In The Know: Reuters special report examines the 'lavish and leveraged life' of Chesapeake CEO

by | June 7th, 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 Reuters released a special report on the “lavish and leveraged life” of Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon. Businessweek examines the more than $300 million of Oklahoma City real estate owned by Chesapeake. American Airlines is expected to announce soon a new series of management layoffs at its Tulsa facility.

The chemicals company Tronox Inc., which is mired in pollution disputes, will move its headquarters from Oklahoma City to Connecticut with $3 million in incentives from the state. High E. coli bacteria levels in the Oklahoma River caused a wakeboarding competition to be moved from OKC to Guthrie.

State officials posted online the private educational records of students who were appealing for exemptions from high-stakes testing requirements. A graduate of Tulsa’s Street School writes in the Tulsa World that the program saved her life. The OK Policy Blog examines the effects of a flat education budget this year.

David Blatt’s column in the Journal Record discusses why we should reduce barriers to employment for ex-felons. A blogger for National Geographic predicts that Oklahoma City or Tulsa will be the next Austin for live music.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma’s babies and toddlers who live in low-income families. In today’s Policy Note, Demos explains why 401(k) retirement plans have been a failure that could push millions of middle class boomers into poverty.

continue reading In The Know: Reuters special report examines the 'lavish and leveraged life' of Chesapeake CEO

The 2011-2012 Legislative Session, A Postgame with David Blatt (Studio Tulsa, NPR)

by | June 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Media, Media Coverage | Comments (0)

You can listen to the original interview with Rich Fisher is at http://kwgs.drupal.publicbroadcasting.net/post/end-oklahoma-legislatures-2011-2012-session-we-offer-postgame-david-blatt

The second regular session of the 53rd Oklahoma Legislature (2011-2012) was recently adjourned.  With the session now over, many citizens are wondering why the legislature DIDN’T adopt a tax-cut plan. Wasn’t this the oft-repeated aim of the GOP-controlled House, Senate, and Governor’s Mansion? Weren’t statewide tax cuts — and even, indeed, the eventual elimination of personal income taxes in the State of Oklahoma — among the top priorities for the Republican politicians enjoying majority numbers in all quarters at the State Capitol? On today’s show, we explore some of the possible reasons for this fairly remarkable — and perhaps quite telling (?) — legislative failure with David Blatt, director of the non-partisan think-tank known as the OK Policy Institute.

Still stuck in a hole: Funding for public education falls flat

by | June 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education, Featured Education | Comments (0)

The FY 2013 budget negotiated  by legislative leaders and Governor Fallin had some encouraging aspects. Overall appropriations increased by $253 million, or 3.8 percent, and there was additional funding for targeted priorities in human services, health care, transportation and public safety. However, despite a grassroots lobbying campaign by concerned parents and strong statements from school officials about the deepening school funding crisis, education ended up as odd-man-out when it came time to allocate new dollars.

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In The Know: Tulsa Chamber won't reveal how companies benefit from proposed airport tax

by | June 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

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 the Tulsa Metro Chamber, citing nondisclosure agreements, will not detail how Tulsa airport industrial complex tenants would benefit from improvements funded by taxpayers.  An ethics watchdog has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether energy firms, including Chesapeake Energy, conspired to fix natural gas prices by cutting production this year. Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon has hired a former SEC assistant director to represent him in a securities regulatory inquiry into $1.3 billion in personal loans.

The State Board of Education hammered out a budget that restores funding to some programs but leaves reading sufficiency and adult education programs unfunded. The Tulsa Street School for at-risk teenagers was restored funding cut in previous years. The Board of Education granted 2 waivers to allow students to graduate despite not having passed a required test, but denied 7 others. A group is seeking volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system.

Oklahoma’s total revenue collections remain above the previous year, but collections from gross production taxes on oil and natural gas prices continue to fall. On the OK Policy Blog, State Treasurer Ken Miller writes that we need to expand the tax reform discussion beyond the personal income tax. The Oklahoman endorsed OK Policy’s call for a more honest discussion of what we expect from state government and how we will pay for it.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the rate at which its residents die from heart disease. In today’s Policy Note, a Pew Center on the States report shows that the length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades. In Oklahoma, average time served increased by 83 percent from 1990 to 2009.

continue reading In The Know: Tulsa Chamber won't reveal how companies benefit from proposed airport tax

Guest Blog (Ken Miller, PhD): Tax reform revisited

by | June 5th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

Ken Miller is the Oklahoma State Treasurer.  This post originally appeared as an article in the May Oklahoma Economic Report and is reprinted with permission. 

Oklahoma is doing more than fine with unemployment three percentage points below the national average, the third best job creation rate, and fourth highest growth in per capita income. Even so, we could better encourage entrepreneurial activity, productivity and growth by reforming our entire tax code. Unfortunately, some are singularly focused on the personal income tax.

A May 15 Wall Street Journal editorial lamented the Oklahoma Legislature’s recent failure to eliminate the state income tax, asking: “Do Republicans stand for economic growth and tax reform or not?” Tax reform should not be confused with simply eliminating the state’s largest revenue source on a wing and a prayer. Tax cut promises are easy to make when necessary cuts in spending and tax incentives are ignored. Financing tax cuts with assumed future growth revenue works well at the margins, not as well with incremental changes around the median, and not at all if current rates lie outside the prohibitive range, as demonstrated by the Laffer curve.

