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Reading the tea leaves on Oklahoma incumbents who lost in the primary (Capitol Updates)

by | July 8th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

Frightened Tea Leaves ReaderSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

Two House members and one senator were defeated in the June 28 primary: Rep. Ken Walker (R-Tulsa); Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) and Sen. Corey Brooks (R-Washington.) Two other legislators, Rep. Donnie Condit (D-McAlester) and Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus), had very close races but pulled out narrow victories. Sometimes democracy is hard to figure out. If I had to pick three incumbents who would lose in their primaries this year, I doubt these would have topped the list. Incumbents are rarely defeated, but the combination of a serious and qualified opponent who understands the hard work it takes to win an election can make for a tough re-election. And widespread voter dissatisfaction will put some challengers over the top.

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In The Know: Number of jailed Oklahomans grew 14 times faster than adult population from 1980 to 2013

by | July 8th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Number of jailed Oklahomans grew 14 times faster than adult population from 1980 to 2013: The number of Oklahomans behind bars grew 14 times faster than the state’s adult population from 1980 to 2013, according to a report released Thursday by the Obama administration. Issued in support of federal sentencing reform legislation and an initiative to shift spending from prisons and jails to education, the report says Oklahoma’s per capita state and local outlays for corrections grew almost five times more than per-pupil common education expenditures. Nationally, incarceration spending grew 2.5 times faster than education [Tulsa World]. The report is available here. Oklahoma has the second highest incarceration rate in the country, up from fourth highest in 2012, with approximately 1,310 out of every 100,000 of our citizens incarcerated in 2014 [OK Policy].

Battling Heat, Homeless Also Face Freeze of State’s Wait List for Housing Aid: Even as the heat takes a toll on Oklahoma’s homeless population, another potential hardship has developed related to efforts to get the homeless off the streets. The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has decided to join the Oklahoma City Housing Authority in closing its waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, more commonly known as Section 8. The federally funded service provides rental subsidies for homeless and low-income families, and about 10,250 Oklahoma families receive the assistance [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma Pre-K Often Praised, But Early Educators No Better Off: A comprehensive look at working conditions for early childhood care workers and educators finds Oklahoma is slipping. Marcy Whitebrook led the study at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. She said Oklahoma was making the best progress among 17 states addressing early educators’ low wages. In 2015 dollars, Oklahoma preschool teacher wages rose 23 percent from 2010 to 2015. Child care worker wages dropped 4 percent [KWGS]. The study is available here.

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In The Know: State closes out fiscal year with another drop in gross revenue collections

by | July 7th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (2)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State closes out fiscal year with another drop in gross revenue collections: State Treasurer Ken Miller said Wednesday that Oklahoma is showing no signs of making a marked recovery from the recession that began in the spring of last year. Miller served up more bad news with a report showing gross revenue collections for June were down 7.4 percent from the prior year. During fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, gross revenue brought in $11.1 billion, or 7.2 percent below collections for the prior 12-month period, a drop of nearly $863 million from the previous year [Tulsa World].

Cracks in the law: Oklahoma Supreme Court rules on parking lot workers’ comp claims: Workers’ compensation covers employees who are in the parking lot walking into work in some cases, according to a state Supreme Court ruling. The decision added a wrinkle to the 2013 change in workers’ comp that narrowed the definition of when an employee is working. In a 6-3 decision last week, the court ruled that Oklahoma State University employee Annette Legarde-Bober should get benefits after she slipped on an icy parking lot at the school’s Oklahoma City campus in 2014 [Journal Record].

Selling the farm: Coming to us now—in what seems like another float in the annual parade of perplexing, often unconstitutional proposed amendments to the Oklahoma Constitution—State Question 777, also known as the Right to Farm Bill. If approved by voters in November, it will fundamentally change the scope of state regulations on farming practices … by removing them. Entirely. Forever [Tulsa Voice].

