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The Weekly Wonk: Oil and gas subsidies, confronting an unequal justice system, a new podcast, and more

by | February 19th, 2017 | 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, we relaunched the OK PolicyCast in an episode where Gene Perry and KJ McKee discussed all of Governor Fallin’s revenue ideas and other ideas Oklahoma Policy Institute has put forward to fix our state’s budget hole.

On the blog, David Blatt wrote about a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing that tax cut triggers are anything but fiscally responsible. He also wrote about how Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry. Ryan Gentzler challenged lawmakers to confront racial disparities head-on as they reform the justice system. We featured a guest post from Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller showing that across core services, Oklahoma underspends, and Steve Lewis discussed why Governor Fallin’s budget shows how bad Oklahoma’s fiscal health has gotten.

In his Journal Record column, David Blatt checked out the state of the debate on how to get the budget back into balance. We shared advocacy alerts with ways for citizens to take action to halt the next tax cut, to strengthen working family tax credits, to curb predatory lending, and to stop excessive court fees. We participated in a press conference in support of bills that would rein in predatory lending. Over at Together Oklahoma, KJ McKee shared ways to take action while staying sane.

OK Policy in the News

The Oklahoma City Free Press covered our press conference on predatory lending reform. The Ada News cited OK Policy’s work in calling for an end to the cost trap of wasteful criminal fines and fees. The Stillwater News Press reported OK Policy’s analysis of what services are being taxed in most our our surrounding states but not in Oklahoma, in light of Governor Fallin’s new proposal to tax all services. You can see our blog post from last year about this issue here.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Oil and gas subsidies, confronting an unequal justice system, a new podcast, and more

In The Know: State funding shortfall for public schools climbs to $18.1 million

by | February 17th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including our Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

State funding shortfall for public schools climbs to $18.1 million: Public schools learned Wednesday that their regular payment from the state of Oklahoma would be shorted for the second month in a row. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools notifying them that they will be shorted by another $8.4 million — that’s in addition to the $9.7 million they were shorted in January. The reduction in funding for schools is the result of below-estimate collections in a couple of state revenue streams that feed into state aid for common education, the primary source of state funding for public schools. [Tulsa World]

Weak Financial Accountability For Charter School Management Companies That Get Millions: With a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers want accountability for every penny. But within the coffers of private charter school management companies are millions of dollars that lawmakers can’t see. Epic Virtual Charter School has about 8,000 students enrolled, and like many other charters, Epic is managed by a private company. This company, called Epic Youth Services, keeps 10 percent of all the state and federal dollars the school gets. For the 2015-2016 school year that was $2.9 million. And that $2.9 million, we don’t really know how the management company spent it, and they don’t have to disclose that information, because they’re a private company. [KOSU]

Across core services, Oklahoma underspends: State government has four core responsibilities – education, health care, public safety and transportation. It is those fundamental services on which the people depend to have productive lives. For businesses, those services done right provide an environment in which they can thrive. Analysis of data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with the most-recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Federal Highway Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, shows that, even when adjusted for Oklahoma’s relatively low cost of living, funding for core services still lags the region and the nation. [State Treasurer Ken Miller / OK Policy]

continue reading In The Know: State funding shortfall for public schools climbs to $18.1 million

OK PolicyCast Episode 24: All about the revenues

by | February 14th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Podcast, Taxes | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

The OK PolicyCast is back!

Governor Fallin surprised many observer of Oklahoma politics by calling for dramatic revenue increases and major tax reforms in her State of the State address. In this podcast, we discuss the Governor’s ideas, what’s most likely to make it through the Legislature, and what other ideas Oklahoma Policy Institute has put forward to fix our state’s budget hole.

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Report shows high degree of abuse by foster parents

by | February 13th, 2017 | 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

Report shows high degree of abuse by foster parents: More children were abused or neglected by foster parents in Oklahoma in 2015 than any other state in the nation, according to a new child maltreatment report released by the federal government. There were 150 confirmed cases of children abused or neglected by Oklahoma foster parents in 2015, according to the report issued by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s 121 more than Texas, which has more than seven times as many people [The Oklahoman].

