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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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What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 1)

by | June 30th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (3)

studentsKylie Thomas is an OK Policy intern and a Master’s student in economics at American University. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era is finally coming to an end, and a new era of education policy is being ushered in with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015 after passing the U.S. House and Senate with bipartisan support. The Act reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and goes into full effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The last reauthorization of ESEA was the passage of NCLB in 2001. 

This post is part one of a two-part series which discusses what ESSA does and how it will affect Oklahoma. Part one will look at ESSA’s effects on accountability and standards, and part two will examine ESSA’s effects on testing and teachers.

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In The Know: Oklahoma teachers fight education cuts by winning elections

by | June 30th, 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

Oklahoma teachers fight education cuts by winning elections: Inner-city high school English teacher Mickey Dollens was fed up with low pay and cuts to public education, so he decided to run for the state Legislature to fix the problem. Then the 28-year-old from Oklahoma City became a casualty of those cuts and was laid off. He has since become a poster boy for a movement of teachers, parents and other supporters of public education trying to elect candidates who will resist cuts imposed by majority Republicans. The group passed its first major hurdle with flying colors on Tuesday when candidates it backed knocked off two incumbent House Republicans and came close to beating a third, a rarity in Oklahoma politics [Associated Press].

With Oklahoma primary over, hopefuls get ‘back on the campaign trail’: Collin Walke knocked on about 30 doors the day before Tuesday’s primary election, which could have been the difference in a race that saw him win the Democratic nomination in House District 87 by just 26 votes. “You got to knock doors all the way up until the last minute,” said Walke, who edged Kelly Meredith by 1.4 percent [NewsOK].

‘Teacher Caucus’ Candidate Reflects on Losing Race: Sand Springs Councilman Brian Jackson lost big in Tuesday’s Republican primary race in Senate District 37, which includes Sand Springs and parts of Tulsa. The incumbent, Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, bested Jackson by winning 69 percent of the vote, compared with Jackson’s 20 percent. Jackson was arguably part of the “teacher caucus” of candidates vying for a legislative seat because he supports greater funding for education and his wife has taught in Sand Springs Public Schools for 14 years [Oklahoma Watch].

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In The Know: Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets

by | June 29th, 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

Crowded Oklahoma legislative races produce few upsets: Despite a grueling legislative session and a record number of primary challengers, the majority of Oklahoma House and Senate members seeking re-election were largely successful in Tuesday’s primary elections. Three incumbents fell — Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington. Twenty-five other incumbents won their primary races. But considering 29 of the last 30 challenged incumbents during the last two elections cycles won their primary elections, Tuesday’s results represented a bit of a turning tide, even if a small one [NewsOK]. The potential size of a so-called “teacher caucus” in the Legislature was significantly whittled down Tuesday after 20 current or former educators lost their primary battles [Oklahoma Watch]. Here’s a list of how candidates backed by Oklahomans for Public Education fared [NewsOK].

DC PAC spends thousands against public ed candidates: A Washington D.C.-based political action committee has pumped nearly $90,000 into legislative races over the last month in direct opposition to a slate of candidates running on a public education platform. Running under the unofficial title of the “teacher caucus,” nearly 30 candidates with ties to public schools are running for Oklahoma House and Senate seats. At least 18 of these candidates are current or former public education teachers campaigning on higher teacher salaries and increased funding for public schools [NewsOK].

Bynum tops Bartlett to become Tulsa’s mayor: G.T. Bynum has defeated two-term incumbent Dewey Bartlett to become the new mayor of Tulsa. Bynum had 56 percent of the vote. Bartlett had 38 percent, and three other candidates in the nonpartisan race had combined for 6 percent. “… When we unite as a city, we can achieve great things, and there are great things to be done in the next four years,” Bynum told a raucous watch-party crowd during a victory speech at Stokely Event Center [Tulsa World].

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