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In The Know: Oklahoma teacher pay plan absent at Capitol deadline

by | April 28th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide. Sign up to get text alerts here.

Today In The News

Oklahoma teacher pay plan absent at Capitol deadline: The Oklahoma Legislature could head home for the weekend without advancing a bill to increase teacher salaries. Despite an important Thursday deadline, the Oklahoma Senate did not schedule a hearing on House Bill 1114, which would incrementally raise the minimum teacher salary schedule by $6,000 over three years. The Senate’s teacher pay plan that would increase salaries by 4 percent languished in a House committee without a hearing. There’s still time, though. House and Senate leadership can introduce legislation at any time, meaning that lawmakers can adopt a teacher pay plan if an agreement is reached [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Struggles to Pay for Schools After Slashing Taxes: Four years ago, Oklahoma’s oil patch was booming, unemployment was falling and state lawmakers were debating what to do with $200 million in surplus revenue. Republicans who control state government successfully pushed to reduce the state’s top income tax rate, slash the oil and gas production tax rate from 7 percent to 2 percent and give more tax incentives to industry. But the boom ended and the money dried up. Now the once-unwavering confidence in the wisdom of lower taxes has given way to a growing panic over how to pay for basic services such as schools, health care and public safety [Associated Press]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017. These continue to be the deepest cuts in the nation, and Oklahoma’s lead is growing [OK Policy].

Expanding shortfall in state tax revenues creating uncertainty for schools, state superintendent says: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said a shortfall in one of the main state revenue sources for public schools will easily top $100 million before the end of June — and the impact of that loss is widely misunderstood. Hofmeister addressed the topic among others at Public Radio Tulsa’s “Give and Take” on education event, held Thursday evening at the Central Library. “Schools are feeling like they’re in free fall right now,” Hofmeister said. “Just for education, we have lost $82 million since February, and that will exceed $100 million by June.” [Tulsa World]

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Statement: HB 1913 creates unnecessary, abusive loans; Gov. Fallin should veto

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the Legislature’s passage of HB 1913:

It is very disappointing that the Legislature has approved HB 1913. This bill was ​drafted ​and lobbied aggressively by the payday loan industry​. By creating another predatory, high-cost loan product, this bill ​will ​put more ​Oklahomans​ in deep​ financial distress.

Oklahomans already have plenty of options for short-term credit and do not need the harmful loan products allowed by HB 1913. The loans authorized by HB 1913 with annual interest rates of over 200 percent would be more than twice as expensive as the signature loans that are already widely available. HB 1913 would also allow abusive practices like taking automatic withdrawals from a borrower’s bank account, forcing employers to send portions of wages to a lender, and putting liens on a borrower’s car for loans as small as $100.

Governor Fallin previously showed her concern about legislation that takes advantage of financially vulnerable Oklahomans when she vetoed a 2013 bill that would have raised fees on small loans. We hope that the Governor will again stand up for Oklahomans by vetoing HB 1913.

Please contact Governor Mary Fallin to express your opposition to HB 1913 and ask her to veto the bill. You can call her office at (405) 521-2342. You can also contact her via twitter @GovMaryFallin.

Click here to learn more about this bill and find out how your legislators voted.

In The Know: Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity

by | April 27th, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

At OK Policy, we try to provide the information you need when it matters most for our state. We share key facts and advocacy alerts through e-mail, social media, and website updates throughout the week. Now we’re excited to offer another way for you to get informed when it’s important to take action right away. You can sign up to get text message alerts to your mobile phone. Learn more here.

Today In The News

Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity: As lawmakers continue to battle at the Oklahoma Capitol about a budget, corrections officials say they are in dire straits. Earlier this week, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told board members that the agency has a record number of people in the system. …In December, Allbaugh announced that the department had extended over its capacity, which could put the public in danger [KTUL]. Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, the Oklahoma prison population is on track to grow by 25 percent – about 7,200 inmates – in the next ten years [OK Policy].

Oklahoma AG Says State Moving Forward With Execution Plans: Oklahoma is moving forward with new protocols for executing death row inmates, despite a unanimous recommendation from a bipartisan study group that a moratorium on the death penalty remain in place, the state’s new attorney general said Wednesday. Republican Mike Hunter said while he respects the independent work of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission , he “respectfully disagrees” with the panel’s findings [Associated Press].

