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All articles by Gene Perry

Introducing the newly updated Online Budget Guide

by | January 19th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Featured Budget & Tax, Taxes | Comments (0)

To understand how state and local governments operate in Oklahoma, we especially need to understand the budget. The budget is how we allocate resources across all of our publicly-supported institutions – not just state and local government agencies, but also many private businesses and non-profits that receive public funds to do such things as build roads, operate nursing homes, or provide child care.

The budget is a financial document, but it is also a moral document. How we allocate dollars reflects our common priorities and affects our common achievements. The same is true of how we divide the responsibility to pay for our public services and infrastructure. The taxes and other revenues collected by government represent each person’s investment in shared prosperity.

OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide, fully updated for 2017, is a tool for users to understand Oklahoma state and local governments, particularly how they collect and spend money. In the Online Budget Guide, we look at all sources of funding, not just the major taxes, and all spending, not just state appropriations. To the extent possible, we provide data showing how Oklahoma compares to other states and how spending and taxes have changed over time. We examine how the state budget is developed, and explore the serious fiscal challenges Oklahoma confronts, now and in the future.

continue reading Introducing the newly updated Online Budget Guide

Upcoming Event: Education in Oklahoma panel discussion at USAO

by | January 18th, 2017 | Posted in Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s Nita R. Giles Public Policy Program and the Oklahoma Policy Institute present Education in Oklahoma, a panel discussion examining feasible solutions to problems facing the Oklahoma education system.

When: Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

Where: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Student Center Ballroom, Chickasha, OK

Panelists:

  • Phyllis Hudecki, former Oklahoma Secretary of Education, executive director, Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition
  • David Perryman, Oklahoma State Representative
  • Mickey Hepner, dean, College of Business, University of Central Oklahoma
  • Joe Siano, superintendent, Norman Public Schools
  • Megan Benn, consultant

Moderator: Gene Perry, policy director, Oklahoma Policy Institute

The Nita R. Giles Public Policy Program is the only undergraduate program of its kind in Oklahoma and one of only a few nationally. The program is specifically focused on Oklahoma, producing graduates who have the skills and passion to help our state solve problems and ensure a sustainable future. The program arms students with the range of skills, knowledge and experiences, in and out of the classroom, which will enable them to contribute to policymaking at all levels of society.

In The Know: Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000

by | January 9th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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

Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000: Hundreds of state employees got pay increases of $5,000 or more in 2016 even as Oklahoma faced historic budget problems. Information provided by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services showed 554 increases in this category totaling just over $5 million. The hikes came as appropriations to most state agencies were cut amid a $1.3 billion budget hole created by an oil industry downturn, tax cuts and generous tax credits to industry [NewsOK].

8 key facts about Oklahoma’s budget: “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” This quote by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is an important starting point when we think about the state budget. Like a family that acts out its values when deciding how much to spend on things like saving for retirement, investing in education and activities for children, or paying for basic needs like food, shelter, and health care, the state of Oklahoma expresses our values through the budget for core public services like education, public health and safety, and infrastructure [Together Oklahoma].

Oklahoma’s education system is in 47th place and falling further behind: While our elected officials have been busy getting grades for schools and school districts, someone else was evaluating the state’s performance, and it’s pretty bad. The annual Quality Counts report card of state education systems puts Oklahoma in 47th place among the 50 states and District of Columbia. By consistent inadequate funding of public schools, the state of Oklahoma isn’t providing the opportunity for its next generation to succeed, and the results are apparent in academic performance and any other legitimate measure of education achievement [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

continue reading In The Know: Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000

In The Know: Another year, another budget hole for lawmakers to address

by | December 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.

Early-bird registration is now open for our 2017 State Budget Summit. In addition, we’re hiring a policy analyst and spring research interns. 

Today In The News

Another year, another budget hole for lawmakers to address: Oklahoma budget writers are bracing for yet another gaping hole to work around for the upcoming fiscal year — the third consecutive year with a significant shortfall. Officials estimate a $600 million deficit for the budget that’ll pay for public safety, health care and infrastructure starting July 1. The 2017 fiscal year deficit, as well as last year’s $1.3 billion shortfall and $611 million one the year before, are all due to lower revenue from oil and natural gas production and the impact of various tax cuts and deductions. Lawmakers have tapped agency revolving accounts, such as the state’s Rainy Day reserve fund, as well as other one-time sources of money to help balance budgets and avoid deeper cuts [Associated Press].

