In The Know: Gov. Fallin releases plan to abolish income tax

by | February 7th, 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 Gov. Fallin outlined a budget plan to deeply reduce Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate by eliminating dozens of tax exemptions, including many claimed by poor and working-class Oklahomans. It would also significantly reduce state revenues and include a trigger that cuts the rate further any time the budget begins to recover. OK Policy released a statement in response to the plan. Find more on the tax debate here, including a new action alert on why it’s important to save the income tax and what you can do today.

An overcrowded prison system, an outdated state water plan, and a child welfare system failing to properly care for vulnerable Oklahoma children are a few of the problems facing lawmakers in the 2012 legislative session, which began yesterday. OK Policy released an updated 2012 Legislative Primer explaining how state government and the legislative process works. Gov. Fallin announced that she has signed an executive order banning tobacco use on state property.

The Tulsa World summarizes a new report outlining how DHS failed to protect three young Oklahoma children. See the full report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the DHS settlement of a lawsuit over foster care abuses. A Senate committee approved a “personhood bill” the defines life as beginning at conception. The OU Daily writes that this bill would bring dangerous and extreme consequences.

Rep. Jason Murphey said he believes it is only a matter of time before open records and open meetings laws are applied to the Oklahoma Legislature. NewsOK writes that cutting funding for OETA would be a disservice to the state. The Number of the Day is the average savings on Rx drugs per Oklahoma Medicare beneficiary in 2011 because of changes made by the new health care law. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine discusses the crucial choice states face over essential health benefits as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

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STATEMENT: Governor Fallin's plan to end income tax would bust huge hole in the state budget

by | February 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt released a statement today in response to Governor Fallin’s plan for an immediate tax cut and ultimate elimination of the state income tax:

Governor Fallin’s plan would bust a huge and permanent hole in the budget. After three straight years of cuts to services, further tax cuts should not be a higher priority than educating our children, training our workforce, fixing our infrastructure, and ensuring public safety. The plan will make us less healthy, less safe, and less attractive to business.

Her proposal to stretch out the tax brackets to reflect modern income levels is a step in the right direction and an improvement on earlier plans from the legislature. However, by doing away with the child tax credit, sales tax relief credit, and other tax preferences that help hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans, the Governor’s plan would still unfairly increase taxes on many low and moderate-income seniors and families with children. We urge the Governor to seek more input from those who would be affected by these dramatic changes and work towards adopting tax policies that are fair to all Oklahomans and adequate to our state’s responsibilities.

For more information on the tax debate, see OK Policy’s tax reform information page at http://okpolicy.org/tax-reform-information.

The 2012 Legislative Primer: Your program for Opening Day of the legislative session

by | February 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (2)

How many bills are filed each year? Who is the Cabinet Secretary of Science and Technology? How much money is there in the Rainy Day Fund? Why does it take so long for a bill to be passed?

As the 2012 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, a new, fully-updated publication from Oklahoma Policy Institute will answer these questions and more. Whether you are a veteran legislator, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2012 OKLAHOMA LEGISLATIVE PRIMER will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. The Primer has sections on:

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In The Know: Bonuses for Oklahoma teachers with national certification may not return

by | February 6th, 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 even though lawmakers are looking for ways to finish paying bonuses to teachers who earned National Board Certification, the program may be put on hold or phased out after this year. The Department of Public Safety commissioner said that due to budget cuts, state trooper strength is at its lowest level in 22 years. Governor Fallin will release details of her plan to slash the income tax in today’s State of the State address. In the legislative session beginning today, tax cuts will be in competition with potentially costly plans to reform prisons, rebuild the state foster care program under a court settlement, improve college graduation rates, and improve state roads. Find more on the tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page.

Terri White, the head of Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will also serve as interim chief of DHS while the state conducts a national search to replace outgoing Director Howard Hendrick. OETA’s executive director is disputing a lawmaker’s claim that 17 states have quit funding public television without losing their PBS signal. The loss of 2,100 jobs at the Tulsa American Airlines facility is likely to ripple through the area economy.

