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Education rallies, then and now (Guest Post: Steve Lewis)

by | April 11th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989-1991 during the time of HB 1017. He currently practices law in Tulsa.

NOW: The crowd at the Rally for Education, March 31, 2014

NOW: The crowd at the Rally for Education, March 31, 2014

I don’t know how much was accomplished by the education rally at the Capitol last week, but I hope it was a success.  From inside the Capitol, I stood at the window a few times to look outside and walk down memory lane.  I was there in 1990 when the teachers came to the Capitol to demonstrate for HB 1017.  Several people asked me how this rally for education compared to the 1017 march.  Truthfully, they were quite different because the circumstances were different.

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I get knocked down (Guest post: Camille Landry)

by | March 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

It’s Saturday morning at a free clinic in an Oklahoma City church staffed by student volunteers. Another group of volunteers is serving breakfast. There are over 100 people waiting for medical care. Many of those waiting have chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, asthma and/or heart disease. The patients are mostly between 18 and 65 – too old for Medicaid, too young for Medicare – but a few children wait to be seen, too. Most of the adults are employed.  None of them have health insurance.

George Carter sits at the table reading a textbook as he waits his turn. He is clean-cut and polite. George was 22 when he left a job at a big box store to attend college full time. “I was healthy. I was strong,” he says. “I planned to finish my computer science degree and join the Navy.”

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Wind power in Eastern Oklahoma: Not in my backyard? (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

by | March 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

Ryan Gentzler is a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma.

Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.

Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.

Elected representatives of all stripes are eager to make known their support for an “all of the above” energy policy, taking advantage of nonrenewable fuels like oil and natural gas while expanding the use of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power. Oklahoma has done well at making this a reality: despite its deserved reputation as an oil state, wind power comprised nearly 15 percent of the energy generated in Oklahoma last year, a figure that is seventh best in the country.

Unfortunately, the progress that has been made on this front is being threatened by the supporters of SB 1440, which has passed the Senate and would put a moratorium on wind farm development east of Interstate 35 until 2017.

continue reading Wind power in Eastern Oklahoma: Not in my backyard? (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

Rip-off U (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

“I’m mad. Really mad. I’m stuck with thousands of dollars in debt for training that I didn’t get. The State of Oklahoma pushed me into a training program that was worthless and expensive. I spent 10 months and $15,900 on a stinking pile of nothing. They ripped me off.”

Marsha Bradley’s life started to unravel in 2007. “My mom’s breast cancer returned. She didn’t make it. My brother and sister were still in high school so I moved them in with me. I couldn’t keep all those balls in the air. I lost my job.”

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Let’s have full accountability for tax cuts (Guest Post: Kent Olson)

by | February 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

blindfolded cliffKent Olson is Professor of Economics Emeritus at Oklahoma State University

Over the past decade, the Oklahoma legislature enacted several measures that reduced the top bracket rate of the individual income tax from 7 percent to 5.25 percent, and more cuts of this type have been proposed. These tax cuts, both those from the past and those proposed, are back-loaded; they’re tax cuts that create revenue losses that occur largely in the future. In Oklahoma, back-loaded tax cuts are likely to result in back-loaded spending cuts, as well. The estimates below indicate that this is a serious problem. It can be fixed only if the legislature considers the long-run impacts of both tax cuts and spending cuts as a package.

The 2014 legislative hopper contains 3 major proposals aimed at further chipping away the top bracket rate:

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Tax cut experiment leaves Kansans struggling (Guest post: Annie McKay)

by | February 17th, 2014 | Posted in Economy, Taxes | Comments (0)

Annie McKay is Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG). This post previously appeared on the KCEG blog.

Ever since Kansas enacted substantial income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013, we have eagerly awaited the prosperity and Texas-sized job growth that we were promised would be spurred by these changes.

