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All articles by Gene Perry

An Oklahoma Agenda for Broad-Based Prosperity

by | July 25th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Featured Home Page | Comments (2)

countryside roadsThe next class of state lawmakers will face huge challenges when it comes to their most important task of supporting broad-based prosperity for Oklahomans. Years of shrinking funding have undermined Oklahoma’s most important public investments in education, public health and safety, and other core services. At the same time, Oklahoma families are living in an economy marked by limited access to good-paying jobs, persistent poverty, and lack of upward mobility, even before a weakening oil and gas industry made the situation worse.

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In The Know: 2016 sees increase in women running for Oklahoma Legislature

by | July 25th, 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

2016 sees increase in women running for Oklahoma Legislature: The number of female candidates for the Oklahoma Legislature is almost as high this year as the last two election cycles combined. If these candidates are successful, the state could boost its current low ranking for women holding legislative positions. Seventy-seven women filed for a state legislative seat this year and 56 were still in the race after last month’s primaries, according to Oklahoma State Election Board records [NewsOK]. There are some offices in Oklahoma where women already hold most of the seats [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Democrats heading to Philadelphia for historic national convention: Isabel Baker attended her first Democratic National Convention in 1960 in Los Angeles, where John F. Kennedy won the nomination. She’s been to quite a few in between and is looking forward to being a delegate in Philadelphia next week to help Hillary Clinton become the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party. “I never in my 87 years thought I’d see a woman at this point,” said Baker [NewsOK].

Oklahoma senator’s opponents say consulting payments to candidate from PAC are unfair: A political action committee formed to support Republican candidates for state Senate has paid state Sen. Greg Treat more than $61,000 since 2014. Had the money come to Treat in the form of campaign contributions, it would have been a state ethics violation. Treat, R-Oklahoma City, only has general election opponents, so his 2016 campaign is prohibited from receiving more than $5,000 from any particular PAC. These payments appear to be permissible, however, because the PAC was paying Treat as a consultant rather than making a contribution to his re-election campaign, said Lee Slater, former executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Insurance Commissioner to review earthquake insurance premium hikes

by | July 18th, 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

Insurance Commissioner to review earthquake insurance premium hikes: Earthquake insurance used to be dirt cheap in Oklahoma. Now, in the wake of hundreds of recent earthquakes, premiums and rates are on the rise, so the state insurance commissioner decided to hit the “pause button.” Last month, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak called the market noncompetitive. It was more than just a statement — it allowed him and the Insurance Commission, by state statute, to review some of the rising earthquake insurance rates before they were enacted instead of them just going into effect [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma sees drop in quakes as wastewater injection volume declines: Oklahoma is on pace for fewer earthquakes than the prior year for the first time since 2012 — but an area in northwest Oklahoma remains seismically strong and a concern to scientists. The state’s red dirt began to sporadically tremble in 2009 like a popcorn bag just placed into a microwave. The ground rumbling soon took off in earnest, quickly shooting up until perhaps cresting a year ago. And the dip itself in 2012 was a solitary outlier during the several-year climb [Tulsa World].

Laws on drug possession among topics for Oklahoma studies: A ballot proposal to make possession of small amounts of drugs in Oklahoma a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail would make Oklahoma’s drug laws among the most liberal in the country, according to a state lawmaker who has requested an interim study on the plan. State Rep. Scott Biggs, an ex-prosecutor, disputes the idea that Oklahoma’s drug laws are too harsh. He requested an interim study to compare Oklahoma’s drug laws to those in other states [KOCO]. Oklahoma’s drug possession laws are among the harshest in the nation [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Departing lawmakers launch conservative think tank

by | July 11th, 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

Departing Lawmakers Launch Conservative Think Tank: Three veteran state lawmakers whose government service careers are about to end are launching a new think tank that promotes conservative fiscal policies. The Oklahoma Opportunity Project, a Tulsa-based nonprofit, is headed by state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, who is leaving the Legislature in January because he has reached the statutory limit of 12 years of legislative service. At least two other departing legislators will serve on the board: Sen. Jim Halligan, a former Oklahoma State University president who currently chairs the Senate Appropriations education subcommittee, and Sen. John Ford, a retired ConocoPhillips executive who chairs the Senate Education Committee [Oklahoma Watch].

State budget crisis hurts well-plugging program: Kevin Stonecipher received about $2.5 million worth of contracts from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in 2015 to safely close old oil and gas wells. The state’s budget crisis brought that work to a grinding halt at the end of the year, but he says he’s happy to work with the agency and its hardworking, dedicated employees. Plugging an old oil well isn’t easy. Contractors pour cement into wellbores that are about 4,000 feet deep to ensure no petroleum products, toxic wastewater or flammable gas escapes to the surface. Oklahoma Corporation Commission employees estimate there have been about 500,000 wells drilled since 1907. The state has records for about 350,000 that have been plugged [Journal Record].