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ICYMI: “How Money Walks” has no leg to stand on

by | July 6th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

Note: Now that Kevin Durant has opted to leave the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, at least half his income will be subject to California income tax, which assesses a top income tax rate of 13.30 percent. Whatever the merits from a basketball perspective, KD’s decision deals a further blow to conservative gospel claiming that Americans’ migration patterns are based on state personal income tax rate. Here is a blog post we originally ran in 2013 debunking the oft-cited claims to this effect made by author Travis  Brown.

During the debate over Oklahoma’s most recent income tax cut, one House lawmaker speaking in favor of the bill waved a book in the air that he said showed why cutting taxes further would help Oklahoma’s economy. The book was “How Money Walks” by Travis Brown, a Missouri lobbyist and the President of “Let Voters Decide,” a group founded by billionaire Rex Sinquefield to push for abolishing Missouri’s income tax and replacing it with higher sales taxes.

Brown has been busy in recent months, travelling the country to push his book and advocate for abolishing state income taxes from Arkansas to Maine. His primary argument is that Americans are migrating to states without income taxes. In April, the Oklahoman editorial board said his work “gives credence to Oklahoma’s tax-cutting strategy.”

There’s just one problem—as we might expect of “research” done by an anti-tax lobbyist, “How Money Walks” is misleading propaganda. Here are a few reasons why:

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In The Know: Don’t Sweat Kevin Durant’s Departure. You’re Doing Fine, Oklahoma City!

by | July 6th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Don’t Sweat Kevin Durant’s Departure. You’re Doing Fine, Oklahoma City! It would have been easy for fans who have thronged Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena over the past half-decade to forget they were rooting for laundry. The way they talk about ex-Thunder forward Kevin Durant in OKC, you’d think he were George Bailey in Nikes. Durant lives downtown, hangs out downtown, owns a restaurant downtown. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin offered him a cabinet post last month [Slate].

College funding cuts hurting Oklahoma’s future, officials say: Higher education officials say misinformation fueled the historic funding cuts that will hurt both students and the future of Oklahoma. Funding to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education was reduced nearly 16 percent for fiscal year 2017. That followed a series of cuts the previous year. “Over two years we’ve lost $265 million out of the higher education system, and we have more kids in school than we’ve ever had, we’re graduating more than we ever have,” said Regent Jay Helm, of Tulsa [NewsOK]. Oklahoma has cut funding to colleges by 21.7% since 2008 when adjusted for inflation [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

School choice efforts could be decided in Oklahoma elections: Oklahoma’s expansion of school choice policies, such as education savings accounts (ESA’s), could be impacted by the results of this year’s legislative elections, especially in races that include one of the dozens of public education candidates. A wave of candidates with ties to public education, including current or former teachers, have put teacher pay and school funding at the center of their campaigns, including Mike Mason, the Mustang teacher who challenged Sen. Kyle Loveless in the winner-take-all Republican primary in Senate District 45 [NewsOK].

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Why poverty in Oklahoma is being compared to a Third World nation

by | July 5th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (37)

homeless mother with her daughterEach year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof holds a Win-A-Trip contest for college students to accompany him on a reporting trip to the developing world. Most years, his trip explores  global poverty in far-flung places like Congo or Myanmar. This year, he decided to add a stop in Tulsa to see the impact of the nation’s 20-year experiment with revamping welfare.

His disheartening findings were featured in a recent Sunday’s New York Times column. “The embarrassing truth,” he writes, “is that welfare reform has resulted in a layer of destitution that echoes poverty in countries like Bangladesh.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress approved legislation to “end welfare as we know it.” Under the replacement Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, it became harder for single parents to qualify for cash support. Recipients were subject to work requirements, harsh penalties for non-compliance, and strict time limits for receiving assistance.

