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In The Know Archives

In The Know: Still-declining revenue forces deeper cuts to state agencies starting in March

by | February 10th, 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.

Today In The News

Still-declining revenue forces deeper cuts to state agencies starting in March: State agencies were notified Monday that declining state revenues will result in deeper cuts than originally expected. “As you are aware, a revenue failure has already been declared and monthly general revenue allocations to agencies were reduced by three percent for the remainder of fiscal year 2016 beginning in January,” Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said in an email to agency directors and finance officers. “Please be advised that the three percent reduction to monthly general revenue allocations must be deepened beginning in March” [Tulsa World]. A mid-year revenue failure was declared in January [OK Policy].

Lost storefronts, local taxes and the clicking explosion: Oklahoma is a red state again, but this time it’s something much different than partisan politics. And potentially much more devastating. According to a recently released study from Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Association, the red shows how Amazon has negatively affected Oklahoma and other states in lost sales tax and overall tax revenue. If you want to look beyond the oil industry downtown, you might find how Amazon and other online retailers are potentially creating more turmoil than imagined [Joe Hight / Journal Record]. Read the full report: Amazon and Empty Storefronts.

Oil plunge threatens schools, other services in US producer states: From Alaska to Oklahoma, crowded classes, suspended art programs and longer school commutes give students and parents a taste of the downside of cheap gas as oil-producing states scramble to plug budget holes blown by tumbling crude prices. Spending on education, healthcare and other services is either being cut or faces cutbacks in about half a dozen states that have relied on oil taxes for a sizeable part of their revenues and most did not prepare for oil diving as deep as $30 a barrel [Reuters]. The state budget deficit is not just oil prices [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Oklahoma state agencies give raises despite executive order

by | February 9th, 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

Oklahoma state agencies give raises despite executive order: Thousands of Oklahoma state employees were given raises last year, despite dire warnings of an approaching budget shortfall and a salary freeze ordered by the governor. State agencies also promoted more than 1,000 employees and hired several thousand to fill vacancies, even though those types of employment actions were included in the freeze — with notable exceptions [NewsOK].

Education savings accounts called vouchers by another name: Proponents call it an educational savings account to benefit both urban and rural families who want more choices for their children’s schooling. But opponents say it is simply a voucher with just another name to take dollars away from public schools. Authors of the legislation will not be caught calling it a voucher bill [Tulsa World]. The Executive Director of the United Suburban Schools Association argued yesterday that school vouchers don’t promote equality or higher standards for Oklahoma children [Sandra Park / Oklahoman]. OK Policy has argued that tax-funded vouchers for private schools would undermine our common goal of providing for public education.

Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is declining, but it’s ranked 49th in U.S.: Efforts throughout the state to reduce birth rates among teenagers are showing positive results but not enough to move Oklahoma forward in state-by-state comparisons. In fact, it’s moving backward. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Oklahoma dropped one spot to 49th in the number of births to teens ages 15 to 19 with a rate of 38.5 per 1,000 teens. Only Arkansas has a higher rate at 39.5 [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: Two biggest factors in local schools’ ability to sink or swim

by | February 8th, 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

Two biggest factors in local schools’ ability to sink or swim: News headlines about midyear state funding cuts for public schools have all been million-dollar totals and political debate over root causes and potential solutions. But the impact on local school districts is already beginning to trickle down in the form of employee layoffs, eliminated teacher positions, hiring freezes and canceled purchase orders. Districts that began the year the most cash-strapped and that rely the most on funding from the Oklahoma State Department of Education are having a much more difficult time keeping their budgets in the black amid midyear cuts expected to reach at least $67 million [Tulsa World].

School board leaders support penny sales tax hike proposal: When I was asked to join the committee supporting “Oklahoma’s Children — Our Future,” a penny sales tax proposal for public education, I didn’t hesitate to say YES! For the People is about solutions, and a long-term funding plan for education is one of the key recommendations. A funding plan is also one of OSSBA’s top legislative goals. I’m sure you’ve heard criticism of the proposal by now. No plan is perfect. OSSBA’s board of directors voted to endorse the proposal, but only after lively discussion. Still, the decision was unanimous [Mike Mullins / Tulsa World].

State revenues plunge in January: The oil bust drove down tax receipts by more than 13 percent last month, the largest drop in over five years, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Friday. January tax collections of $985.4 million were down by almost $150 million compared to a year ago. It is the first double-digit percentage reduction in monthly gross receipts since the treasurer’s office began tracking them in March 2010 [NewsOK].

