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In The Know: Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched

by | April 30th, 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 Zébre.

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

Today you should know that what was supposed to be the first of two executions in Oklahoma last night was halted when the prisoner Clayton D. Lockett began to writhe and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious. He later died of a heart attack 43 minutes after he had been first injected. Governor Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution for Charles Warner, the second scheduled to be executed last night, and has ordered a ‘full review’ of the state’s execution procedures. Oklahoma had attempted the execution with a secret, untested mix of chemicals because pharmaceutical companies increasingly refuse to supply lethal injection drugs.

Governor Fallin vetoed 15 House bills and said she would continue issuing vetoes until the House address several issues. The Governor complained that legislators had not made progress on allowing schools to hold a vote on going over their bonding capacity to fund storm shelters, setting the state budget for the coming year, funding Capitol repairs, and changing the pension system for state workers. A report by independent monitors found Oklahoma is making lackluster progress on court-ordered improvement of its foster-care system. The state Senate approved a bill to require schools to have students say the Pledge of Allegiance once a week.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters and what we can do about it. The Legislature is working on modifying the Quality Jobs Act to allow state income tax dollars to help pay for land purchases by Tinker Air Force Base. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that could impact coal plants in Oklahoma. The president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is urging farmers to think twice before plowing their fields this spring. The ongoing drought creates a risk of dust storms and wind erosion that could be worsened by plowing.

The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa announced it will become the first United States affiliate to the GRAMMY Museum, based in Los Angeles. Fox23 reported on the work of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which is pushing for comprehensive sex education in schools. The first century of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School was celebrated in a new documentary film that premiered at the Circle Cinema.

The Number of the Day is how much new revenue Oklahoma could bring in if the state adopted combined reporting, a reform that prevents corporations from shifting profits to out-of-state tax shelters. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times discussed how schools can build affordable storm shelters using concrete domes.

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Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters. Here’s what we can do about it.

by | April 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)
Photo by JD Hancock.

Photo by JD Hancock.

By most measures of the economy, Oklahoma shouldn’t have a budget shortfall this year. At a time when the economy is improving nationwide and most states are debating what to do with budget surpluses, Oklahoma lawmakers are looking at creating a budget with $188 million less than last year.

Part of the reason for the shortfall is skyrocketing tax refunds going to corporations. Through January 2014 of this fiscal year, Oklahoma paid out $75.0 million in corporate income tax refunds. That’s more than double the refunds paid over the same period last year ($31.4 million). Corporate income tax revenue going to Oklahoma’s General Revenue Fund is down $100.1 million, or 33.9 percent from this time last year. It’s a symptom of a larger problem — numerous tax loopholes for corporations that shift the burden onto individuals and small business.

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In The Know: Oklahoma governor signs income tax cut into law

by | April 29th, 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 Zébre.

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

Today you should know that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure into law that schedules automatic cuts to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate in future years. The first phase of the tax cut will provide an average of $29 to middle-income families while reducing revenues for services by about $135 million, and when fully implemented the tax cuts will cost more than $250 million. Lawmakers are discussing the possibility of paying for American Indian Cultural Center and Museum through an appropriations bill that would stagger funding over three years.

Under new Quality Jobs Program contracts, four companies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have pledged to add jobs with millions of dollars in subsidies from Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog pointed out that a poll claiming to show Oklahomans oppose ending a tax break for horizontal drilling is not being transparent about its questions or methodology. The Okie Funk blog discussed reports showing that federal government has known for decades about a connection between injection wells and earthquakes.

Governor Fallin signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion because a fetus would not survive long after birth to be informed about perinatal hospice servicesAn experimental anti-poverty program by Community Action Project of Tulsa County is giving vulnerable mothers access to high-quality preschool as well as to life coaching, financial incentives and intensive job training in in-demand fields. KTUL discussed how poor reading and school funding, zero tolerance, and suspensions are creating a school to prison pipeline for Oklahoma children.

Oklahoma is set to execute two men within two hours of each other on Tuesday, a rare occasion in the 21st century. Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County following a tornado that struck Quapaw and killed at least one person. Norman residents have waited years without funding for storm shelter rebates from a federal program. Oklahoma has not seen a wave of party switching from Democratic to Republican this year, even though several major races may be decided in Republican primaries.

The Number of the Day is the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent ($689/month) in Oklahoma working 40 hours a week. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the National Employment Law Project finds an economy-wide shift to low wage jobs that has continued every year since the Great Recession.

