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DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”

OKDHS Director Ed Lake

Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds.

Yesterday, OKDHS Director Ed Lake sent a message to all employees of the agency stating that further cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. The cuts could even undo the progress made under court order to improve our child welfare system. Here is Director Lake’s message in full:

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Legislature’s timid approach to a teacher raise doesn’t bode well for schools (Capitol Update)

by | March 17th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

Steve 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.

I watched the House floor debate on HB 1114 by Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow) raising the minimum salary schedule for Oklahoma teachers by $6,000 over the next 3 years. The raises would be $1000 next year followed by $2000 and $3000 respectively in the next two years. The bill contained no funding, but Rep. Rogers said funding would be considered by separate measures later in the session.

It was gratifying to listen to all the debaters-for and against-recognize both that teachers should be paid more money and that operational expenses for courses, textbooks, technology, and many other aspects of funding for schools also needs more money. Those who debated against the bill did not debate against the need for teacher raises but against passing a bill only for teacher raises and with no funding.

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For the first time, lawmakers were found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools

by | March 15th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Education | Comments (5)

Along with all of their other budget challenges, lawmakers this session will need to allocate an additional $10.1 million for the Education Lottery Trust Fund as the result of a determination made last month that lottery funds had been used to supplant rather than enhance education funding this year.

Back in 2004, Oklahoma voters established the state lottery via two state questions. The first, SQ 705, created the Lottery Commission and specified how lottery funds would be allocated. The second, SQ 706, created the Oklahoma Lottery Education Trust Fund into which lottery funds are deposited and stated that this fund could be spent only on specified education-related purposes. To ensure that money raised through the lottery would be used to enhance education spending and not allow existing education dollars to be diverted elsewhere, SQ 706 included “supplantation” language. This language was added to the State Constitution as Article X, Section 41.D :

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Oklahoma’s budget crisis requires new revenue (Guest post: Joe Dorman)

by | March 8th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

Joe Dorman

Joe Dorman is CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA). He previously served for 12 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and has been actively involved in numerous civic, leadership, and youth-development organizations, including Leadership Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Academy.

In the last several weeks, a lot of eyes have been focused on Oklahoma’s $900 million budget shortfall and the effect it may have on our state. We have heard a lot of talk about revolving funds, off-the-top spending, structural imbalances and dozens of other terms capitol insiders use to describe the current budget crunch.

All of that sounds complicated, but if you break down its major components, the state budget is not unlike the personal budgets that families manage. Simply put, you need your income to be greater than your expenses. If it isn’t, you are in trouble.

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Lawmakers have time to fix this budget crisis, if they choose to (Capitol Updates)

by | March 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (1)

Steve 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.

The reaction to Lt. Governor Todd Lamb’s resignation from the governor’s cabinet over opposition to her proposal to add the sales tax to services has been overdone. Lamb, who’s planning a governor’s race next year, wanted to separate himself from an unpopular tax proposal, and to some extent, from a governor who might become a liability in next year’s election. Without some dramatic action, Lamb likely felt that his 8-year association with Governor Fallin as her Lt. Governor would hurt his chances in a competitive race.

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The politics of revenue raising matters for health care and teachers (Capitol Update)

by | February 24th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Steve 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.

There are couple of big issues starting their trek through the legislative process, and the way they ultimately get handled will affect the state’s long-range structural challenges. The first challenge concerns raising the cigarette tax and dedicating the proceeds to health care agencies. In the last several years, legislative and executive leaders have blamed the general revenue shortfall on too many revenue sources being taken “off the top” for some specific purpose, thus never reaching the general revenue fund.

The current cigarette tax proposal increases the tax by $1.50 per pack and specifically directs where the money must be spent. This is the same as taking it off the top. The only difference is the revenue goes to the general revenue fund, but it is required by law to be spent for a specific purpose. This limits the flexibility of future legislatures to appropriate the money where it may be more urgently needed without changing the law.

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Budget Update: Key takeaways from the February Board of Equalization meeting

by | February 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)

The State Board of Equalization met on February 21st to approve revised revenue estimates for FY 2017 and FY 2018. This estimate will be binding on the Legislature as it develops the FY 2018 budget over the coming months.

Here are our main takeaways from the new certification:

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Governor’s budget shows how bad Oklahoma’s fiscal health has gotten (Capitol Update)

by | February 17th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Taxes | Comments (1)

Steve 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.

Looking at Governor Fallin’s FY-18 budget proposal makes one realize how poor the fiscal condition of the state is. If the Legislature and the governor were to dedicate themselves to doing everything necessary to work our way out of the current budget dilemma, it still would take years. Our recent practice of patching things together with tax cuts and budget cuts, robbing various funds, borrowing, and betting on the come that there will be a quick turnaround in the Oklahoma economy has only dug the hole deeper. At least the governor and many in the Legislature have concluded that will no longer work.

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Across core services, Oklahoma underspends (Guest post: State Treasurer Ken Miller)

by | February 16th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

Ken Miller, Ph.D., is the State Treasurer of Oklahoma. A Republican, Miller was first elected to a four-year term in 2010 and was unopposed for re-election in 2014. Miller earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma, an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Lipscomb University. His fields of specialization are applied public economics and public finance effects on economic growth. This article originally appeared in Treasurer Miller’s Oklahoma Economic Report.

State Treasurer Ken Miller

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.

No one will argue that funding alone ensures success, but comparing Oklahoma’s spending to the rest of the states provides a relative measure of where we stand.

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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:

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