After resolving court battles with affected landowners, the Keystone pipeline is ready to come through Oklahoma. The FBI created a fake Georgia company in 2008 so an agent could go undercover to secretly investigate the Oklahoma Legislature for corruption. Sen. Shortey is proposing several measures that would dismantle Oklahoma’s judicial branch of government. Janet Pearson writes about the need to invest in programs addressing a national epidemic of child abuse.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s national rank for state and local taxes paid as a percentage of personal income. In today’s Policy Note, President Obama is proposing performance-based funding for colleges and universities to rewards schools that keep tuition low.

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The Weekly Wonk – February 3rd, 2012

by | February 3rd, 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 and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) co-released the 2012 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, which showed that more than one in four Oklahoma households are “asset poor,” meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on in an emergency.  The Tulsa World and the Oklahoman covered Oklahoma’s Scorecard results in depth.

We pointed out that if legislators make the choice to prioritize tax cuts, they cannot pretend to be blameless when funds aren’t available for crucial services.  We hosted a debate about whether or not to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, featuring Jessica Hawkins, the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and former state Senator Ed Long.

Finally this week, the Associated Press quoted us in an article on a regional trend of GOP action to axe state income taxes. The Tulsa World presented a summary of our issue brief defending the income tax. The Journal Record cited our work on worsening poverty in Oklahoma and legislative proposals that would make it even harder to be poor. The OK Policy Blog featured a short video about ‘community schools,’ a comprehensive approach to education that makes the school the hub of the community.

Numbers of the Day

  • $136 – Average tax increase on elderly Oklahoma couples with $35,000 in income under a legislative proposal to eliminate a slate of broad-based tax credits and exemptions.
  • 8,100 – Number of manufacturing jobs added in Oklahoma from January to December of 2011, up 8.4 percent for the year.
  • 178, 020 – Number of Oklahoma children under age 6 who need daily child care during the week because their primary caregiver/s participate in the labor force, 2009
  • 6,592 – Number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009; 70.1 percent received their GED, just above the average national pass rate of 69.4 percent.
  • 11th – Oklahoma’s rank among the states in percentage of households with no computer in their home, 2010

In The Know, Policy Notes

  • The Foundation for Child Development finds that states with higher taxes and greater investment in public programs score highest for Child Well-Being.
  • The Economic Policy Institute points out that the massive tax cuts propose by GOP presidential candidates don’t square with professed concerns about public debt.
  • Demos shows that the pay premium gained by joining the federal workforce is reserved largely for less-skilled workers, and rather than disparaging public sector pay levels, we should embrace them as standards from which the private sector has shamefully deviated over the last three decades.
  • The Shriver Center examines the trend of states issuing public benefits through bankcards and the implications of card fees for low-income people.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek reports on falling premiums for Medicare Advantage, a private health insurance option for Medicare beneficiaries.

 

In The Know: Gov. Fallin proposes eliminating income tax

by | February 3rd, 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. Mary Fallin told reporters that details of her plan to gradually eliminate the income tax in Oklahoma would be announced on Monday.  OK Policy explained why repealing or reducing the state income tax is ill-advised.  Anticipated revenue from taxes on natural gas production will be much lower-than-expected this year due to extremely low natural gas prices.

National employment grew at the fastest pace in nine months, adding 243,000 jobs and bringing the unemployment rate to a near three-year low.  Over a dozen school districts in eastern Oklahoma met with lawmakers to discuss abandoning the new high-stakes graduation tests.  The OK Policy Blog hosts a short video about ‘community schools,’ a comprehensive approach to education that makes the school the hub of the community.

The governor and legislative leadership support a bond issue to pay for $140 million in repairs to the century-old State Capitol.  Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele supports requiring the legislature to be subject to the Open Records and Open Meetings Act.  In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg Businessweek reports on falling premiums for Medicare Advantage, a private health insurance option for Medicare beneficiaries.  Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank among the states in percentage of households with no computer in their home.