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It’s hard to evaluate polls if one of them is secret

by | April 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

2014-poll-breaksOn Friday, The Oklahoman published an editorial discussing two recent polls about Oklahoma’s horizontal drilling tax breaks. A poll commissioned by OK Policy  found Oklahomans overwhelmingly favor ending the horizontal drilling tax break and using the savings to invest in core services. Another poll conducted by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates claimed to find Oklahomans favor keeping the tax rate at 1 percent for horizontal drilling.

The Oklahoman editorial quoted Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates president Pat McFerron casting aspersions on OK Policy’s poll, saying “While there is little doubt creative polling could create a question to get a different result, if messaging is removed and the simple facts are evaluated, it is clear this is an issue with an ideological edge and potentially an important electoral issue, especially for Republican primary voters.”

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In The Know: Attorney General Scott Pruitt to rewrite medical marijuana petition

by | April 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 Zébre.

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

Today you should know that Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rewriting an initiative petition to permit the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana. Once a final version is submitted, supporters have 90 days to collect 155,216 voter signatures needed to get it on the ballot. The New York Times examined Oklahoma’s rapidly growing use of e-cigarettes. On May 1st, OK Policy executive director David Blatt will participate in a debate between supporters and opponents of accepting federal funds to expand health coverage for Oklahomans.

With nearly the lowest pay in the U.S., school districts across Oklahoma are facing large teacher shortages. NewsOK reported that mold problems in the state Capitol have caused employee health problems and come close to violating Health Department standards. Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said the agency needs $26.5 million in additional funds just to maintain existing services and will have to make cuts with a flat budget. The Enid News & Eagle wrote that lawmakers need to reign in tax breaks to stop a self-inflicted budget crisis.

The Tulsa World discussed how huge health disparities still remain between rich and poor areas of Tulsa County, but intensive efforts by community health clinics and funders are beginning to make a difference. A group protested outside the Governor’s mansion against Governor Fallin’s approval of a ban on minimum wage increases in Oklahoma cities. A high school curriculum adopted in Mustang Public Schools, billed as a way to teach archaeology, history and the arts through Bible stories, also tells students God is always there in times of trouble and that sinners must “suffer the consequences” of disobeying. NBC News reported on the last few residents of Picher, Oklahoma, which was abandoned due to severe pollution from lead and zinc mining.

The Number of the Day is the average Oklahoma teacher salary in 2012-2013, 49th lowest out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains what you need to know about the most important economics book of the decade.

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Weekly Wonk April 27, 2014

by | April 27th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk

The 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 KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week, we shared how much the the horizontal drilling tax cut is costing Oklahoma school districts. On the OK Policy blog, we discussed the legislature’s eleventh-hour attempt to reform a testing mandate for third graders. 

We wrote that additional state regulations for Navigators are unwarranted and unnecessary, and released a statement noting that the passage of SB 1246, which schedules automatic cuts to the top income tax rate, ignores both the wishes of Oklahomans and what’s best for the economy. On Thursday, May 1st, Executive Director David Blatt will participate in a debate over health care reform and Medicaid expansion. Attendees should RSVP to Kelly Hughes at Kelly@ocpathink.org or by calling (405) 602-1667 by April 29th. 

OK Policy has two exciting summer opportunities for Oklahoma college students! We are now accepting applications for our summer internship. Applicants should have completed four semesters of college coursework or be pursuing a graduate degree, and be interested in pursuing research and analysis on a variety of state policy issues.  Applications will be accepted through Friday, May 2nd.

We are also accepting applications to our second annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI), a three-day crash course on Oklahoma’s policy landscape, featuring speakers and panels on a wide range of state policy issues. Applications will be accepted through Friday, May 30th. 

In his Journal Record column this week, Blatt urged education advocates to keep the pressure on lawmakers to pursue real options for education funding. Blatt’s speech at the March 31st education rally in Oklahoma City can be viewed here. Policy Director Gene Perry discussed Oklahoma’s budget crisis with the International Business Times. 