State ranks among worst for health: You’re not doing fine, Oklahoma. An annual report released Thursday noted that Oklahoma has some of the worst health rankings in the country, with thousands of residents dying each year to preventable diseases. Overall, Oklahoma ranks No. 46 in the United States for its poor health behaviors and outcomes, according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings report. Continued decline Since 1990, Oklahoma has seen its ranking fall from No. 32 to No. 46. The worst years were 2007 and 2009, when Oklahoma was ranked No. 49 [The Oklahoman].

Little effect this holiday from new use tax law: Oklahoma tax collectors will have to wait another year to gauge the success of a new law designed to boost revenue from online sales. The measure went into effect Nov. 1, but businesses have until May to begin either remitting sales tax or keeping track of how much each customer owes. If retailers decline to collect and remit taxes, they would have to send a notice to each customer at the end of the year detailing the shopper’s obligation. The shopper would then be responsible for paying the tax, which is also known as a use tax. The Oklahoma Tax Commission sent letters to the top 500 online retailers in an effort to spread awareness and encourage complicity [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Another year, another budget hole for lawmakers to address

In The Know: Teacher pay plans begin to emerge in Oklahoma Legislature

by | December 12th, 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

Teacher pay plans begin to emerge in Oklahoma Legislature: Sen. Ron Sharp was the first state lawmaker to file a teacher pay raise bill ahead of the 2017 legislative session. But his bill to raise the state’s minimum pay scale by $5,000 highlights the challenge the Legislature will face in finalizing a pay raise plan. “It’s one thing to say teachers should be paid more, which is what my bill does,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “But the hard part is coming up with a way to pay for it and that’s what we still need to come up with.” Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, is proposing a teacher raise paid for by increasing the income tax rate for high earners [NewsOK].

Without new revenue, we can expect more of the same problems: The way legislators are talking now, the top agenda item for next session will be finding a way to give teachers a pay raise. No doubt those running for election this year got an earful from their constituents about the condition of our schools. Lawmakers seem to be interpreting the failure of SQ 779 as a message that people want a pay raise for teachers but they don’t want a tax increase. At the state chamber legislative forum last week, Speaker-elect Charles McCall expressed support for education but said new taxes would not be on the table [OK Policy].

New state Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, presses for restoration of Earned Income Tax CreditLegislation that would restore the earned income tax credit to previous spending levels will be filed soon by newly elected state Rep. Collin Walke, an Oklahoma City Democrat. Senate Bill 1604 approved last year by the Legislature and signed by Governor Fallin. The new law reduced tax credit’s benefit for low-income working families by nearly 75 percent. The bill, one of several measures intended to help close a $1.3 billion state budget gap, will increase state income tax collections by an estimated $29 million. S.B. 1604 “penalizes some of Oklahoma’s neediest citizens by withholding funds they desperately need to buy milk and food for their families,” said Walke, D-Oklahoma City. “Balancing the state budget on the backs of our state’s poorest citizens is unconscionable” [CapitolBeatOK].

continue reading In The Know: Teacher pay plans begin to emerge in Oklahoma Legislature

We’re hiring! Now taking applications for policy analyst and research interns

by | December 9th, 2016 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

OK Policy analyst Devon Douglass is leaving to become Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Tulsa under new mayor G.T. Bynum. It’s a loss for OK Policy but a great opportunity for Devon and Tulsa, and we look forward to working with her in her new position.

That also means we are looking to hire a new policy analyst to produce research and organize campaigns around economic security for low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Skills designing reports and infographics are also highly desired for this position. You can read more about the job duties and qualifications here.

continue reading We’re hiring! Now taking applications for policy analyst and research interns

In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

by | December 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

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change. Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda [New York Times].