State budget crisis forces DEQ to delay cleanup projects: The state’s budget crisis has forced the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to delay some cleanup projects across the state. According to department officials, the state cut the DEQ’s general fund by $3 million and the department’s revolving fund was cut by an additional $4 million. Jimmy Givens, deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, said several projects will be delayed as a result of the recent budget cuts: Pink tire dump cleanup, Catoosa tire dump cleanup, Hugo Water Treatment Plant improvements, Wagoner County road project, Oklahoma State’s University’s research on wastewater plants and septic assistance grants [KOCO].

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ICYMI: “How Money Walks” has no leg to stand on

by | July 6th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

Note: Now that Kevin Durant has opted to leave the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, at least half his income will be subject to California income tax, which assesses a top income tax rate of 13.30 percent. Whatever the merits from a basketball perspective, KD’s decision deals a further blow to conservative gospel claiming that Americans’ migration patterns are based on state personal income tax rate. Here is a blog post we originally ran in 2013 debunking the oft-cited claims to this effect made by author Travis  Brown.

During the debate over Oklahoma’s most recent income tax cut, one House lawmaker speaking in favor of the bill waved a book in the air that he said showed why cutting taxes further would help Oklahoma’s economy. The book was “How Money Walks” by Travis Brown, a Missouri lobbyist and the President of “Let Voters Decide,” a group founded by billionaire Rex Sinquefield to push for abolishing Missouri’s income tax and replacing it with higher sales taxes.

Brown has been busy in recent months, travelling the country to push his book and advocate for abolishing state income taxes from Arkansas to Maine. His primary argument is that Americans are migrating to states without income taxes. In April, the Oklahoman editorial board said his work “gives credence to Oklahoma’s tax-cutting strategy.”

There’s just one problem—as we might expect of “research” done by an anti-tax lobbyist, “How Money Walks” is misleading propaganda. Here are a few reasons why:

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s regional universities request tuition hikes from 8 to 11.8 percent

by | June 28th, 2016 | 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.

Important primary elections are happening across Oklahoma today. Polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Click here to find your polling place and see your sample ballot. You can find a complete list of candidates by county or by office.

Today In The News

Oklahoma’s regional universities request tuition hikes from 8 to 11.8 percent: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will meet this week to approve fiscal year 2017 budgets and tuition increases for the state’s 25 public colleges and universities. The increases range from 8 percent at Southeastern Oklahoma State University to 11.9 percent at Northeastern State University. With the increases, the cost for undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees for 30 hours will range from $6,207 to $6,699 [NewsOK].

‘There is nothing left’: State’s child-care cuts create hardship for working parents in need: Tulsa single dad Teejay Weaver was celebrating landing a permanent job painting airplane antennas only to have more worries pile up. He has been raising his 4-year-old son, Ti’ago, since birth. With his son at Emerson Elementary’s pre-kindergarten program last year, he didn’t need child care because he had a flexible schedule as a painter. An opportunity for more steady employment came his way two weeks ago, and he went to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to apply for child-care subsidies, as his income qualifies him for approval. Only, no one is getting approval now [Tulsa World].

Tuesday’s primary election could pack some surprise results: Across Oklahoma on Tuesday, voters will be deciding primary battles for the state Legislature, some county seats and U.S. Senate and Congress. Tuesday’s results will determine which Republican and Democrat — and in some seats Libertarian — will compete in November’s general election. Primary elections typically draw dedicated voters as the general contests in November — especially during a presidential election — normally see larger turnout [NewsOK]. Bring a friend to vote and post a “We Voted” Ussie today using the hashtag #tokvotes to be entered in a drawing by Together Oklahoma [Together Oklahoma].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s regional universities request tuition hikes from 8 to 11.8 percent

In The Know: What to watch in Tuesday’s primary elections

by | June 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

Five Things to Watch in Tuesday’s Primary Election: The first decisive moment in Oklahoma’s 2016 election season will occur on Tuesday, when Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians nominate candidates for dozens of legislative and congressional races. Some of these primary races will lock up the ultimate winner because only candidates from one party are running. Others will be decided in a later run-off or in November. Making sense of primary results can be difficult. Here are five things to watch for on Tuesday [Oklahoma Watch]. “Dark money” groups that seek to influence elections have spent more than $300,000 over the past five weeks on Oklahoma’s legislative and congressional primary contests [Oklahoma Watch]. With all five U.S. House incumbents in Oklahoma facing a Republican primary challenger, Tuesday’s congressional primaries may see upsets [NewsOK]. Find links to information about Tuesday’s elections here.

Republicans continue to gain in voter registration in Oklahoma: Current statistics in Oklahoma show the Republican Party continuing to lead in voter rolls. Records maintained by the state Election Board show 929,989 registered Republicans, 838,665 Democrats, 281,790 independents and 807 Libertarians. The number of Republican voters went up by about 3 percent from 2014 to 2016, a net increase of about 26,000 voters. The number of Democrats fell by 6 percent, a net loss of 53,000 voters from 2014. Independents, meanwhile, had a net increase of 28,000 voters in that period [NewsOK].

