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In The Know: Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session

by | April 17th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session: The 10th week of the legislative session came to an end at the Capitol, and lawmakers are still working to figure out how to balance the budget. “We’re well aware of the time frame,” Sen. Mike Schulz said. As lawmakers get over committee deadline week, it’s still not clear how they will fill an $878 million budget hole. [KOCO News 5] See OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide for more information about legislative deadlines and the budget process in Oklahoma.

Condolences on the death of state Rep. David Brumbaugh: State Rep. David Brumbaugh died suddenly Saturday. He was 56. The Broken Arrow Republican had served the people of District 76 since 2011. We knew him to be a man of faith and conviction, but also of gentleness and humility. He was a man whose fundamental fairness allowed him to rise above faction. [Editorial Board/Tulsa World]

State giving up hundreds of millions in petroleum tax giveaways: Oklahoma’s state budget is in crisis. We are unable to pay our teachers and state employees competitive salaries, or ensure adequate staffing at our veterans care centers. Thousands of Oklahomans with mental illness or disabilities are stuck on years-long waiting lists for care. These problems are not just about the state of our economy. Policy choices have made our financial situation much worse than it needs to be. [David Blatt/Tulsa World] Oklahoma is expected to lose $513 million in FY 2018 due to gross production tax breaks and rebates. [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts will hit rural Oklahoma hard, no clear plan for next year’s budget, a new OK PolicyCast, and more

by | April 16th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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

Executive Director David Blatt explained that state budget cuts will likely hit small towns and rural Oklahoma especially hard, and argued that fixing the state’s budget woes will require legislators to put our common interest above self-interest  in his Journal Record Column. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison contended that extending unpaid parental leave for state employees would be a good first step in modernizing Oklahoma’s family leave policies.

A new episode of OK PolicyCast provided a mid-session update on our legislative priorities. Brenda Granger, Executive Director of Oklahoma Museums Association, reminded us of the importance of the arts and culture to Oklahoma’s economy and education system. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update lamented the lack of a clear plan for next year’s state budget.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was interviewed by The Oklahoman for a story about SB 478, a bill that would allow insurance companies to sell policies in Oklahoma that don’t cover all mandated benefits. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s analysis of HB 2132, a bill that would allow the creation of “prosperity districts” in Oklahoma was used by the Humane Society in a news piece about the issue.

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Fog has yet to clear on state budget (Capitol Updates)

by | April 14th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

Steve 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.

Nine weeks down and seven weeks to go in this session, and the fog has yet to begin clearing on the FY-18 budget outlook. House appropriations Chair Leslie Osborn sent a shot over the bow recently when she asked agencies to report what they would do with a 14.5 percent budget cut. The results reported by most agencies were unacceptable by most any measure. But there still exists no public proposal by legislative leadership for a package of revenue measures that would come close to closing the budget gap.

It seems clear that a deal has been made to end the 10-year, fifty one-hundredths of one cent ($0.0050) tax credit earned on every kilowatt of electricity produced by wind facilities going into production after July 1, 2017. The credit is a refundable tax credit, which means it’s money that is paid directly out of the state treasury, and it has cost more than was ever anticipated. This, however will have no impact on the FY-18 budget so it will be no help in solving the budget gap. The budgets it will affect will occur in FY-19 and beyond.

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Budget cuts would hit Oklahoma’s small towns hard

by | April 13th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments (7)

Atoka Public Schools Schools is a district that serves 996 students in K-12, employing 70 teachers and professional staff and 127 total employees. Since 2009, it has seen its funding decrease by $500,000. This year, it is one of 100 school districts, primarily in rural Oklahoma, that have gone to a four-day school week to cut costs.

While we often associate state government with the State Capitol and Oklahoma City, in reality, the money spent by the state flows out across Oklahoma’s 77 counties and nearly 600 towns and cities. In nearly every community, state dollars are spent on grade schools and colleges; roads and bridges; hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and substance abuse counselors; parks, historical centers  and libraries; correctional facilities, in-home care providers, agricultural inspectors, and myriad other public and private entities.

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In The Know: Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April

by | April 13th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April: Public schools learned Wednesday that their monthly payment from the state of Oklahoma would be shorted by an additional $17.4 million, bringing the total reductions since January to nearly $87 million. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools notifying them that state revenue collections continue to fall far short of expectations in both the 1017 Fund and the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund [Tulsa World]. We’ve become accustomed to mid-year cuts. It’s a sad but true fact. They still hurt. Every month is a new stomach punch [okeducationtruths].

Criminal justice reform measures survive House committee gauntlet: Three key pieces of Gov. Mary Fallin’s initiative to reduce the state’s high incarceration rates through criminal justice reform survived two committee hearings and some major alterations in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. Senate Bills 649 and 689, by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Edmond, and SB 786, by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, all made it through the House Criminal Judiciary and Public Safety committees, but laden with questions and reservations that must be resolved before any comes close to final passage [Tulsa World]. Recommendations from the Justice Reform Task Force could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Bill that would allow Ten Commandments back at Oklahoma Capitol passes Senate committee: A controversial bill that would pave the way for historical statues on public grounds has passed another hurdle. In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments Monument that was housed at the Oklahoma State Capitol violated the Constitution. That decision led to the monument being removed from the Capitol grounds [KFOR].

