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In The Know: Teacher turnover wreaks havoc at high-poverty schools

by | March 3rd, 2014 | Posted in 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that the Tulsa World is publishing an in-depth series on a high-poverty school that was given an ‘F’ on the state’s A-F grading system. The latest story in the series looks at how high teacher turnover is wreaking havoc at the school. House members says they want a commitment from the governor and Senate to fund targeted state worker pay increases this year before signing off on a pension overhaul bill.

Eight judicial reform bills that T.W. Shannon touted before stepping down as House Speaker did not make it through committee. Governor Fallin said she will not release key e-mails related to her decision to refuse federal funds for Medicaid until after she leaves office. The Oklahoma State Board of Education’s meeting in Enid Thursday violated the Open Meetings Act, forcing the board to meet again to vote on several items that are invalid.

A bill was approved in House committee that would give a tax credit to Oklahomans for going without health insurance. The credit would be equal to any tax penalties assessed by the federal government for not having insurance. Tulsa World editor Julie DelCour discussed the consequences of Oklahoma’s underfunding of mental health treatment. Oklahoma Watch discussed how Oklahoma and other Republican-led states rely more on federal funds because we have higher poverty. 

More than a dozen Oklahoma business leaders are joining hundreds more nationwide urging Congress to pass immigration reform. Chesapeake Energy Corp. posted a net loss of $159 million this quarter. The company announced this week that it is looking to sell or spinoff its oil-field service business. Oklahoma State University settled a federal lawsuit by an anti-abortion student group. The group sued after being denied permission to display photos of aborted fetuses in high-traffic areas of campus.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in corporate income tax refunds paid out by Oklahoma through January this fiscal year, compared to the same period last year. In today’s policy note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discussed a new federal program that could make high-poverty schools hunger free.

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Weekly Wonk March 2, 2014

by | March 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know. 

On our blog, OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt wrote that moving new state employees away from traditional defined benefit pension plans onto 401(k)s wouldendanger existing pensions and increase costs for taxpayers. OK Policy Director Gene Perry demystified the apparent contradiction between a record high in tax revenue collections and the budget shortfall.

In a guest post, OU professor Dr. Kent Olson called for full accountability for tax cuts. We reported that Oklahomans with developmental disabilities can spend years on the waiting list to receive home- and community-based services. 

In an editorial in The Oklahoman, Blatt argued that a failure to invest in critical state services and infrastructure, not the current income tax rate, put Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage in attracting business to the state. Blatt’s Journal Record column warned against the state government’s cavalier attitude toward the budget outlook.

Perry spoke to NewsOn6 about the benefits of raising the minimum wage. KGOU has the audio from two panel discussions during our Statewide Budge Summit.

Numbers of the Day

  • 242 – The number of alcohol-related fatal car crashes in Oklahoma in 2012, 37.7 percent of all fatal car crashes that year.
  • 60,000 – Number of Oklahomans making at or below minimum wage in 2013, 6.3 percent of all hourly workers in the state.
  • 42nd – Oklahoma’s rank out of all 50 states on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The state ranked especially poorly for life evaluation, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to health care.
  • $826 million – How much the tax cuts put in place from 2005-2012 will reduce income tax revenue in 2015.
  • Nearly 400 – The approximate number of Tulsa Public School teachers who retired or resigned in 2012-13.

Policy Notes

  • Demos describes why wage hikes should be all the rage.
  • Atlantic Cities argues in favor of rapid bus transit.
  • Expanding health coverage provides financial protection, writes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Bloomburg reports on the sweeping, bipartisan movement to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes.
  • Amazon.com could serve as a delivery model for public health, according to The Health Care Blog.

In The Know: Oklahoma Senate approves income tax cuts

by | February 28th, 2014 | 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Today you should know that the Senate approved a bill (SB 1246) dropping the Oklahoma income tax rate by one-quarter of a percent if overall income tax collections increased by an amount equal to or greater than the projected cost of the tax cut. The bill includes a trigger that would drop the income tax rate further once additional revenue collection benchmarks are reached. We’ve already written about why triggers are dangerous and irresponsible. The OK Policy Blog discussed the apparent disconnect between record gross revenues collections and the General Revenue Fund’s shortfall.