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In The Know: No chance for teacher pay raise, House minority leader says

by | February 5th, 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

No chance for teacher pay raise, House minority leader says: The state expects to have at least $900.8 million less to allocate in crafting the fiscal year 2017 budget. To close the hole, Fallin has suggested the review of sales tax exemptions, an increase in the cigarette tax and applying the sales tax to services, among other things. Meanwhile, the state is facing a teacher shortage. Inman, D-Del City, said tax increases would require a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, which is unlikely to happen [Tulsa World].

Plan to fund Oklahoma teacher pay increase draws opposition: Millions of dollars in property tax money dedicated to school building funds could be diverted to teacher salaries under a proposal supported by the governor. There is up to $200 million in unused building funds that could theoretically be applied to teacher salaries if legislation was passed to permit this, said John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. House Minority Leader Scott Inman criticized the building fund proposal, saying it “would shift the tax burden for educational support from a state tax base to local property owners, such as Oklahoma farmers and ranchers” [NewsOK].

Tahlequah Public Schools prepares for $2 million cut for next year: Students and educators across the state are looking at major changes for the 2016-2017 school year as the state braces for one of its biggest budget shortfalls in history. “Our district will prepare for $1.5 million to $2 million less in state aid for the upcoming school year,” said Lisa Presley, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools. “When you hear $1.5 million, that equals 30 people in our district. If there are retirements, some teaching vacancies will have to be filled and others will not” [Tahlequah Daily Press].

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In The Know: Lawmakers push social agenda amid budget crisis

by | February 4th, 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.

Today In The News

Correction: Yesterday’s In The Know erroneously referred to SB 1324, a bill that would end universal pre-k in Oklahoma, as HB 1324. We regret the error.

Lawmakers push social agenda amid budget crisis: The difficult task of plugging a $900 million hole in the state budget has not deterred conservative Oklahoma lawmakers from pushing their social agendas on abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage. Dozens of measures have been filed during this legislative session that support conservative social causes, including the expansion of gun rights and bills that gay rights advocates say unfairly target members of the LGBT community for discrimination [Associated Press].

Prosperity Policy: A smarter approach: As legislators grapple with a crushing budget shortfall, we can expect the new legislative session to overflow with acrimony and apprehension. But there is one area that offers real potential for collaboration and progress: criminal justice reform. Oklahoma’s long-standing “tough-on-crime” approach to criminal justice, including imposing prison sentences on many low-level drug and property offenders, has led to our state having the highest incarceration rate for women in the nation and the second-highest rate overall. The cost has been great – both on the budget and on society as a whole [David Blatt / Journal Record]. OK Policy is part of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition working to put reforms on the ballot this year [KGOU].

Plan would bring state law enforcement agencies under one leader: One of the biggest problems state Sen. Ralph Shortey said he sees as a budget writer for law enforcement is that the agencies fight over limited cash. At the same time that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol wants a pay increase, he said, the state’s drug enforcement agency is angling for a technology upgrade. Consolidating the state’s major law enforcement agencies would help fix that problem, he said [Journal Record]. Steve Lewis wrote about law enforcement consolidation on our blog last fall [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Fallin wants more revenue from tobacco and sales taxes

by | February 3rd, 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.

This post has been updated to reflect a correction.

Today In The News

Fallin wants more revenue from tobacco and sales taxes: Trying to close a huge budget hole, Gov. Mary Fallin suggested Monday increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack and applying a sales tax to some goods and services that are now exempt. Speaking to the Legislature on the first day of its yearly session, she also proposed 6 percent spending cuts for most state agencies, while recommending select funding increases, including a $3,000-a-year pay hike to public school teachers [NewsOK]. The American Lung Association gave Oklahoma a failing grade for its low tobacco tax [Tulsa World]. Read our statement on the proposed new revenues here.

Bills to rein in Oklahoma tax subsidies face opposition: Opposition surfaced Tuesday against several bills that would rein in costly state tax subsidies, sending a strong signal to lawmakers that taking them away will be no easy task, even amid a steep budget shortfall. Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican state legislative leaders all have endorsed repealing or reducing various tax exemptions and deductions as a way to help close a $900 million hole in the state budget [Associated Press].

Sayre hospital closes doors after ongoing financial woes: Blaming “continual financial strain,” Sayre Memorial Hospital abruptly closed its doors on Monday. In a statement, Sayre Memorial Hospital said it had been hit hard by declining Medicare reimbursements as well as Oklahoma’s decision not to expand Medicaid after the passage of the the Affordable Care Act [NewsOK]. Various stakeholders urged Gov. Fallin to accept federal health care money at OK Policy’s State Budget Summit last week [Norman Transcript]. Medicaid expansion’s track record shows it’s a good deal for the state [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Governor’s proposal meant to start conversation on solutions

by | February 2nd, 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

Governor’s proposal meant to start conversation on solutions: A “conversation starter” is what Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger, the state’s chief budget officer, called the proposal for the coming budget year that Gov. Mary Fallin put forward on the first day of the legislative session. It did do that [Tulsa World]. Within the text of her written speech, Oklahoma Watch writers offer annotations with context and more details [Oklahoma Watch]. OK Policy’s statement responding to her budget is available here.