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Watch This: What is a 'Community School'?

by | February 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Education, Watch This | Comments (0)

At a time when seemingly endless budget cuts are squeezing our public schools to the breaking point, the Coalition for Community Schools continues to advance a rich and comprehensive approach to education.  Their vision is one in which schools are not just places for kids to learn during the school-week, but also community centers open to everyone – all day, every day – making the school the hub of the community.  If you’re having a hard time envisioning how a ‘community school’ differs from the norm, watch this short video about Tulsa’s Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI).  The transformational potential of this approach is hard to miss.

 

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

What is an IDA?

Elderly parole

Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

In The Know: Oklahoma tax refunds for the unbanked issued on MasterCard debit cards

by | February 2nd, 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.

Today you should know that Oklahoma law now requires that state tax refunds be issued electronically, so taxpayers without a bank account must accept their refund on a MasterCard debit card with associated fees.  Oklahoma House Democrats say jobs, education, transportation, and natural resources top their agenda for 2012.  The Norman Transcript explains why a bill that gives cities and towns control over tobacco regulations is needed to turn the corner on the state’s deteriorating health.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request that will give $500,000 to the OU College of Medicine to address a physician shortage.  Stillwater residents expressed concern about services for the state’s poor at a town hall event on the state budget.

The OK Policy Blog hosts a debate about whether or not to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, featuring the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Jessica Hawkins and former state Senator Ed Long.  The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009.  In today’s Policy Note, the Shriver Center examines the trend of states issuing public benefits through bankcards and the implications of card fees for low-income people. 

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The pseudoephedrine debate: Available with or without a prescription?

by | February 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Healthcare | Comments (4)

The question of whether to require a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine (the main ingredient in medications such as Sudafed) as a means to help combat the production of methamphetamine,  promises to be one of the  hotly contested issues of the 2012 legislative session. We invited a supporter and an opponent of the proposal to present their sides of the debate.

Jessica Hawkins: Time to say ‘enough is enough’

Jessica Hawkins is the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which funds a network of Regional Prevention Coordinators providing community-based prevention services to all 77 Oklahoma counties. 

Substance abuse and untreated addiction must be a priority for Oklahoma.  It is the underlying cause for many of the negative consequences we are faced with in this state such as crime, incarceration, rising health care costs and broken families…issues that will not go away unless we start investing in the things that impact the root problem.

Want a great example? Methamphetamine.  Everybody knows about meth.  It is in the headlines every day.  If there is a picture that illustrates how drug use impacts us all, then this is it.

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In The Know: More than one in four Oklahomans unprepared for financial crisis

by | February 1st, 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 a new report ranks Oklahoma 33rd in the nation in the ability of residents to build wealth and fend off poverty. The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, co-released by OK Policy and the Corporation for Enterprise Development, shows that while we do well on levels of homeownership, we are in the bottom for income poverty, reliance on predatory lenders and subprime credit, and the number of uninsured. The Journal Record [subscriber only] looks at some proposed laws that would make it even harder to be poor in Oklahoma.

Lawmakers speaking at a StateImpact Oklahoma forum in Stillwater raised doubts about cutting the income tax. Class sizes are continuing to rise in Tulsa-area school districts as they struggle to deal with successive state budget cuts over the past few years. Pay increases for judges and district attorneys look unlikely this year, since they are tied to the salaries of statewide elected officials eager to gain political credit for going without raises.

Oklahoma City is recovering more quickly from the recession than Tulsa, and an economist told the OKC Council that the two cities may be diverging economically. Health Commissioner Terry Cline is proposing a more narrowly focused bill this year in hopes of winning local control of tobacco policies. The OkieBret blog profiled the occupation, religion, and educational backgrounds of Oklahoma’s state legislators.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma children under age 6 need daily child care during the week because their primary caregiver/s participate in the labor force. In today’s Policy Note, Demos shows that the pay premium gained by joining the federal workforce is reserved largely for less-skilled workers, and rather than disparaging public sector pay levels, we should embrace them as standards from which the private sector has shamefully deviated over the last three decades.

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