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In The Know: Anonymous donor saves 15 Tulsa teacher jobs

by | June 5th, 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 Tulsa schools has found sufficient funding from budget savings and an anonymous donor to save 31 or 32 of the 75 teacher positions that were recently eliminated. After the failure of a state bond issue, the leader of efforts to build an American Indian museum along the Oklahoma River is trying to raise $20 million within a month to breathe life into the project. Gov. Fallin signed two bills to increase funding to fix state and county bridges.

The New York Times’ Green blog reports on ambitious water conservation goals recently signed into law in Oklahoma. Senator Clark Jolley has been accused of violating campaign reporting rules. The OK Policy Blog shares a video on  the status of the American dream.

StateImpact Oklahoma shares feedback from readers on the huge barriers to finding a job after getting out of prison. OK Policy previously examined some counterproductive restrictions Oklahoma puts on employment for ex-felons. The Tulsa World writes that exempting online retailers from collecting sales tax is fundamentally unfair. A grassroots group is forming to curb distracted driving in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is how many state agencies were allocated the same or less for FY 2013 compared to the previous year. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s inability to act with urgency on well-known workplace hazards.

continue reading In The Know: Anonymous donor saves 15 Tulsa teacher jobs

Watch This: Optimism and the American dream

by | June 4th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

The program Moyers & Company recently hosted PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell to discuss the status of the American dream and the prospect of an equitable America.  We’ve previously blogged about PolicyLink’s equity-driven economic development agenda.  In this 45-minute segment, Blackwell makes the case for investing in the people and places that too often get left behind, while reflecting on her own personal experiences.  She concludes, “And so this country, as a democracy, really cannot expect to continue to be proud on the world stage, competitive in the global economy, or having a democracy it can put forward as working in a multi-racial society if we don’t invest in the people who are the future.”

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In The Know: Governor to continue push for income tax cut

by | June 4th, 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 Gov. Mary Fallin isn’t giving up on her quest to cut the state’s top personal income tax rate. The Tulsa World examined the role that OK Policy played in stopping tax cuts this year, and Citizens for Tax Justice recapped the debate so far.

Texas will join the growing number of states that are collecting sales taxes on online purchases, but Oklahoma is still not among them. Julie Delcour examined the history of an earlier effort to get Oklahoma out of the bottom in school funding. Education reform and downtown Oklahoma City development hopes are being pinned on the success of the new downtown elementary school.

A State Chamber of Oklahoma-backed project to rate judges on how friendly they are to business is drawing criticism. NewsOK praised the work of resigning DHS Commissioner Steven Dow and wrote that the Ethic Commission reprimand of Dow undermines agency oversight. At the behest of its two largest investors, Chesapeake Energy will replace half of its board.

Okie Funk discussed the effects of global warming that are becoming obvious in Oklahoma. More halal meals are being served in Oklahoma prisons. Ryan Kiesel writes in NewsOK that Oklahoma should stop passing pointless legislation that spreads false stereotypes about Muslims.

The Number of the Day is the average credit score in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses how social spending promotes families.

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The Weekly Wonk: June 1, 2012

by | June 1st, 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 took a closer look at a new report showing that it’s harder to get ahead in Oklahoma than most other states.  We posted about an upcoming event on Tuesday June 12th; join Oklahoma Assets for a 1-day Summit exploring how the high cost of credit in the state inhibits financial security for low and middle income families.

We posted a new overview of the state budget, with breakdowns of appropriations for FY 2013.  A guest post by Dr. Michael Givel discusses alternatives to GDP for measuring progress.  OK Policy Director David Blatt was quoted in an Associated Press article on the failure of the state GOP’s income tax-cut proposals.  Our column in The Journal Record explained why this year’s failure is only a brief timeout in the tug of war over taxes.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs human services reform bills into law

by | June 1st, 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.

Gov. Fallin signed legislation that overhauls the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and streamlines the agency’s child welfare division.  The Governor also signed a bill to boost school textbook funds by $3 million.  Kansas workers are attempting to permanently plug a leaky valve to stop the flow of sewage into the Arkansas river.

OK Policy breaks down appropriations for FY 2013 in a new budget overview.  The Oklahoman reflects on outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele’s record of service in the legislature.  The Tulsa World profiles one nontraditional high school senior who’s been denied a diploma under the state’s new high-stakes graduation testing requirements.

Communities in NW Oklahoma do not have enough foster homes to care for displaced children.  The state’s two medical schools are moving forward with a new plan for a residency program designed to combat a shortage of doctors in rural areas.  An Oklahoma Corporation Commission official told a Congressional committee that states are focused on building a strong regulatory framework around hydraulic fracturing.

In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press finds that despite accusations of EPA overzealousness, the number of enforcement actions against oil and gas producers under the current administration is markedly lower than the previous administration.  The Number of the Day is the amount state appropriations for FY 2013 remain below pre-downturn FY 2009 levels.

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs human services reform bills into law