OK Policy Director Gene Perry argued in favor of raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma. The Huffington Post reported that Oklahoma is passing up $1,264,000,000 by refusing to accept federal funds to extend health care coverage. A bill that would consolidate several state agencies narrowly passed out of committee. The House passed a controversial abortion bill, variations of which have been found unconstitutional in other states. Tulsa Public Schools faces an ongoing teacher shortage.

US Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Carl Levin (D-MI) wrote an editorial advocating increased production of vehicles fueled by natural gas. The State Board of Education was found to have breached the Open Meeting Act when it failed to file a change of location notice before a meeting on Thursday. Insurance agents report that more Oklahomans are purchasing earthquake insurance.

The Number of the Day is the approximate number of Tulsa Public Schools teachers who quit or retired 2012-13. In today’s Policy Note, The Health Care Blog examines Amazon.com as a delivery model for population health.

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The mystery of the disappearing revenue

by | February 27th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Featured Budget & Tax | Comments (0)

gross-collections-v-general-revenueThe latest headlines about Oklahoma’s finances seem oddly contradictory. On the one hand, State Treasurer Ken Miller has announced gross revenue collections are hitting an all-time high. Oklahoma’s total collections of $6.64 billion dollars are $278 million higher than the same period last year.

At the same time, the General Revenue Fund and other funds relied on for the state’s annual budget are facing large shortfalls. The latest estimate shows lawmakers will have $188.5 million or 2.6 percent less to appropriate than last year. But if the same percentage of gross collections were going into General Revenue as in FY 2012, this year’s GR would be almost $200 million higher through January. And legislators might not be staring at a large budget shortfall next year.

So where’s the money going? Read on for the explanation or scroll down to the end for the short version.

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In The Know: Legislators unveil tax cut plans with revenue triggers

by | February 27th, 2014 | Posted in 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Republicans in the House and Senate unveiled two plans to cut the top income tax rate in future years, triggered by revenue increases. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why tax cut triggers are reckless. OSU economic professor Kent Olson discussed how lawmakers scheduling tax cuts for future years have helped them avoid accountability for the budget cuts that result. David Blatt’s Journal Record column explained why state leaders should stop shrugging off Oklahoma’s budget shortfall.

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is suing a for-profit college chain with branches in Oklahoma over predatory student lending practices. An labor group is seeking to increase the minimum wage in Oklahoma City, but state lawmakers are pushing a bill (SB 1023) that would make it illegal to increase minimum wage above the statewide level. A measure to allow counties to impose a severance tax for mining limestone and sand is gaining ground in the House.

A House Committee defeated a bill (HB 3398) that would have allowed state education funding to go to private and home school vouchers [Correction: The bill would not have allowed vouchers to go to home school expenses.]. A bill passed out of committee that would reduce interest charges to oil and gas companies that are delinquent on royalty payments, at a cost of $7 million from Oklahoma education. The Oklahoma City Council voted to require tornado-resistant safe rooms in all new school buildings. The okeducationtruths blog contrasted The Oklahoman’s and The Tulsa World’s treatment of controversies around high-stakes testing in Oklahoma schools.

A House panel voted to abolish the Calendar Committee established by TW Shannon. A bill to impose term limits county office holders in Oklahoma died in committee, but a similar bill is still active. The Number of the Day is how much the tax cuts put in place from 2005-2012 will reduce income tax revenue in 2015. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg discusses the sweeping, bipartisan movement to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes.

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Let’s have full accountability for tax cuts (Guest Post: Kent Olson)

by | February 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

blindfolded cliffKent Olson is Professor of Economics Emeritus at Oklahoma State University

Over the past decade, the Oklahoma legislature enacted several measures that reduced the top bracket rate of the individual income tax from 7 percent to 5.25 percent, and more cuts of this type have been proposed. These tax cuts, both those from the past and those proposed, are back-loaded; they’re tax cuts that create revenue losses that occur largely in the future. In Oklahoma, back-loaded tax cuts are likely to result in back-loaded spending cuts, as well. The estimates below indicate that this is a serious problem. It can be fixed only if the legislature considers the long-run impacts of both tax cuts and spending cuts as a package.

