For Oklahoma jobs, don't mess with success

by | April 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (1)

Photo by flickr user Tess Aquarium used under a Creative Commons license.

This post is by OK Policy intern Emily Callen. Emily is a senior at the University of Tulsa, where she is pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in Economics. A longtime wonk-in-training, Emily has for years been boring her college friends by quoting statistics at parties.

When I grow up, graduate college, and get a job (in two months), I want to live in a state with an abundance of job opportunities. That’s why I’ve decided to stay in Oklahoma. Despite rumors about the mystical, job-creating powers of eliminating the income tax, the numbers show that Oklahoma is attracting businesses and creating jobs, income tax and all.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2011, the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent for the nation as a whole. In Oklahoma, it was 6.1 percent. In Texas, our notorious neighbor, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Oklahoma’s personal income growth rate remains among the highest in the nation. Between the first quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2011, Tulsa was one of only 5 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas to experience manufacturing employment growth greater than 10 percent. Oklahoma City had manufacturing growth between 5 and 10 percent in the same period, according to Brookings.

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In The Know: Oklahoma DHS reforms to cost $150 million a year

by | April 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that reforms to Oklahoma’s child welfare operations will cost an estimated $150 million a year once all the improvements are in place. Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Director Linda Terrell writes that investments in child welfare are competing with tax cut proposals. The Tulsa World profiled state finance secretary Preston Doerflinger, who is stepping in as interim director of DHS.

Governor Fallin said she is holding out hope for a top income tax rate cut of at least 1 percentage point. OCU economist Jonathan Willner spoke to StudioTulsa about bogus claims in the study being used to push income tax cuts. This Thurday, Dr. Willner will participate in a public panel discussion titled “Eliminating the Income Tax: Silver Bullet or Fool’s Gold?”  He will be joined by economists from OU and OSU and representatives from the Department of Commerce and Tulsa and Oklahoma City Chambers of Commerce.

Delaware County residents will vote on whether a lawsuit settlement will be paid with higher sales taxes or property taxes. A bill to reauthorize OETA as a state agency failed in a Senate committee but will get another vote. More than $100,000 that went into what auditors dubbed the Education Department’s slush fund was solicited from companies that had no-bid contracts with the agency.

Lawmakers said controversy over the Trayvon Martin case will not affect Oklahoma’s deadly force laws. Oklahoma law enforcement officers will receive more training on how to recognize signs of mental illness and how to respond. NewsOK writes that lawmakers should not risk a costly court challenge by going forward with a bill to drug-test TANF applicants. OK Policy previously listed five reasons why it’s a very bad idea.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of voter turnout in the 2012 primary elections in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that low-wage workers are older and better-educated than ever.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma DHS reforms to cost $150 million a year

The Weekly Wonk: March 30, 2012

by | March 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy released a series of fact sheets on why preserving the income tax is critical for business and economic development, education, public safety, children and many more.  See more about the tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page. We also released a fact sheet explaining why we shouldn’t drug-test welfare applicants.

We explained what’s in the current criminal justice reform bill and what obstacles stand in the way of real change.  Rapidly growing payments for tax breaks for horizontal drilling may drill a hole in the state budget.  We posted an article exploring how major players in the health care industry are weighing in on the Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Finally this week, OK Policy analyst Kate Richey was quoted in the Tulsa World on the ways Oklahomans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act and on why mandatory drug-testing of welfare applicants in likely unconstitutional.

In the Know, Policy Notes

Numbers of the Day

  • 21 percent – Percentage above the national average paid in property taxes by residents of no income tax states
  • $7,100 – Average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in Oklahoma in 2011, 37 percent of the median income for the state’s single mothers
  • 50th – Oklahoma’s rank nationally in the percentage of at-risk adults (aged 50 and over with a chronic disease) who have visited a doctor for a checkup in the past two years
  • 75 percent – Percentage of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) accounted for by economic activity in the three largest metropolitan areas – Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton.
  • 7,054 – Number of farms in Oklahoma principally operated by Native Americans, 2nd most in the nation, 2007

In The Know: Suit filed over Oklahoma personhood measure

by | March 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on behalf of doctors and residents in the state to block a ballot measure that would define a fertilized human egg as a person.  Gov. Fallin continued to push income tax cuts and urged lawmakers to get serious about eliminating tax credits.