With reading proficiency exemption facing expiration, effort to make it permanent underway: Laura Martin spends her day working with groups of students who require additional help with reading, an area the state requires proficiency in by third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. “It definitely is more than teaching the ABC’s,” Martin said. “They have to know their alphabet, they have to know their sounds. They have to have that good foundation and then we build on that with sight words and vocabulary.” But while students who do not score proficient on the state reading test are required to repeat the third grade, in 2014 the Legislature approved an exception if a committee of teachers and parents of the student approve promotion [NewsOK].

Oklahoma teacher recruitment plan seeks to catch up with other states: With more schools relying on emergency certified teachers and fewer traditionally trained educators entering the profession, Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has been referred to as a crisis. It comes at a time when most of the nation is also struggling to fill classrooms with certified teachers, a point some have argued makes Oklahoma’s problems not unique. But it’s an argument some educators don’t believe absolves the state of needing to address it’s own teacher shortage [NewsOK].

continue reading In The Know: Report shows high degree of abuse by foster parents

Here are our top priorities for Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session

by | February 9th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

At OK Policy, our core mission is to encourage state policy changes that ensure responsible funding of public services and expanded opportunity for all Oklahomans. To that end, we’ve identified a number of policies as top priorities in Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session. Together these measures would go a long way towards balancing the state budget with enough revenues to do the job that Oklahomans expect, and they would make the state economy work better for all Oklahomans.

You can read a summary of all of our priorities here, or go to the links below for more detailed explanations. As the legislative session progresses, we’ll update these pages with key bills and the best ways to take action to support each priority.

continue reading Here are our top priorities for Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session

Statement: Lawmakers should heed Governor Fallin’s call to fix structural deficit

by | February 6th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (2)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following comment in response to Governor Fallin’s State of the State address:

We applaud Governor Fallin’s call to fix Oklahoma’s structural budget deficits and reverse years of funding cuts that are damaging the health and prosperity of our entire state. The Legislature must heed the governor’s calls to reduce incarceration, fund a teacher pay raise, and restore the 5-day school week. Oklahoma knows how to address these problems, and we have no excuse not to do something this year.

Governor Fallin’s tax reform proposals, whch include ending the corporate income tax and the sales tax on groceries while expanding the sales tax base in other ways, has potential to reduce revenue volatility and end one of the most regressive aspects of our tax system. However, these reforms must be carefully assessed for how they would affect families, the economy, and state revenues. Oklahoma’s budget hole grew from years of tax cuts and tax breaks passed without consideration for what they would cost. Going forward, tax reforms need to stick to a more realistic assessment of what our state needs to do its job.

A grand bargain on tax reform should also include other policies to end loopholes, improve funding for the services Oklahomans need most, and make our tax system work for regular families – policies like rolling back cuts to Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit, restoring a higher income tax rate for very high incomes, and ending the capital gains tax break. Together these reforms would stabilize revenues and provide a strong foundation for all Oklahoma families to build a prosperous future.

In The Know: Schools can access millions to expand free school meals

by | February 6th, 2017 | 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

Schools can access millions to expand free school meals: At all elementary and middle schools and some high schools in the Houston Independent School District — 220 in all — every student begins the day with a free breakfast right in the classroom. The result: fewer absences and discipline problems and an increase in math scores, according to the district’s former superintendent Terry Grier. Houston, the nation’s seventh largest school district, where three out of four students live in poverty, also offers free lunch to all students at 186 schools, without requiring applications to qualify. The potential stigma of receiving a free meal is eliminated, and so is much of the paperwork burden on school staff, according to advocacy groups fighting poverty-related hunger [Oklahoma Watch]. Community Eligibility can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free [OK Policy].

Repealing Obamacare could be ‘devastating’ for Oklahoma hospitals: As Republicans in Congress plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, people all over the country are concerned about what happens next. In the state of Oklahoma, about 140,000 residents are covered under Obamacare. That includes Rozena Curran who we met during her appointment at Morton Comprehensive Health Services. Curran says she gets peace of mind from Obamacare, so she’s happy to pay a reasonable monthly premium. Rozena is better off than 50 percent of the patients who visit Morton, because half don’t have any insurance. So the repeal of Obamacare could add more people to that list and increase Morton’s costs [KTUL].