The 2014 legislative hopper contains 3 major proposals aimed at further chipping away the top bracket rate:

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In The Know: House votes to ban stem cell research, in vitro fertilization

by | February 26th, 2014 | Posted in 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that the Oklahoma House voted to make embryonic stem cell research a felony. The bill would also ban in vitro fertilization unless extra embryos created by the procedure were kept frozen forever or provided to others who want to grow them into babies. Oklahoma pharmacists rallied at the Capitol against what they claim are abusive practices of low reimbursement by several large insurance companies. The Senate delayed action on a bill to prevent girls younger than 17 from buying the morning-after pill without a prescription, after lawmakers realized it did not prevent boys from purchasing the drug.

The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 17 hate groups active in Oklahoma last year. A bill that would allow business owners in Oklahoma to refuse service to gays for religious reasons likely won’t be heard in its current form. The bills author, Rep. Tom Newell, said the measure is being rewritten to avoid “fiascos like there have been elsewhere.” The Senate voted to build a Bill of Rights monument at the state Capitol.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how lawmakers’ push to move new state employees to 401(k)-style pensions, which is being sold as a way to reduce the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, could actually make the liabilities worse. Oklahoma ranks among the bottom 10 states for overall well-being, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the attorney general’s office abused its discretion by rewriting a petition to place storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank out of all 50 states on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how expanding health coverage also reduces debt and improves credit scores.

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Moving new employees to 401(k)s would endanger existing pensions, increase cost to taxpayers

by | February 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

pension fundDuring this year’s State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin expressed strong support for doing away with traditional  defined benefit pension plans for new hires within the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) in favor of 401k-style defined contribution retirement plans. The Governor touted the switch as beneficial both to public employees, whose retirement benefits would be more  portable if they wish to leave state employment early in their careers, and to the state’s fiscal stability. Moving to a defined contribution model, she said:

… stabilizes the system for current public employees and retirees. Oklahoma pension systems currently have $11 billion in unfunded liabilities. The system as it stands today is not financially sound or sustainable.
 
It’s important we shore up our pension systems so we can pay out the benefits we have promised to our retirees.
This proposal is now speeding through the legislative process in SB 2120 and HB 2630. Leaving aside the question of whether state workers would truly be better off with a 401(k) retirement plan, the claim that switching to a defined contribution model for future public employees would put the state on better financial footing simply does not withstand scrutiny. Instead, is likely to weaken a pension system that is now in strong financial shape and increase the state’s cost for meeting its pension obligations.

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In The Know: Cherokee Nation lifts minimum wage to $9.50

by | February 25th, 2014 | Posted in 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that the Cherokee Nation is increasing the minimum wage for the tribe’s employees to $9.50 an hour. A bill that would pay nonprofit prison diversion programs for successfully reducing incarceration is advancing to the full Senate. The OK Policy Blog discussed the decade-long waiting list for Oklahomans seeking home-based cared for family members with a severe developmental disability.

A report from the DC-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics argues that Oklahoma’s private prisons are allowed to operate in too much secrecy because they aren’t subject to Freedom of Information laws like public prisons. You can Read the full report here. A study by California researchers found that those incarcerated in the state’s private prisons are younger and more non-white than public prisons. The researchers suggested that private prison operators have contracts that allow them to transfer prisoners with costly health problems, so they end up with a younger population.

A measure (HB 3167) to allow local school districts in Oklahoma to opt out of the state’s curriculum standards appears to be moving forward in the House. Two bills (HB 2625, HB 2773) that would give alternatives to retention for third graders who don’t pass a reading test passed out of House committee. Oklahoma is launching a program to share student data between early childhood education providers and K-12 schools.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said it may be difficult to cut income taxes this year while the state is facing a revenue shortfall, but they may schedule a tax cut for later years. New House Speaker Jeff Hickman is proposing to abolish the Calendar Committee established by TW Shannon. An essay by Helen Grant in okc.net examines Oklahoma City’s development on the verge of a mayoral election.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans made at or below the minimum wage in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities discusses why more U.S. cities should embrace bus rapid transit.

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Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays

by | February 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)
Photo by GYLlo used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by GYLlo used under a Creative Commons license

Earlier this month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced he would pledge $24 million to move people with developmental disabilities off the waiting list to receive home- and community-based services. Governor Nixon’s pledge will bring specialized medical equipment, therapy, job preparation, respite care and independent living skills to over 900 of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens – about two-thirds of the children and adults in the queue.

“Our friends and neighbors will now get the life-changing services they need, when they need them,” Nixon said.

If only that were true in Oklahoma.

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