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In The Know: Oklahoma state agencies cut 609 jobs in first half of 2016

by | July 5th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma state agencies cut 609 jobs in first half of 2016: Efforts to cope with a $1.3 billion shortfall in the state budget have led to the elimination of 609 workers from the payrolls of state agencies so far this year. John Estus, director of public affairs for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, says that through June 28 the number of state employees dropped from 34,569 to 33,960. The Oklahoman reports that figure does not include hundreds of additional state workers who will lose their jobs due to previously announced voluntary buyouts and reduction-in-force plans that are still underway [Associated Press].

Teach for America’s Presence Shrinks in State: A waning number of applicants, coupled with a dramatic cut in state funds, is throwing into reverse Teach for America’s efforts to place teachers in public-school classrooms in Oklahoma. The national program recruits college graduates and professionals to commit to a two-year stint in mostly low-income, struggling schools. There will be 30 percent fewer Teach for America teachers in Oklahoma classrooms this fall, compared to last year, based on data provided by Teach for America [Oklahoma Watch].

Elections have consequences: Tuesday’s primaries gave us our first indication of whether this year’s elections will significantly impact politics in our state. I’m not talking about partisan politics. In that regard, what goes around comes around. I was part of a large Democratic majority when I served in the legislature. Taking the House and Senate together, there is currently an even larger Republican majority [OK Policy].

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The Weekly Wonk: Elections have consequences; what a federal education law means for Oklahoma; & more

by | July 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy blog, Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explained that elections are how voters stake out where they want their legislators to compromise and where they want them to hold the line. Executive Director David Blatt suggested that adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ Presidential votes matter.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt wrote about the implications of a surprise $100 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year. Summer intern Kylie Thomas broke down what new federal education standards will mean in Oklahoma. 

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke to Oklahoma Watch about a new state business incentive review panel, and to NBC about Governor Fallin’s legacy in an article about her prospects as Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee. The Sequoyah County Times quoted Blatt in a piece on the state’s unexpected budget surplus. Policy Director Gene Perry talked to KFOR about education advocates and Tuesday’s elections.

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Elections have consequences (Capitol Updates)

by | July 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates | Comments (1)
voting boothSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.
 
Tuesday’s primaries gave us our first indication of whether this year’s elections will significantly impact politics in our state.  I’m not talking about partisan politics.  In that regard, what goes around comes around.  I was part of a large Democratic majority when I served in the legislature.  Taking the House and Senate together, there is currently an even larger Republican majority.  It took many elections and, frankly a change at the national level that Oklahoma followed, to arrive where we are today.  Who knows how long the partisan makeup of our state government will remain the same? 

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In The Know: Calling it ‘dire situation,’ regents OK tuition hikes

by | July 1st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Calling it ‘dire situation,’ regents OK tuition hikes: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education ended fiscal year 2016 Thursday by approving increases in tuition and mandatory fees at all public colleges and universities. Chancellor Glen Johnson said cuts in state funding to higher education totaled $157 million in FY 2016. “You don’t see that without a very negative impact on students and academic programs,” Johnson said. [NewsOK]. OSU confirmed Thursday that enrollment in some programs, including engineering, would be capped due to budget cuts [Journal Record]. Overwhelmingly, the states where residents earn the highest wages also have the best-educated workforce, which is one reason why Oklahoma’s cuts to higher ed are worrying [OK Policy].

DHS lifts freeze on child-care subsidies: After reviewing next year’s budget, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have decided to lift the freeze on child-care subsidies starting Friday. The original date to resume applications was to be Aug. 15, but DHS Director Ed Lake said many schools districts are opening enrollment earlier and subsidies will be needed [Tulsa World]. Even with the subsidy in effect, child care is getting less accessible for working parents [OK Policy].

Fees to increase Friday as new Oklahoma laws take effect: It will be more expensive to file for divorce and get a traffic ticket due to new laws that take effect Friday. More than 60 bills are taking effect Friday after the Legislature adjourned in May. The bill allocating money to state agencies, called the General Appropriations bill, also takes effect Friday, the beginning of the new fiscal year [Tulsa World]. Instead of making real progress on fees and fines this spring, last-minute legislation hiked them even higher [OK Policy].

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