Caseload booming at Oklahoma Innocence Project: Cameron Farnsworth spends a lot of time opening envelopes and reading letters, a task not often associated with first-year law students. He’s the president of the Fighting for Innocence Through Exoneration group, known as FITE for short. The student organization was formed to help the Oklahoma Innocence Project with its routine office work, such as sorting through mail. Farnsworth’s task is important to the project’s work because that’s where the group gets some leads for its next cases [Journal Record].

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A new way to get our action alerts

by | April 26th, 2017 | Posted in Capitol Matters, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Events can move fast in the Oklahoma Legislature, especially in the last weeks of May just before adjournment. New bills or amendments – or even the entire state budget – can be introduced and rushed through before constituents have much chance to speak out.

At OK Policy, we try to provide the information you need when it matters most for our state. We share key facts and advocacy alerts through e-mail, social media, and website updates throughout the week. Now we’re excited to offer another way for you to get informed when it’s important to take action right away. You can sign up to get text message alerts to your mobile phone.

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In The Know: Panel Recommends Keeping Moratorium on Oklahoma Executions

by | April 26th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Panel Recommends Keeping Moratorium on Oklahoma Executions: A moratorium on executions in Oklahoma should be extended until major changes are made to the state’s capital punishment system so that an innocent person isn’t put to death, a state commission recommended on Tuesday. The 11 members of the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission agreed unanimously on more than 40 recommendations on topics like forensics, law enforcement techniques, prosecution and defense procedures, death penalty eligibility and the execution process itself. “Ultimately we found that there are many serious systemic flaws in Oklahoma’s death penalty process that obviously can and have led to innocent people being convicted and put on death row,” said former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry [Associated Press].

Oklahoma Senate approves bill to create new public school accountability system: Joy Hofmeister praised the Oklahoma State Senate for its approval of a new accountability system for public schools. Authored by Rep. Scott Martin and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, House Bill 1693 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 31-13. This comes a month after the bill was passed in the House with strong bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the Governor’s office for her signature. According to Hofmeister, HB 1693 repeals the current – and heavily criticized – school report card system with one that provides usable information for educators and gives parents and communities an accurate view of the important work of schools [Claremore Daily Progress].

Oklahoma House votes to expand use of drug courts: A bill designed to expand the use of drug courts for individuals convicted of misdemeanor drug crimes in rural areas was approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Justin Humphrey, House author of Senate Bill 377, said changes are needed to make sure individuals likely to benefit from participation in drug courts will still have that sentencing option open to them following the passage of State Question 780. The state question, which voters approved in November, made simple drug possession and certain other low-level crimes misdemeanors rather than felonies [NewsOK].

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New report brings lessons of Oklahoma history to modern budget challenges

by | April 25th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (0)

Oklahoma is a young state. In the 110 years since statehood — only about four generations of people — we’ve gone through good years and bad, through oil booms and busts, through the Dust Bowl and the long recovery. Many came here with nothing but hope for a better future, and they built the modern communities we live in today.

Our parents and grandparents accomplished all this because they knew that a thriving community doesn’t happen by itself. It takes all of us chipping in to pay for things like schools with good teachers, modern infrastructure, quality health care, and first responders looking out for our safety.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin Sets Up Task Force To Look Into Untested Rape Kits

by | April 25th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Gov. Fallin Sets Up Task Force To Look Into Untested Rape Kits: Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order forming a task force to look into untested rape kits around the state. Last year alone, there were an estimated 1,900 rapes and attempted rapes in Oklahoma. Police departments collected evidence in so-called rape kits, but a lot of those rape kits are sitting on shelves somewhere collecting dust, and no one knows exactly how many there are. Oklahoma City and Tulsa police have labs to test their own rape kits, but they’re the only departments in the state that do [News9].

