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‘End the income tax’ broken record plays on

by | November 4th, 2015 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (2)

broken_recordIn a recent House interim study led by Rep. Mark McCullough, lawmakers returned to a subject that has been attempted several times in Oklahoma’s recent history. They once again looked at eliminating Oklahoma’s income tax or transforming it into a flat 3 percent rate for all incomes. To replace some of the lost revenue, they discussed expanding the sales tax to cover services.

Rep. McCullough claimed that this would ensure more reliable revenue for the state because it would not be as sensitive to the ups and downs of the oil and gas industry. Yet in a presentation during that same study, Oklahoma Tax Commission Director Tony Mastin pointed out that sales tax can be just as susceptible to downturns in the industry as other taxes. The hit to sales tax revenue in an oil bust is both direct — purchases of expensive drilling equipment are a major source of sales taxes — and indirect — when energy companies lay off workers and pay fewer royalties, Oklahomans spend less on taxable purchases.

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In The Know: Wait reaches all-time high for developmental disabilities services

by | November 4th, 2015 | 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.

Today In The News

Wait List Reaches All-Time High for Developmental Disabilities Services: After decreasing last year, the waiting list for a state program that provides services to Oklahomans with developmental and intellectual disabilities has grown again—to the highest level it’s ever been. As of Oct. 15, the wait time to receive services through the state’s Developmental Disabilities Services Division is nearly a decade. The number of people on the waiting list has grown from 6,992 in 2014 to 7,239 this year, according to figures from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) taken from a point in time each year [Oklahoma Watch]. The services provided by DHS include physical and occupational therapy, medical supplies, in-home nursing support, and respite care [OK Policy].

Tobacco Use Reaches New Low In Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today that the smoking rate among adults has reached a new low. According to a  press release, the number of adult smokers dropped by almost 78,000 between 2013 and 2014. The 19 percent decrease in the last four years has moved Oklahoma’s ranking from forty-seventh in the nation to fortieth [KGOU].

Without reform, Oklahomans with mental illnesses will continue to struggle to find care, leaders say: Mental health advocates spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol about assisted outpatient treatment, a type of court-ordered mental health treatment for residents diagnosed with mental illnesses who have been resistant to care [NewsOK]. Cathy Costello, wife of slain state Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, was one of many Tuesday to speak in front of a state senate committee hearing about possible outpatient and medication treatment for people who are in and out of trouble [NewsOn6].

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Upcoming Event: Practice & Policy lecture series discusses early childhood education

by | November 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

On November 5, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will host Dr. Naneida Lazarte for her lecture “Oklahoma School Readiness Reach-By-Risk Report 2015: Understanding Access to Quality Early Childhood Programs in the Context of Risk for Starting School Unprepared” as part of the Practice & Policy lecture series.

The Oklahoma School Readiness Reach-by-Risk Report 2015 is the second publication in the report series and updates data published in 2014. The report is intended to provide policy makers and other early childhood education stakeholders with the most current data available on school readiness risk factors and the reach of services provided in each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. It represents a continued effort to highlight counties whose children are at the greatest risk of starting kindergarten unprepared to learn and counties that are underrepresented in terms of quality early childhood education and child care services.

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In The Know: FCC ruling reduces charges for Oklahoma inmate phone calls

by | November 3rd, 2015 | 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

FCC ruling reduces charges for Oklahoma inmate phone calls: Family members and loved ones of inmates doing time in Oklahoma’s prisons and jails will pay significantly less to stay in touch over the phone. The changes announced Oct. 22 by the Federal Communications Commission reveal that a 15-minute phone call between an Oklahoma inmate and another person will cost $1.65, which is 40 percent lower than the $3 rate that was in place prior to Oct. 22 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City streetcar contract falls into jeopardy: Inekon Group a.s., the European manufacturer chosen to build the streetcars, missed the contract’s first deadline, to provide documentation of its credit worthiness and insurance. An attorney for Oklahoma City said the $23 million contract is now null and void. The blown deadline likely means further delays for the $128 million streetcar line, already running about a year behind schedule [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Supreme Court issues stay in stadium construction halt: The order issued by the high court on Friday means construction work can continue until an appeal process is completed in the case, which was filed by a Kansas steel manufacturer against OU, construction project manager Flintco Inc. and W&W Steel. HME is suing the OU Board of Regents, Flintco and W&W Steel because the company claims it was the lowest responsible bidder for the project, but the contract was wrongfully awarded to W&W Steel, the second lowest bidder [NewsOK].

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Affordable Care Act open enrollment: What you need to know

by | November 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Ah, fall: crunchy leaves on sidewalks, a hint of frost in the air, pumpkin spice everything… In other words, it’s time for open enrollment, the span between Nov. 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, when people can enroll in or change their private health insurance plans. This is a particularly good time for people who are currently uninsured but who are eligible for health insurance to get covered.

How do I enroll?

Oklahomans can shop around for and enroll in health insurance via Some other states built their own health insurance marketplaces, which is why your aunt in Kentucky got hers via kynect. In states like Oklahoma that declined to build their own marketplace, residents should enroll at There you’ll be asked to provide some basic information about the people you’re looking for coverage for, as well as your projected income for the next year.