Sen. Sean Burrage noted that Oklahoma is a low-tax state in the Pryor Daily Times, using OK Policy data and analysis. You can read our tax day blog post here. A letter in the Norman Daily Transcript, citing OK Policy work, argued that the state budget is leaving vital health care services behind and made suggestions to help fix the issue. Our suggestions for filling the budget hole can be found here, and our discussion of impending Medicaid cuts is here. The Oklahoman’s editorial board took issue with a recently-released poll commissioned by OK Policy on tax breaks for horizontal drilling. You can read more about the poll here

Numbers of the Day

  • 8,000 – Increase in leisure and hospitality sector jobs in Oklahoma since March 2013, more than one-third of all new jobs in Oklahoma over the past year.
  • $13.7 million – How much CTB/McGraw-Hill was paid this year to conduct Oklahoma school testing, which has been disrupted by technology problems for the second year in a row.
  • $267 million – Oklahoma Tax Commission estimate of cost in 2019 of SB 1246, which would lower top income tax rate to 4.85%. The Commission cannot estimate the full impact because its simulation model doesn’t extend that far into the future.
  • 830,850 – The number of Oklahomans enrolled in the state Medicaid program as of late March, the largest single-month total in the history of the program.
  • $23,636 – The average debt of an Okahoman university student who graduated in 2012. Oklahoma ranks 34th nationally.

Policy Notes

  • The Alaska Dispatch reports that since Alaska switched state employees from defined benefit to a defined contribution pension system, the state’s unfunded liabilities have nearly doubled.
  • Demos shares data that shows while the US and Northern Europe have similar rates unmarried parents and single mothers, the US’s child poverty rate is substantially higher.
  • The Congressional Budget Office has lowered its estimates of the cost to states to implement Medicaid expansion, making it an even better deal for states than previously thought. 
  • The Washington Post reports on the whereabouts of the 1.6 million Americans who don’t have indoor plumbing, and explains why such data matters.
  • Al Jazeera discusses the impact and costs of being uninsured in America.

Upcoming event: David Blatt debates health care reform and Medicaid expansion

by | April 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

bigstockphoto_health_care_reform_green_road__5632944On May 1st, supporters and opponents of expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act will participate in a debate sponsored by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Speakers will include:

  • David Blatt, Executive Director of OK Policy. Blatt is a member and regional co-chair of the Scholars Strategy Network and was named political scientist of the year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association in 2013. 
  • Peter Aran, M.D., Senior Vice President/Quality Attainment, St. Francis Health System. Aran served on the St. Francis board of directors from 1996 to 2009, and currently serves on the Tulsa County Medical Society board of directors as well as the American College of Physician Executives.
  • G. Keith Smith, M.D., co-founder, medical director, CEO and active physician of The Surgery Center of Oklahoma. Smith has been a board-certified anesthesiologist in practice since 1990. In 2009,  Smith launched a website displaying all-inclusive pricing for surgical procedures.
  • Avik Roy, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute; Opinion Editor at Forbes. Roy served as health care policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012. His blog at Forbes, The Apothecary,  has received widespread readership and acclaim from pundits and policymakers of all political stripes.  

The debate will be held on May 1st at the Oklahoma History Center (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr., Oklahoma City, OK 73105). Free box lunches will be provided at 11:30, and the debate will take place from 12:00 to 1:00. RSVP to Kelly Hughes at Kelly@ocpathink.org or by calling (405) 602-1667 by April 29.

In The Know: Senate passes bill for Oklahoma Capitol repairs

by | April 25th, 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.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma Senate has passed a plan to authorize a bond issue of up to $160 million to repair the state Capitol without a public vote (HJR 1033). The bill now goes back to the House. The House defeated an expanded school choice bill that would have authorized the expansion of publicly-funded charter schools into rural areas (SB 573), as well as a measure that would have changed Oklahoma’s judicial appointment process (SJR 21) by altering how attorneys are appointed to a commission that nominates members of the state Supreme Court and appellate courts. The Senate passed a bill putting additional restrictions on Oklahoma abortion clinics and stating that life begins at conception (SB 1848).

On the OK Policy blog, we discussed a bill imposing additional regulations on Navigators, who are trained to help people enroll in health insurance in online marketplace (HB 3286). The International Business Times spoke to OK Policy policy director Gene Perry about Oklahoma’s budget crisis in the middle of the state’s oil and gas boom. A column in the Pryor Daily Times noted the link between Oklahoma’s low tax burden and underfunded state services. The Oklahoman editorial board took issue with a recent poll commissioned by OK Policy on tax breaks for horizontal drilling. Further information on the poll can be found here.

Despite unanswered questions about the drugs that will be used to kill them, two Oklahoma inmates are scheduled to be executed next week. A state lawmaker has called for the impeachment of five Oklahoma Supreme Court justices. The Court had stayed the executions, then reversed their decision. Rep. Mike Christian claims the Court acted outside its scope.