Despite downturn, some rural hospitals thrive in Oklahoma communities: When David Keith started his job as CEO of a rural hospital, the bank account had only $4 million. That year, McAlester Regional Health Center had lost $9 million. Keith came in 2011 with a vision of turning the hospital around. “We’ve been profitable ever since,” Keith said. “We went from 21 days’ cash as high as 177 days’ cash on hand. We’ve had as high as $40 million in the bank … And we did not do this by reducing employment. We actually added employees. We did this by being community-minded.” Across Oklahoma, several rural hospitals are fighting to stay open. Since 2011, nine rural hospitals have filed for bankruptcy, most recently Atoka County Medical Center in January [NewsOK]. Rejecting federal funds for healthcare has devastated Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities: This year, we’re facing yet another budget shortfall of between $750 million and $1 billion, but we’ve exhausted many of the one-time revenue sources and budget gimmicks that barely got us through shortfalls in previous years. To prevent catastrophic cuts and put our finances back on a sustainable course, lawmakers must raise new recurring revenues. Part of the solution needs to include ending tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and restoring the gross production tax to its historical level of 7 percent [OK Policy].

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We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities

by | April 24th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (1)

Oklahoma is facing a genuine budget crisis. Our schools, care providers, correctional facilities, judicial system, and other critical functions have absorbed year after year of cuts and are losing the ability to fill their basic missions. The loss of these services threatens the viability of entire communities and the lives of vulnerable children, veterans, and seniors.

This year, we’re facing yet another budget shortfall of between $750 million and $1 billion, but we’ve exhausted many of the one-time revenue sources and budget gimmicks that barely got us through shortfalls in previous years.

To prevent catastrophic cuts and put our finances back on a sustainable course, lawmakers must raise new recurring revenues. Part of the solution needs to include ending tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and restoring the gross production tax to its historical level of 7 percent.

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In The Know: Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count

by | April 24th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count: Why is it so important for Oklahoma County to come up with broad procedural changes that will result in fewer people winding up in the county jail? Look no further than a story this week about the number of inmate deaths since the beginning of 2016. In that time, 20 inmates — 15 men and five women, ranging in age from 73 to 21 — have died inside the jail. [The Oklahoman] The Justice Reform Task Force recommended changes this year that could help [OK Policy]

Oklahoma has lowest business tax burden, according to report: The tax burden felt by business is lower in Oklahoma than anywhere else in the nation, according to a broad study of tax collections. Analysts at the Anderson Economic Group have determined that, in 2015, just 6.3 percent of business profits went toward Oklahoma’s state and local taxes. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Health Care Authority expects budget challenges: The authority, with a budget of about $5.7 billion, has not yet received word of its next appropriation from the state of Oklahoma, which faces a shortfall. The agency is planning for different scenarios and expects final word on funding in late May or early June, when Gov. Mary Fallin signs the budget bill. [NewsOK] OHCA budget cuts would hit small towns especially hard [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Potential financial crisis facing Indigent Defense System, Solving our budget crisis will require responsible revenue options, and more

by | April 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (1)

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

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler made us aware of the potential financial crisis facing the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System if their funding levels are not restored in this year’s budget. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison reminded us that a decision made last year to cut Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit is impacting many low-income Oklahoma families this tax season. OK Policy Intern Maggie Den Harder told us about a new school meal program in some Oklahoma school districts providing after-school meals and snacks to food insecure students.

Executive Director David Blatt celebrated the 5-year anniversary of his Prosperity Policy column with some good news – tax cut fever seems to have broken in the state legislature this year.  In an editorial for the Tulsa World, Blatt contended that solving our budget crisis will require policy makers to adopt responsible revenue options like restoring the tax on oil and gas drilling to its historic rate. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update reminds us of the importance of increased revenue in this year’s budget discussion. 

OK Policy in the News

The Save Our State (SOS) coalition, a group of more than 21 statewide organizations including OK Policy, unveiled their budget blueprint for Oklahoma’s current fiscal emergency. Click here to find out more about the coalition or see the budget blueprint.

Gentzler was interviewed by OETA for Dollars for Dimes, which explores the increasing cost of fines and fees in the Oklahoma criminal justice system.  You can view the full episode at OETA Presents. Blatt was interviewed by The Oklahoman for an article about the the legislature’s decision to halt the next income tax cut. Cullison’s work was used by the Muskogee Phoenix for a story about the importance of the EITC to low-income families in Oklahoma

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