State leaders will discuss details of a new plan to improve child welfare services.  The plan to improve DHS includes hiring more staff, decreasing reliance on shelters, and recruiting more foster parents.  Oklahoma topped a list of states with surging economic growth fueled by manufacturing and energy production.

Superintendents and lawmakers urged the Senate to pass a measure that would give students who failed graduation exams access to an appeals process.  A bill to resume an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline advanced in the Nebraska Senate.  The OK Policy Blog posted a video on the increasingly precarious nature of food security in the state.

The Supreme Court will decide today whether to hear a case on Oklahoma’s claim that its laws prohibit selling water across state lines.  The Number of the Day is the number of farms in Oklahoma principally operated by Native Americans, 2nd most in the nation.  In today’s Policy Note, Stateline discussed potential safety concerns with hundreds of thousands of miles of unregulated oil and natural gas pipeline in the United States.

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Watch This: Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope

by | March 29th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty, Watch This | Comments (1)

Oklahoma has the highest rate of households with very low food security in the nation; 7.5 percent of the state’s households reported being hungry at times during the year because they could not afford enough food.  This six minute video from the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma discusses the increasingly precarious nature of food security in the state and interviews individuals struggling to feed their families.  For additional information on hunger and food insecurity, click here for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or click here for the food bank that serves eastern Oklahoma.

View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

The Economy Bowl

What is an IDA?

Elderly parole

Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

In The Know: Rep. Dank says significant income tax cut doubtful

by | March 29th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Rep. David Dank, chair of the House Taxation and Revenue committee, said reducing the state personal income tax rate just below 5 percent may be the most lawmakers can do this session absent any willingness to eliminate tax credits and deductions. Some policymakers and industry observers are are questioning whether Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry should continue to receive huge tax incentives. The OK Policy Blog discusses the threat that rapidly growing payments for horizontal drilling may starve the state budget.

An Oklahoma judge struck down a state law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and view the image before the procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated an Oklahoma City woman’s life sentence for shoplifting two purses. A measure to help the Oklahoma Innocence Project at Oklahoma City University was passed by a Senate committee, with lawmakers expressing some concerns. The House voted not to take up a proposed code of ethics and guidelines on how complaints can be made against House members for improper behavior.

DHS Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson wrote a letter accusing Commissioner Steven Dow of misconduct, saying he is encouraging a lawsuit against the agency. Tulsa’s McLain Junior High and High School for Science and Technology is expected to be identified Thursday as one of about 10 low-performing schools to be targeted with unprecedented intervention efforts by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Oklahomans’ personal income growth was among the nation’s best last year, but remains less than the national average.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) accounted for by economic activity in the three largest metropolitan areas – Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton. In today’s Policy Note, The New Republic discusses why the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act is not likely to be as crudely political as some observers are predicting.

continue reading In The Know: Rep. Dank says significant income tax cut doubtful

Stand back, we don’t know how big these things may get

by | March 28th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (4)

In the final days of the 2010 session, when legislative leaders were faced with historic revenue shortfalls and were desperate for ways to balance the budget, a deal was struck with representatives of the energy industry on oil and gas drilling incentives. The industry agreed to defer payment of credits on horizontal and deep well drilling for twenty-four months, until July 2012, and then to pay out over the next three years the credits that accrued during this period. In return, the legislature adopted several changes to how drilling is taxed that were sought by the industry .

At the time, it was anticipated that deferring the payment of credits on horizontal and deep well drilling for two years would put the state on the hook for $150 million. Instead, when oil and gas companies submitted their claims in late 2011, the price tag turned out to be nearly double: $297 million. The state now must pay out close to $100 million annually between 2013 – 2015 for credits accrued in 2010 and 2011, leaving less money than expected for state appropriations. These back payments are in addition to credits that are accruing for current production

The announcement that tax breaks for horizontal and deep well drilling amounted to nearly $150 million per year in 2010 and 2011  should serve as a wake up  call to Oklahoma policymakers and the public. All evidence points to horizontal drilling accounting for a substantially greater share of Oklahoma oil and gas production in the years ahead.  The generous tax treatment we provide this form of drilling threatens to compound our budget woes and hamper our efforts to provide adequate funding of core public services.