The president of CTB/McGraw Hill apologized to the state Board of Education following widespread disruptions to Monday’s statewide testing. This is the second year of CTB’s contract with the state, and the second year tests havebeen disrupted by technical problems. Envoy, formerly American Airlines, is partnering with Tulsa Community College to offer students tuition assistance and a job out of college to make up for a shortage of pilots. The Oklahoma Natural Gas is requesting a rate hike of nearly $2 per month for residential customers.

The American Red Cross has donated $48,000 to Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity to install storm shelters in the houses it builds. The grant will cover the installation of twenty shelters in Homes built for storm-affected individuals and families through 2015. Grazinglands, an Oklahoma agricultural laboratory studying the impact of climate on crops, livestock, soil and water, has been designated one of seven regional hubs researching the impact of climate change. Next week, StateImpact will host a forum on climate change in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the average college debt incurred by an Oklahoma student who graduated in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, Al Jazeera English discusses the costs and impact of being uninsured in America.

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Additional Navigator regulations are unwarranted, unnecessary

by | April 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by Ian Kelsall used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Ian Kelsall used under a Creative Commons license.

The central tenet of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is to bring access to quality, affordable health care to as many Americans as possible, primarily by enrolling them in private health insurance or Medicaid. Central to the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance enrollment effort was the creation of Navigators – trained community workers who help guide applicants through the online exchange to purchase a health plan. In the first year of enrollment, the Navigator program appears to be working well – but new state regulations may make it harder for Navigators to do their jobs.

Federal regulations determine Navigator conduct and eligibility, including 20 hours of training on health plans, security and privacy standards. Further rules have been proposed that while not yet set in stone, aren’t expected to differ substantially from the proposed).

However, the Navigator program has come under fire, with critics contending that federal regulations don’t do enough to protect the privacy and identities of enrollees.

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In The Know: House delivers Gov. Fallin’s much sought tax cut

by | April 24th, 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 Zébre.

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

Today you should know that another cut to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate (SB 1246) has narrowly passed the House and is heading to Governor Fallin. The bill would trigger automatic cuts to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent over several years, reducing funding for services by more than $250 million when fully implemented. OK Policy released a statement that the tax cut vote ignores the wishes of Oklahomans and what’s best for the economy.

News9 reported on how growing corporate tax credits are contributing to Oklahoma’s budget shortfall this year. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how education advocated need to keep up the pressure on lawmakers who are not pursuing real options to fund education. Oklahoma Watch evaluated competing claims from Governor Fallin and Rep. Joe Dorman about who works for minimum wage in Oklahoma. Medicaid enrollment in Oklahoma has reached a new record. Many people who already qualified for the program but had not signed up have likely enrolled due to the Affordable Care Act’s increased outreach and coverage mandate.

The Senate voted down a bill that would have allowed early paroles of some prisoners who are 65 or older and pose minimal public safety risks. Averting a constitutional standoff, the state Supreme Court dissolved its own stay of execution for two inmates and reversed a lower court’s ruling that had found the state’s execution secrecy law unconstitutional. The Senate approved a measure that creates a statewide vote on allowing school districts a one-time increase on bonding capacity to pay for storm shelters and safe rooms. Two Moore schools received a $500,000 donation from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for building storm shelters.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how lawmakers have waited until the 11th hour to reform a testing mandate for third graders and what the reforms could mean for students and parents. State Superintendent Janet Barresi granted an exemption to state testing for two students whose parents were killed in a recent car crash. The state Department had initially denied an exemption, but they reversed course after a Facebook post about it began to go viral. [CORRECTION: A Facebook post by the school district’s administrator went viral after she thought an exemption had been denied, but the Department of Education said it was a miscommunication.] A Head Start early childhood education program in Tulsa is developing an innovative approach to help low-income parents build careers. NPR reported on how Tulsa has become a national leader in high-quality early childhood education.

Tulsa-area schools are developing new strategies for teaching English Language Learners (ELL) after significant growth in the percentage of Hispanic students. OK Policy previously wrote about what Oklahoma can do to improve educational outcomes for ELL students. Gov. Fallin signed a measure that restricts how physicians can prescribe abortion-inducing drugs, similar to a law that had already been thrown out by Oklahoma courts. The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded 10 earthquakes in Oklahoma since Sunday. During the past 30 days, Oklahoma experienced 135 earthquakes of at least 2.5 magnitude.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans were enrolled in the state Medicaid program as of late March, the largest single-month total in the history of the program. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shares information on where are the 1.6 million Americans who don’t have indoor plumbing.

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