mazzei last week filed Senate Bill 1073, which voids the reduction approved by the state Equalization Board in December 2014 and specifies such a reduction cannot occur in a fiscal year in which a revenue failure has been declared. SB 1073 also raises the requirements for triggering a rate cut from 5 percent to 4.85 percent [Tulsa World].

It’s been clear for months that the oil economy is hurting, but will Oklahoma see an 1980s repeat?: George Nigh well remembers the last time the Oklahoma oil economy tanked — and the day that seemed to signal hard times ahead. It was July 5, 1982. The former governor was in the midst of running for re-election, heading to a campaign event when the phone rang in his car. It was his campaign treasurer calling to deliver the news that federal regulators had just closed the Oklahoma City shopping center bank that had come to symbolize the oil boom and the go-go lending of the late 1970s and early 1980s [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s oncoming budget shortfall could be worse than the Great Recession: According to State Treasurer Ken Miller, last month’s gross tax receipts were the smallest for the month of December since 2010. In December 2010 we were in the midst of FY-2011 which was a budget year with a shortfall that approached $1 billion. But the 2010 legislature had the benefit of $540 million in federal stimulus money to help relieve the shortfall [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s budget options should include delay of tax cut, GOP leader says

The Weekly Wonk: The cost of tax cuts, women in state agency leadership; new policy analyst; and more…

by | January 16th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

We released a new study on Oklahoma’s income tax cuts since the mid-2000s, which are now reducing state revenues by more than $1 billion annually. Writing in the Tulsa World, David Blatt explained why oil prices aren’t the only reason for Oklahoma’s budget problems. Steve Lewis discussed how Oklahoma’s oncoming budget shortfall could be worse than the Great Recession, because this time we don’t have help from federal stimulus funds.

Also this week, OK Policy Research Fellow Alexandra Bohannon shared her research showing that women are severely underrepresented in the top leadership positions at state agencies. In the Journal Record, David Blatt’s argued that evidence of Oklahoma’s teacher shortage crisis has become overwhelming. We announced that Ryan Gentzler has joined OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: The cost of tax cuts, women in state agency leadership; new policy analyst; and more…

In The Know: State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP

by | January 15th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP: J.J. Dossett’s win this week over a Republican in a Republican district should be a wake-up call to GOP decision-makers, the party’s Tulsa County chairman said. Mike Ford said his party should learn a lesson from the special election defeat, which saw a Democrat take Owasso’s Senate District 34 for the first time in a quarter century. Dossett beat Republican David McLain on Tuesday to fill a seat left empty by former state Sen. Rick Brinkley, who resigned after pleading guilty to fraud charges. Ford said that, while calling potential voters, his volunteers heard about budget cuts and education issues – topics he said could plague GOP lawmakers who want to get re-elected [Journal Record].

First State Student Advisory Council Meets At Oklahoma Capitol: Sixty-seven high school juniors and seniors from around Oklahoma met inside the Capitol Thursday morning, marking the first session of the state’s new Student Advisory Council. They took up the big task of correcting Oklahoma education giving a voice that’s not often been heard in the debate over the state of Oklahoma schools; theirs [News9].

ACLU links Medicaid expansion to criminal justice reform: The Oklahoma Legislature should move quickly to expand Medicaid, using the extra funds for health care coverage and to address criminal justice issues, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said this week. By expanding Medicaid coverage ACLU Oklahoma leader Ryan Kiesel said the state would receive millions in much-needed cash which could be used to increase mental health coverage, a key component in modernizing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system [CapitolBeatOK]. You can read the full report here. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to include three years of 100 percent federal funding for any state that newly extends coverage [Wall Street Journal].

continue reading In The Know: State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP

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