Oklahoma education officials pitch standards to state lawmakers: Lawmakers said Monday they are eager to approve Oklahoma’s new academic standards so teachers can get started on the implementation process. Senate Education Chairman John Ford was among those who attended a joint meeting of the House and Senate to learn more about the standards from state Education Department officials [NewsOK]. 

Demystify Oklahoma’s policy process with the 2016 Legislative Primer: How many bills made it into law last year? What do legislators get paid? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2016 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin talks priorities for legislative session

by | February 1st, 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

Fallin talks priorities for legislative session: Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday will propose additional dollars for the financially troubled Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The agency is housing a rising number offenders and has problems retaining correctional officers and staffing prisons. Fallin spoke Thursday to reporters in advance of her State of the State address to a joint session Monday assembled in the House chamber. Her comments are expected to focus on education, incarceration and health [Tulsa World].

Feds Open New Civil Rights Probe into OKC Public Schools: A federal civil rights agency has opened its fourth investigation into Oklahoma City Public Schools, this time focused on claims that school officials discriminated against special education students. Officials with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said the newest investigation, filed on Dec. 3, examines whether the district applied different treatment, exclusion or denial of benefits to students with disabilities [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma lawmakers call for criminal justice reform as ex-inmates struggle to restart lives: When Rebbeca Adkins was released from the Oklahoma prison system in December she had goals: get a job, a home, and full custody of her children. Adkins, 32, has been to college, has training in several fields, and is determined to work as a motorcycle mechanic. But she soon realized a seemingly small hurdle blocked her path to a better life. She needs a driver’s license [NewsOK]. In numerous ways, Oklahoma continues to punish ex-felons long after they have paid their debt to society [OK Policy].

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In The Know: New academic standards clear hurdles

by | January 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.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to our 2016 State Budget Summit yesterday, and participated in the discussion with the #okbudget16 hashtag on Twitter! Yesterday’s presentations are linked here

Today In The News

New academic standards clear hurdles at state board of education, higher education regents: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved proposed new academic standards in English and mathematics. In a separate but simultaneous meeting, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education certified the standards as adequate for preparing students for college and careers. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she will next deliver them to a joint session of both houses of the Legislature in a presentation Monday morning [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Resists Push for Enrollment in Affordable Care Act Coverage: A resolute band of insurance counselors, undeterred by the politics of health care in this staunchly conservative state, is increasing its efforts to find people who are uninsured and enroll them in coverage before the Affordable Care Act’s third annual open enrollment period ends on Sunday. But the push is facing Dust Bowl-force headwinds in one of the states most hostile to the health law – from some Oklahoma officials and residents who mistrust all things federal [The New York Times]. 

Oklahoma falls to 34th in nation for financial security: Nearly half (49 percent) of Oklahoma’s households are locked into a “new normal” of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency, according to a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The research, reflected in CFED’s 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, also found that state policies can do much more to improve the financial security of Oklahomans [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Oklahoma health commissioner proposes cigarette tax increase

by | January 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

Oklahoma health commissioner proposes $1.50 cigarette tax increase: Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline said Tuesday he wants to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to pay for teachers and expand the Insure Oklahoma program for low-income workers. The proposed increase is being carried by state Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, as House Joint Resolution 1058, a legislative referendum that would take a vote of the people to enact. Cline said the tax increase would generate $182 million a year while driving down cigarette consumption by about 10 percent [Tulsa World].

OU board to consider $20 million in budget cuts: Oklahoma public colleges and universities are cutting their budgets in response to this fiscal year’s revenue shortfall and a projected $1 billion deficit for next fiscal year. The OU budget reduction plan includes a voluntary retirement incentive expected to yield $10 million in annual savings. Another $10 million in savings would come from the elimination of vacant faculty and staff positions and by reductions in purchasing and travel [NewsOK].

Sand Springs Public Schools administrators discuss ‘Menu of Misery’ from budget cuts and how to mitigate it: A crowd filled the Charles Page High School cafeteria Thursday evening to discuss how the inevitable budget cuts will affect the district in the wake of a $46.7 million funding cut to public education statewide as a result of the state revenue failure for fiscal year 2016. Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller said the reduced funding to public education amounts to $350,000 in cuts to Sand Springs schools so far [Tulsa World].

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