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In The Know: Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets

by | June 29th, 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

Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets: Despite a grueling legislative session and a record number of primary challengers, the majority of Oklahoma House and Senate members seeking re-election were largely successful in Tuesday’s primary elections. Three incumbents fell — Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington. Twenty-five other incumbents won their primary races. But considering 29 of the last 30 challenged incumbents during the last two elections cycles won their primary elections, Tuesday’s results represented a bit of a turning tide, even if a small one [NewsOK]. The potential size of a so-called “teacher caucus” in the Legislature was significantly whittled down Tuesday after 20 current or former educators lost their primary battles [Oklahoma Watch]. Here’s a list of how candidates backed by Oklahomans for Public Education fared [NewsOK].

DC PAC spends thousands against public ed candidates: A Washington D.C.-based political action committee has pumped nearly $90,000 into legislative races over the last month in direct opposition to a slate of candidates running on a public education platform. Running under the unofficial title of the “teacher caucus,” nearly 30 candidates with ties to public schools are running for Oklahoma House and Senate seats. At least 18 of these candidates are current or former public education teachers campaigning on higher teacher salaries and increased funding for public schools [NewsOK].

Bynum tops Bartlett to become Tulsa’s mayor: G.T. Bynum has defeated two-term incumbent Dewey Bartlett to become the new mayor of Tulsa. Bynum had 56 percent of the vote. Bartlett had 38 percent, and three other candidates in the nonpartisan race had combined for 6 percent. “… When we unite as a city, we can achieve great things, and there are great things to be done in the next four years,” Bynum told a raucous watch-party crowd during a victory speech at Stokely Event Center [Tulsa World].

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Adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ votes matter

by | June 28th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (0)

The weeks before the Presidential primaries on Super Tuesday back in March were heady times in Oklahoma. The leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Voter registrations surged by nearly 30,000 in the weeks before the primary registration deadline.  Small armies of volunteers knocked doors, organized meetings, and got out the vote.

On Super Tuesday, the nation watched in fascination as Oklahoma bucked national trends to “choose Cruz” and “feel the Bern”. For choosing our parties’ nominees, our votes mattered. Oklahoma mattered.

But with the primaries over,  Oklahomans can put the Presidential election back on their list of events to be treated as pure spectator sport, like the Superbowl and World Series.  Putting aside the possibility that our Governor is selected as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, one prediction seems solid: no Presidential candidate is likely to step foot in Oklahoma again before the November 8 election.

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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].

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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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The Weekly Wonk: Ending the year with a surplus; a windfall for the wealthiest; and more

by | June 26th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (2)

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

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis explained that we need to begin working now to create change in the next legislative session. Executive Director David Blatt examined how, after two revenue failures, the state will end the fiscal year with a surplus. Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how poverty-fighting measures identified by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (here) have fallen to budget cuts

Policy Director Gene Perry wrote that Oklahoma’s capital gains tax break is a windfall for the wealthiest with no proven benefit for the economy. Intern Tara Grigson discussed how Oklahoma can bring down its high teen birth rate. A new installment in our Neglected Oklahoma series shared the story of how LGBTQ youth in Oklahoma’s foster care system can be let down by the people who are supposed to be taking care of them.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke to NewsOK and KOCO about the state’s surprise surplus going into the end of the fiscal year. Blatt also spoke to NewsOK on dwindling oil production tax revenues. OU professor Lawrence Baines used OK Policy data in a Tulsa World op-ed arguing against “Legislative Psychosis.”

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If we want change in next year’s Legislature, there’s work to be done now (Capitol Updates)

by | June 24th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (1)

lightSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Will the current deterioration of state government become a crucible for change? Starting with passage of unsustainable tax cut policies a decade ago, then driven by a national recession followed by more unfortunate fiscal policies, and finally accompanied by an oil and gas downturn, we are caught in a race to the bottom. You will know whether things can change soon by what happens in the eight months between the end of the last legislative session and the beginning of the next session in February 2017.

I’m not talking about the elections. There will an election, and there will be some new faces in the legislature, if for no other reason because 30 House members and 12 Senators are not running for re-election, mostly because of term limits. But our form of representative democracy does not naturally produce rapid, sweeping change. The leadership in both Houses of the next Legislature and the governor are already in place. Those who are on the leadership teams, in many instances, already know who they are. Who goes to the Capitol to work with them is important, but their impact will be gradual. And that’s only part of the story.

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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: Patrice Douglas bows out of $250K state job offer

by | June 23rd, 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.

In The Know is taking a break on Friday and will return on Monday, June 27th. 

Today In The News

Patrice Douglas bows out of $250K state job offer: Patrice Douglas on Wednesday declined a $250,000-a-year offer to work for a state agency overseeing tobacco settlement funds. The lucrative offer, which is $100,000 more than Gov. Mary Fallin makes, stirred criticism from the public and elected officials. Douglas, a former mayor of Edmond and a former member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said she was disappointed the job offer didn’t work out [NewsOK].

Oklahoma finance officials confirm revenue surplus likely: After the state agencies suffered millions in cuts over the last fiscal year, finance officials confirmed that the state will finish the fiscal year on June 30 with surplus revenue. State agencies saw cuts of up to 7 percent this last fiscal year, with a 3 percent cut in December and another 4 percent in March. However, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Monday that Oklahoma currently had a $166 million surplus, but that number is expected to decline [KOCO]. After two revenue failures, Oklahoma will end the year with surplus. What? [OK Policy]

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Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better.

Tara Grigson is an OK Policy intern. She is a psychology and Spanish major at the University of Tulsa and previously worked as a Mission Impact Intern at YWCA Tulsa.

Oklahoma ranks 2nd among all U.S. states for the highest teen birth rate. In 2014, Oklahoma’s teen birth rate was 38.5 per 1,000 teenage women, more than 1.5 times the national average of 24.2 per 1,000 teenage women. That works out to 4,802 teen births in Oklahoma in 2014.

While the largest number of teen births were to non-Hispanic white Oklahomans, the birth rate was highest for non-Hispanic black teenagers (46.9 per 1,000) and Hispanic teenagers (58 per 1,000). Oklahoma’s Hispanic teen birth rate is the highest in the country for that ethnic group (out of 49 states reporting).

Between 2011 and 2014, the United States saw a 23 percent drop in the overall teen birth rate, and Oklahoma’s rate dropped too. However, our 19 percent decline meant we fell further behind the national trend.

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In The Know: University of Oklahoma increasing tuition and fees 7 percent

by | June 22nd, 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

University of Oklahoma increasing tuition and fees 7 percent: The University of Oklahoma plans to increase tuition and fees by 7 percent to help offset state budget cuts. OU said Tuesday that the increase will offset about one-third of the estimated $35 million decrease in state funding to campuses in Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. OU said voluntary retirements, salary cuts of 3 percent for top leaders, a reduction of faculty and staff by attrition and changes in retirement programs are also reducing costs [Associated Press].

OU cuts $14.4M from HSC, Tulsa campus budgets: The University of Oklahoma is cutting $14.4 million to its medical research and education campuses in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa. The reduction, which was announced Tuesday, is part of a $35 million funding decrease to the OU system, including $20.3 million less to the Norman campus. The OU Board of Regents accepted the fiscal year 2017 budget at a Tuesday meeting [Journal Record].

After two revenue failures, Oklahoma will end the year with surplus. What? This weekend, The Oklahoman reported the unexpected news that state finance officials now expect to end the current fiscal year with a cash surplus of at least $100 million. After two mid-year revenue failures that led to across-the-board budget cuts of 7 percent, many people are left wondering what in the world is going on. Here’s the explanation [OK Policy].

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