Oil and gas lobbyist, Secretary of State seek AG’s job: Local attorney Anthony “AJ” Ferate is one of at least two people who applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy. Ferate is the regulatory affairs vice president for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, a position he took in 2014. Secretary of State Mike Hunter also applied to fill Pruitt’s vacancy, according to sources familiar with the matter. Gov. Mary Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt would not confirm how many people had applied. The governor’s office has a policy that it does not release names of applicants, McNutt said. Ferate applied for the job with the condition that he would only seek to fill the unexpired term, if appointed, according to documents obtained by The Journal Record [Journal Record].

Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations: Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews. The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations [Reuters]. Rep. Mullin said his ‘privatization’ of Indian land comments were distorted by the media [OK Energy Today].

continue reading In The Know: Donald Trump picks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

In The Know: Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post

by | December 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

Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post: Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, is among the American Indian voices in Oklahoma who have endorsed Gov. Mary Fallin as secretary of the interior for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Fallin also has the sanction of the oil and gas sector. The relationships of her political campaigns with companies such as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy are well-documented in donation disclosures. “Given all the choices and potential nominees for secretary of the interior, the most advantageous for Oklahoma is Gov. Mary Fallin,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Federal appointments could leave limited replacement options: If any of Oklahoma’s statewide elected officials are tapped to join the president-elect’s administration, the vacancies could have the governor pulling candidates from the private sector. Gov. Mary Fallin could be a finalist to lead the Department of Interior and Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rumored to be angling for the Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s job. If Fallin leaves Oklahoma, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her office. Lamb would then be able to appoint his choice for lieutenant governor without legislative confirmation. However, despite the long line of eager politicians who could benefit from holding that office, the governor would not be able to elevate a state senator or representative to the position [Journal Record].

Indian cultural center to resume construction in spring: The Chickasaw Nation and Oklahoma City Hall are resolving the last legal obstacles in developing the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum near downtown with expectations of movement on the project by spring, officials said. Craig Freeman, the city’s finance director, said the Chickasaws are in the process of confirming the state government has cleared the site of other obligations. Since 2006, the state has spent more than $90 million to create a site near the Oklahoma River to showcase Oklahoma’s wide mosaic of American Indian heritage, but politics over budgeting stopped construction by 2012. In its current incomplete form, the center is still costing the state about $7 million per year for property maintenance and payments on earlier construction bonds [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Baker, other tribal leaders endorse Fallin for interior secretary post

In The Know: Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress

by | November 21st, 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 child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress: In a mixed report, three out-of-state experts retained to monitor reforms of Oklahoma’s child welfare system found that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has made “substantial and sustained progress” in 27 of 31 performance areas related to the welfare of children in state care. Casting a gloomy shadow over what otherwise might be viewed as a positive report was a finding that the state continued to perform poorly in what most people would consider the most important category of all — protecting the safety of children in state care [NewsOK].

‘We have criminalized being mentally ill’: Capt. Reese Lane saw an opportunity to do some good in the world. The Payne County jail administrator looked at one inmate’s charges recently and determined, “This is a mental health issue. She is not a criminal. She needs help.” The inmate, a 40-year-old mother of five, had been in and out of the Stillwater jail numerous times. In just one week during the summer of 2007, she called the police and fire department 26 times. Lane was familiar with the woman’s mental health and substance abuse history. He went to the Payne County district attorney and asked to drop the woman’s charges. Next, they filed an emergency order to keep the woman in custody for her own safety, rather than for criminal charges [NewsOK].

Violent Incidents Raise Questions About Officer Training for Dealing with Mentally Ill: For the mentally ill and emotionally troubled, encounters with law enforcement officers and incarceration in jails pose a risk of death. A spike in fatalities in Oklahoma jails this year and several confrontations between police and the mentally ill since 2014 have raised questions about whether officers and jailers are sufficiently trained to deal with people with mental health problems. Training data indicates it is a special concern in rural areas [Oklahoma Watch].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s child abuse rate remains high, but DHS reforms show progress

New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma

by | November 16th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (2)

poverty-profileYou may not be surprised to learn that, despite some progress in lowering the poverty rate the past three years, more than 600,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2015. But did you know that two in five Oklahomans in poverty had been employed in the past year? Or that nearly two in three Oklahomans in poverty are white? These, and other takeaways, are summarized in our 2015 Poverty Profile, a two-page fact sheet examining the state’s poverty statistics from multiple angles. 

continue reading New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma

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