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In The Know: 200 new laws take effect, including texting while driving ban

by | November 2nd, 2015 | 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

Oklahoma’s law against texting while driving takes effect: U TEXT. U DRIVE. U PAY. That’s the message now posted on electronic reader boards along Oklahoma’s interstate system. It alternates with another message: Photo – $100 FINE. NOVEMBER 1ST. Under the new law, it is illegal to read or manually compose or send a text message while driving a moving vehicle. The ban also includes instant messages, email, photos or video. Hands-free applications are permitted [NewsOK]. The law was one of more than 200 new state laws taking effect Nov. 1 [KFOR].

Oklahoma’s Turnpikes: Who Is Profiting?: What started out as one toll road connecting Oklahoma City and Tulsa has turned into a multi-billion dollar web of turnpikes across the state. Sixty-three years later, Oklahoma drivers are still paying that bill. Some lawmakers and citizens fear the Turnpike Authority has too much power [News9].

Corporation Commission prepares to hear bribed vote case: Final preparations are being made for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to hear arguments Tuesday in the more than 25 year old Southwestern Bell rate case approved in a bribed commission vote that some consumers are again challenging, maintaining the bribed vote in 1989 constitutes no approval. Those consumers contend money should be repaid to ATT customers, a move that totals more than $16 billion [OK Energy Today].

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The Weekly Wonk: Better budget planning, a school meals success story, and more…

by | November 1st, 2015 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly W onk 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

On the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that the state’s current budget challenges call for better budget planning tools. Blatt also argued for better budget planning in his Journal Record column. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis suggested greater input from education professionals in discussions about the future of education in Oklahoma. 

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam wrote about the success of a program that allows all students to eat breakfast and lunch at no charge in some Chickasha Public Schools. Our research brief on the program, called Community Eligibility Provision, is available here

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Gene Perry spoke to FOX25 on school district consolidation. Perry’s research on consolidation can be found here.

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Why is it so hard for state leaders to hear the views of teachers? (Capitol Updates)

by | October 30th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (1)

Katherine Bishop

Katherine Bishop

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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

There was recently an op-ed piece in The Oklahoman by Katherine Bishop, Vice-President of the Oklahoma Education Association. The OEA is the teachers’ professional organization, nowadays often referred to by some pejoratively as the “teachers’ union.” Not that there’s anything wrong with being a teachers’ union. You have to listen to the context to know if the description is friendly, unfriendly or neutral.

Ms. Bishop had attended the Workforce Skills Gap forum sponsored by The Oklahoman and was apparently inspired to say something about the experience. The panel of speakers consisted of officers of the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative and representatives from the State Chamber of Commerce, higher education, CareerTech and the State Department of Education. There was no classroom teacher, public school parent, or student on the panel.

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In The Know: Governor announces nearly $900M in turnpike projects

by | October 30th, 2015 | 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

Governor announces nearly $900 million in new turnpike construction projects: A new turnpike would link Interstate 40 east of Tinker Air Force Base to the Turner Turnpike near Luther as part of nearly $900 million in improvement plans unveiled by state officials Thursday. The so-called northeast Oklahoma County Loop would stretch 21 miles and would reduce the driving time from Tulsa to the Oklahoma City metro area, while alleviating congestion. That project is one of six major turnpike projects estimated to cost  $892 million [NewsOK]. You can download an information packet on the projects here [Oklahoma Turnpike Authority]. Tulsa officials expressed doubts about the proposal to take over construction of the Gilcrease Expressway from the city [The Frontier].

Huge disparities in discipline of Oklahoma’s minority special education students: Oklahoma’s special education students who are minorities are being expelled, suspended or referred to police at rates of up to four times that of white students with disabilities, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of federal discipline data. The racial disparities raise questions about whether Oklahoma schools are exacerbating the learning challenges that hundreds of their most vulnerable students already face [Oklahoma Watch].

Schools prepare for impact of state budget cuts: School districts are bracing for more cuts following Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order Monday demanding that state offices prepare written plans to reduce nonessential expenses by 10 percent for the remainder of the budget year and for the following budget cycle, which begins July 1, 2016. The Legislature and courts are exempted. Education leaders say the austerity will certainly affect how much money flows to local schools [Claremore Daily Progress].

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In The Know: Penny hike would give Oklahoma highest sales taxes in nation

by | October 29th, 2015 | 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

Penny hike would give Oklahoma highest sales taxes in nation: A proposed penny sales tax increase for education would push Oklahoma to the top of list of states with the highest combined state and local sales taxes, according to data from a national research group. It also would elevate Tulsa and Oklahoma City to No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, among major cities with the highest combined sales taxes, trailing only Chicago and Seattle, the Tax Foundation said [Oklahoma Watch].

Google explores bringing super-high speed internet to Oklahoma City: Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday Google Fiber is exploring a venture that could deliver cable and Internet speeds up to 85 times faster than in most American cities. Beginning this week, Google will work with Oklahoma City leaders on a plan to explore what it would take to build a new fiber-optic network capable of delivering gigabit speeds throughout the area [Associated Press].

Gov. Fallin urges sale of surplus property: In a third executive order tied to sagging state revenue, Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday directed state agencies to sell underutilized land and buildings. Money from these sales could help with building maintenance expenses and could help shore up the budget. State revenues have been running below projections. This year, the state faced a budget shortfall of more than $600 million, and a hole at least that big is expected next year [NewsOK].

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