continue reading Stand back, we don’t know how big these things may get

In The Know: Judge rules Oklahoma school voucher law unconstitutional

by | March 28th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a Tulsa County judge ruled that state-funded vouchers for children with disabilities to attend private schools is unconstitutional. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution named 200 school districts nationwide, including 13 in Oklahoma, with irregularities similar to those that exposed a cheating scandal in Atlanta. The state Department of Education is preparing to take operational control of as many as 10 of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

The OK Policy Blog explains what’s in the current criminal justice reform bill and what obstacles stand in the way of real change. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines how drug courts are providing a cheaper, more effective path to rehabilitation of Oklahoma addicts. The first draft of the improvement plan for Oklahoma’s child-welfare system will call for overhauling the staff structure, increasing the number of and support for foster homes, and lowering workers’ caseloads.

More than half of Oklahoma’s non-profits say they do not think they can meet rising demand due to a still weak economy and state and federal budget cuts that are creating new gaps in services. OU engineering professor Karl Bergey writes in the Norman Transcript about the fallacy of tax cuts stimulating growth. The OKC Council voted unanimously to commit $9 million of the $80 million needed to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

Legislation that would grant “personhood” status to human embryos was approved by an Oklahoma House panel, despite concerns that it would prohibit in vitro fertilization and popular forms of contraception. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is suing the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, claiming it missed a deadline to open bids for administration of the Medicare Advantage Waiver Program so that workers can prepare competitive bids to keep their jobs.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in the percentage of at-risk adults (aged 50 and over with a chronic disease) who have visited a doctor for a checkup in the past two years. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how the individual health insurance mandate will benefit everyone but directly affect only a few.

continue reading In The Know: Judge rules Oklahoma school voucher law unconstitutional

Reforming Criminal Justice: What the latest bill does and what stands in the way

by | March 27th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (9)

Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Photo by Charles Duggar used under a Creative Commons license.

A criminal justice reform bill, HB 3052, has been making its way through the legislature to great fanfare. More recently rebranded as a “public safety bill,” it is the result of Oklahoma’s participation in the Justice Reinvestment initiative, which seeks data-driven ways to reduce crime and recidivism and ease the burden on overcrowded prisons.

Reforms are direly needed. The state’s incarceration rates are among the highest in the nation. An overcrowded, understaffed prison system is putting both inmates and correctional officers in danger. And all that imprisonment is not paying off in public safety, with Oklahoma’s violent crime rate remaining above the national average.

So are these latest reforms the answer?

As a whole, the bill contains several good ideas, but two serious potential obstacles remain. First, many of the reforms depend on cooperation by district attorneys and judges in each of Oklahoma’s 26 judicial districts. The Oklahoma District Attorneys Association has endorsed HB 3052, but they will need to actively participate in the implementation for reforms to be successful. Oklahoma DAs have already pushed back against last year’s reforms. Their complaints about offenders scheduled for release with GPS trackers led the DOC to significantly scale back the program.

continue reading Reforming Criminal Justice: What the latest bill does and what stands in the way

In The Know: OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic cuts

by | March 27th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that lawmakers are building triggers for automatic cuts following revenue growth into bills to eliminate the income tax. See more about the tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page. Oklahoma City may pay $9 million of the estimated $80 million it will take to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The OK Policy Blog shares a report on how health care industries are weighing in on the Supreme Court hearing over the Affordable Care Act.

Salon explains why Oklahoma’s new Personhood ballot language is misleading, and why the measure would still effectively ban in vitro fertilization and common forms of birth control. A Senate panel passed a measure  that would require a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes medicine to induce an abortion. The panel also passed a bill to require drug-testing of TANF recipients, but they stripped out the requirement to drug test candidates for political office. OK Policy previously explained why this measure would waste money and harm children.

A House panel rejected a bill to reinstate $5,000 stipends for teachers receiving national board certification. A leading scientific society expressed concern over a bill that could insert manufactured controversies into Oklahoma science classes. Read the full letter here. State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says his office will investigate a conference held last year by a private foundation on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Oklahoma has shown modest improvements in college completion rates in the past two years. An Indian tribe based in Cushing is concerned that the Keystone XL pipeline might disrupt sacred sites and burial grounds.

The Number of the Day is the average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in Oklahoma. In today’s policy note, Planet Money gives an overview of the surprisingly entertaining history of the income tax.

continue reading In The Know: OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic cuts