Supporters of penny sales tax for education call legal challenge ‘obstruction’: Backers of a penny sales tax for schools say a legal challenge to keep the issue off the Nov. 8 ballot ignores the will of more than 300,000 people who signed petitions to place the measure before voters. Anna King, a proponent of the initiative, criticized OCPA Impact, the conservative lobbying group behind the challenge. “It’s time to let the people vote to invest more in our schools and our teachers,” she said at a state Capitol news conference Friday. “Obstructing direct democracy — especially at such a critical time for our schools — is shameful.” [NewsOK]

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Oklahoma’s capital gains tax break is a windfall for the wealthiest with no proven benefit for the economy

by | June 23rd, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

money.One of Oklahoma’s largest tax breaks got no attention from legislators last year, despite its questionable legality, its questionable benefit for the economy, and a $1.3 billion budget shortfall that inspired legislators to go after many other tax breaks and programs.

The “Oklahoma Source Capital Gains Deduction” was enacted in 2004 as part of State Question 713, which also increased Oklahoma’s tobacco tax. The deduction allows taxpayers to exempt from their taxable income any gains from the sale of property located in Oklahoma or stock of a company headquartered in Oklahoma. To qualify for this exemption, the seller must have owned the property for at least five years or the stock for at least two years before the sale.

The benefit of this tax break goes almost entirely to wealthy business executives and investors. The Tax Policy Center estimates that nearly three-quarters of the benefit from lower tax rates on capital gains goes to taxpayers making over $1 million annually. The only major asset that a middle-class household is likely to sell for more than they bought it — their home — is already largely exempt from capital gains tax under federal rules that carry over to the Oklahoma tax code. So Oklahoma’s extra capital gains tax break does nothing for these families.

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In The Know: Spending cuts left Oklahoma with $100M cash surplus at end of fiscal year

by | June 20th, 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

Spending cuts left Oklahoma with $100M cash surplus at end of fiscal yearOklahoma finance officials, concerned over sagging tax revenues, cut spending so much in recent months that the state will end its fiscal year in two weeks with a cash surplus likely to top $100 million. That amounts to a rare bit of good news on the state financial front, but it also means painful funding cutbacks were larger than they needed to be, including for agencies serving the mentally ill and the elderly. Shelly Paulk, deputy budget director, said through 11 months of the fiscal year, the general revenue fund surplus is $166.6 million. Allowing for the possibility of further declines this month, the state will likely end the fiscal year with more than $100 million [NewsOK].

Oklahoma oil production stays stable, but tax revenues for state dwindle: The oil keeps flowing in Oklahoma even as prices remain low, but new tax rates for oil are also putting a dent in the state’s budget. The latest state revenue figures show the amount of taxes from oil sent to the state’s general revenue fund are expected to end the fiscal year at their lowest level in decades. For the first 11 months of the fiscal year, gross production taxes from oil sent to the general revenue fund totaled $3.5 million, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said this week. That compared to $126 million in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2015 [NewsOK].

Made In Oklahoma Coalition faces 25-percent budget cut: Made In Oklahoma Coalition marketers will have a tougher time of introducing local products to buyers this summer. The program faces a budget cut of up to 25 percent. “We’re sort of treading water right now,” marketing coordinator Barbara Charlet said. “Our fingers are crossed that we will receive an appropriation of some sort from the Legislature. (Otherwise), it would put a real dent in the kinds of marketing activities we can do.” The nonprofit program under the state Department of Agriculture is supported by an annual appropriation. Last year it received $285,000, down from $330,000 the year before [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Spending cuts left Oklahoma with $100M cash surplus at end of fiscal year

In The Know: Fallin approves most of state budget bill

by | June 13th, 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

Fallin approves most of state budget bill: Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed the fiscal year 2017 budget bill to fund state government. Fallin vetoed a portion of the bill that required the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to pay $473,283 for volunteer fire department workers compensation premiums for fiscal year 2017. “Volunteer firefighter coverage will not be affected by this line item veto and volunteer firefighters will retain the same workers’ compensation coverage currently provided,” Fallin stated in her line-item veto message [Tulsa World]. Adjusted for inflation, the FY 2017 budget has fallen $1.21 billion, or 15.2 percent, below FY 2009 [OK Policy].

State Board Of Education Approves Nearly $39M In Cuts To Public School Activities Fund: Even with a promise from state lawmakers that funding for schools will remain flat, the State Board Of Education met Friday in a special meeting to make budget cuts of its own. And those cuts run deep. The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved $38.2 million in mandated cuts to a line item called Support of Public School Activities [News9].

Is It a Crime to Be Poor?: In the 1830s, the civilized world began to close debtors’ prisons, recognizing them as barbaric and also silly: The one way to ensure that citizens cannot repay debts is to lock them up. In the 21st century, the United States has reinstated a broad system of debtors’ prisons, in effect making it a crime to be poor. If you don’t believe me, come with me to the county jail in Tulsa. On the day I visited, 23 people were incarcerated for failure to pay government fines and fees, including one woman imprisoned because she couldn’t pay a fine for lacking a license plate [New York Times].

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