Unfortunately, our efforts to be like Texas aren’t paying off for most Kansans. In fact, after two years of tax cuts:

  • The vast majority of Kansans aren’t seeing their paychecks grow.
  • Surrounding states that held the line on income taxes are doing better than Kansas.
  • The jobs we are adding aren’t lifting Kansans out of poverty.

continue reading Tax cut experiment leaves Kansans struggling (Guest post: Annie McKay)

Virtual Symposium on Rural Health and Poverty

by | February 12th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

rural hospitalSome of the highest poverty rates and least access to health care  in Oklahoma can be found in the state’s rural counties. Recently, we asked a group of Oklahomans with longstanding expertise on rural issues to respond in 400 words to the following questions : Does Oklahoma need a different approach to fighting poverty in rural areas, compared to urban and suburban parts of the state? What policies might help us address this problem? We received the following contributions from Denna Wheeler, Jeff Hackler and Chad Langraf; Karla Finnell; Tim Starkey; and Andy Fosmire.

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Do cuts in state income taxes boost economic growth? (Guest Post: Dan Rickman)

by | February 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

Dan Rickmandan.rickman is Regents Professor of Economics and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Services Chair in Regional Economic Analysis at Oklahoma State University. This is a revised version of a brief published by the Scholars Strategy Network, of which he is a member.

As state and local government budgets struggle to recover from the recession of 2007-2009, loud voices call for cuts in state and local taxes to spur economic growth. In particular, advocates argue that cuts in personal income taxes promote growth and development. But what is the evidence for this idea?  Objective scholarly research on the economic effects of state and local expenditures and taxes is often neglected or misrepresented by tax cut proponents.

Evidence from my own studies and those of many others suggests that adjustments in state and local taxes and spending can, at most, spark marginal gains in economic performance. Across the United States in recent decades, states and localities have adopted more similar tax and spending policies, leaving less room for improvement. Crucially, there is no evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting future growth and tax collections. For public officials, there is no escape from carefully considering how various balances of taxes and spending affect both government budgets and surrounding economies. The truth is that certain kinds of tax reductions may have little positive effects on economic growth, and may even harm growth, as they drain government coffers of revenues needed for crucial investments in education and public infrastructure.

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Why Oklahoma is losing Medicaid funding (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)

by | February 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Healthcare | Comments (0)

JeVonna_CaineJeVonna Caine,one of OK Policy’s 2013-14 Research Fellows,  is pursuing a Masters of Public Health in Health Administration and Policy from the OU Health Sciences Center, while also working at the State Department of Health in the Health Planning & Grants department. She has an extensive background in community health education and research with previous positions at Georgetown University and Youth Services of Tulsa.

With the state already facing a budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers got unwelcome news last November, when they found out Oklahoma’s Medicaid program will need an additional $150 million just to continue current services. The extra costs are due to an expected increase in the number of Oklahomans eligible for Medicaid and a $56 million drop in federal funds coming to the state Medicaid program, Soonercare.

The reduction in federal funds is happening because of some otherwise good news — an increase in Oklahoma’s per capita income. The federal match for programs such as Medicaid, CHIP and TANF is calculated using a Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) formula. This formula assesses each state’s economy relative to the country as a whole and provides a smaller federal share for states with rising income.

So why is the need for Soonercare increasing even as our incomes are rising?

continue reading Why Oklahoma is losing Medicaid funding (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)

Do economic development incentives “crowd out” expenditures on public goods? (Guest Post: Jia Wang)

by | January 31st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Taxes | Comments (0)

jia wangJia Wang, one of OK Policy’s 2013-14 Research Fellows, is a fourth year PhD student in Economics at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interest lies primarily in public economics, especially government expenditure/taxation policy and economic development incentive programs.

Policymakers and local government officials are constantly under pressure to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. The provision of economic development incentives (used interchangeably as business incentives or subsidies below) is often touted to achieve the above ends through increasing capital. Higher earnings and tax revenues are also expected from new capital formation.

Economic development incentives refer to direct and indirect government subsidies to business that are not inherently part of a generally accepted tax structure. They include tax instruments like property tax abatements, tax increment financing, sales tax exemptions and credits and non-tax incentives such as business grants and loans. In all cases, the firm is the initial recipient of the incentive.

continue reading Do economic development incentives “crowd out” expenditures on public goods? (Guest Post: Jia Wang)