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Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

by | April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

Brenda Granger is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Today is Oklahoma Arts Day at the State Capitol.

Arts and culture promote civility and transcend all boundaries. Arts and culture bring people together. Arts and culture are rooted in partnerships of all kinds, especially public-private partnerships. Arts and culture organizations offer transformational experiences to everyone across our great state and beyond. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution. Funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), and through them, arts and cultural organizations in our state, is important to our Oklahoma education, economy, communities, workforce, and future.

Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy. In the next months, Oklahomans for the Arts, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and several arts and cultural organizations, will have the latest economic impact numbers to share. It is expected the numbers will exceed those of the last study in 2010 of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that showed that the industry had a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy, supported 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generated more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.

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In The Know: Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent

by | April 12th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent: The state’s general revenue allocation fell 9 percent below expectations in March, causing the state to take $31 million from agency revolving funds, officials said Tuesday. In fact, officials admitted earlier this month that the state’s constitutional reserve — known as the Rainy Day Fund — has been emptied in order to pay bills and meet payroll. Doerflinger repeated earlier assurances that enough revenue will come in during the final three months of the fiscal year to replace the borrowed money, but said the situation still calls for new revenue sources [Tulsa World].

Drastic cuts could be coming for Medicaid patients in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is warning, if their state appropriation is cut for fiscal year 2018, many programs and benefits for Medicaid patients could be eliminated. Some of the programs and benefits being considered are pharmacy, behavioral health, durable medical equipment, the breast and cervical cancer treatment program, the waiver-funded Medically Fragile program and Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, private duty nursing services, adult organ transplants, dialysis, hospice services, physical and occupational therapy, and speech, hearing and language disorder services [KFOR].

Why should Oklahoma subsidize lenders who prey on the poor? The payday lending industry is advancing House Bill 1913 on the premises that high-interest loans are required in the free market. But I’d like to offer a conservative, market-oriented argument against HB 1913. HB 1913 seeks to compel government courts to help the private payday lending industry collect its debts. HB 1913 doesn’t merely require Oklahoma to allow excessive consumer debt. HB 1913 actually requires the state of Oklahoma to subsidize excessive consumer debt through its court system [Rep. Kevin Calvey / Tulsa World]. “Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families [OK Policy].

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Extended family leave for new parents would boost economy while addressing some of Oklahoma’s worst health rankings

Too many Oklahoma parents face an impossible choice – continue to work full-time and miss precious opportunities to bond with a new child, or leave work and put their finances and career at risk. Oklahomans shouldn’t face this choice.  New parents should be able to take leave to bond with and care for a new child without putting their family’s future at risk.

Senate Bill 549, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee, is a good first step in the modernization of family leave in Oklahoma. [UPDATE: SB 549 passed committee with a 14-0 vote and will next go to the full House.] Under federal law, most American workers are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and several states have provided further paid or unpaid leave. SB 549 would extend that to 20 weeks of unpaid leave for Oklahoma’s state employees.

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OK PolicyCast Episode 28: Mid-Session Update

by | April 11th, 2017 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (1)

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

Now that we’re just past the halfway point in the Legislative session, Kara Joy and Gene talk about which key bills are still alive, which are dead, and what’s at play in negotiations over the state budget. To find out how you can take action on bills during the rest of session, see OK Policy’s Advocacy Alerts page, and to join efforts for a better Oklahoma state budget, visit Together Oklahoma.

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Oklahoma governor to decide fate of wind energy tax credits

by | April 11th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma governor to decide fate of wind energy tax credits: The Oklahoma Senate gave final approval Monday to a measure ending income tax credits for wind production more than three years early. House Bill 2298 now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin, who asked for the early sunset legislation in February. Leadership in both chambers have praised the bill, citing it as one way the state can reclaim revenue in future budget years [NewsOK]. While it is true that subsidies for the wind industry have been rising, the reality is that they pale in comparison to those the state provides to oil and gas producers [OK Policy].

Senate Committee Passes Three Controversial School Bills: A state Senate committee passed three controversial bills dealing with schools on Monday. The bills cover disciplining students with disabilities; a grading system that’s been called institutional racism; and schools reportedly using four day school weeks as a teacher incentive. House Bill 1684 would require school districts planning to go to four-day school weeks to simply submit a plan to the state Department of Education. Right now, schools aren’t required to do that [News9].

State Medicaid leader: ‘We will be putting people’s lives at stake’ when services are eliminated: Low-income Oklahomans will have limited access to a range of health care services if the state Medicaid agency moves forward with a slew of cuts to the publicly funded health care program. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, announced Monday that, as the agency prepares for whatever money the Legislature provides, the authority will consider provider rate cuts of up to 25 percent to balance the agency’s budget [NewsOK].

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