Fallin urges lawmakers to work with her to find new revenue: If the Oklahoma Legislature wants to keep funding critical services like education, public safety and infrastructure, Gov. Mary Fallin says lawmakers should work with her to come up with permanent ways to fund those priorities. As the Republican governor prepares to deliver her seventh state of the state speech on Monday, she intends to lay out a plan for a “major overhaul of our tax system” designed to close the budget gap and eliminate the continual need for lawmakers to use one-time sources of money to plug deficits [Associated Press].

continue reading In The Know: Schools can access millions to expand free school meals

In The Know: State groups condemn U.S. immigration ban

by | January 30th, 2017 | 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

‘Cruel and dangerous’: State groups condemn U.S. immigration ban: Social justice and civil rights organizations are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban immigrants from coming to the United States. The order issued Friday calls for a four-month ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The Frontier sought comment from Oklahoma’s congressional delegation over the weekend. On Sunday, U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s office issued a statement that neither supported nor opposed the policy but criticized its impact [The Frontier].

OU urges students affected by immigration order not to travel outside United States: OU President David Boren issued a statement urging students affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration to remain in the country, or to return to the U.S. as quickly as possible. Trump’s executive order banned travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Currently, 113 international students from those countries are enrolled at OU, according to OU Press Secretary Matt Epting [OU Daily].

Sykes’ bill would broaden residency definition for college students: As funding for higher education continues to dwindle, one state senator has proposed a bill that could take more money from the system. The state’s two public research institutions get a substantial majority of their tuition receipts from out-of-state tuition, and Senate Bill 400 would cut the number of students required to pay the elevated rate. State Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, sponsored the bill, which would change the residency requirements for Oklahoma’s publicly funded schools. Students would qualify for in-state tuition if they have a grandparent who lives in the state. Although it would bring in less tuition money, a former Oklahoma State University president said the measure could pay for itself [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: State groups condemn U.S. immigration ban

Be prepared for the 2017 session with the new Legislative Primer

by | January 26th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Matters, Featured Home Page | Comments (5)

How many bills were filed this year? What are the steps for a bill to become law? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2017 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 2017 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 terms related to Oklahoma politics and government, and the newly updated Online Budget Guide, an in-depth resource for understanding how our state and local governments collect and spend money. 

We hope these tools will help to empower your advocacy for a better Oklahoma. If you’re interested in getting more involved with other grassroots advocates for better budget and tax policies in Oklahoma, we invite you to sign up at Together Oklahoma.

In The Know: Oklahoma Senate pro tem says another revenue failure is a ‘real possibility’

by | January 23rd, 2017 | 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.

One day left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Senate pro tem says another revenue failure is a ‘real possibility’: Oklahoma faces the “real possibility” of a revenue failure this budget year, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said Friday. “We’re six months into the budget year, and there’s been no real trend,” said Schulz, R-Altus. “After December’s numbers, I think (a revenue failure) is a real possibility.” Revenue failures occur when deposits to the state’s general revenue fund fall more than 5 percent short of the estimate on which a fiscal year budget is based [Tulsa World].

Thousands gather Saturday at Oklahoma Capitol for Women’s March: When asked why she had traveled to Oklahoma City for a rally and march at the state Capitol, Natalie Taft pointed to her daughters who sat in a circle playing a clapping game and wearing orange and green flowers in their hair. “We are here for equality,” said Taft, who joined a crowd of thousands Saturday for the Women’s March on Oklahoma. “But I am here for them.” [NewsOK].

Oklahomans in Washington see inauguration from all angles: Before Friday, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Pam Pollard had gone to just about every kind of political event imaginable except a presidential inauguration. Now she’s done that, too. “The scale of it is enormous,” she said by telephone Friday afternoon. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin attended the ceremony with her husband, Wade Christensen [Tulsa World].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Senate pro tem says another revenue failure is a ‘real possibility’

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