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How new federal rules can keep Oklahomans out of debt traps

by | August 8th, 2016 | Posted in Financial Security | Comments (0)

GET CASH NOW! A neon green sign boasts a quick fix for your financial woes as you count out the few dollars you have to pay bills and buy groceries for your children. Although you are employed, this has been a particularly hard month. The payday loan, so named because you usually have to pay the loan back by your next payday, could be the solution to your problems — or it could be a debt trap.

For most borrowers it ends up being a debt trap. Borrowers start with one loan, but they often cannot afford to pay it back by their next payday. The lender then gives the option to take out another loan to cover the cost of the original loan. These “churned loans” are the hallmark of the predatory payday lending industry. Borrowers who fall into the trap end up going deeper and deeper into debt with numerous small, consecutive, short-term loans at an average APR of nearly 400 percent. 

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In The Know: Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession

by | August 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

Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession: Oklahoma’s tax collections were down for the 17th month in a row during July — largely due to depressed energy prices and ill-timed tax cuts — extending a losing streak that’s lasted longer than the nation’s Great Recession. State Treasurer Ken Miller said Friday that Oklahoma took in $854 million last month, $88 million less than it collected in July 2015. The decline was evident in every category, including individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes and revenue from the production of oil and natural gas. While several energy-rich states have seen tax receipts fall, Oklahoma exacerbated its situation by moving forward with income tax cuts approved when times were good [Associated Press].

Oklahoma economy slides again in first quarter: Lower oil prices and manufacturing declines dragged on the Oklahoma economy as the state posted its fourth consecutive quarterly contraction, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday. Led by losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 percent in the first quarter. The state joined 13 others with contractions in the first three months of the year [NewsOK].

Rural poverty ‘a way of life’ for numerous Oklahomans: With no air conditioning on a brutally hot summer afternoon, 19-year-old Breeze Bunch is sitting on the front porch with a half-empty Pepsi and a bottle of sunscreen. “Why don’t you go splash in the water?” Bunch tells her 2-year-old daughter, who waddles off toward an inflatable kiddie pool under a shade tree beside the house. Sharing a clapboard house with her boyfriend’s family, Bunch lives on a dead-end street north of downtown in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oklahoma. This isn’t Tulsa or Oklahoma City, or even Muskogee or Lawton. A five-minute walk could put Bunch in the middle of a cow pasture [Tulsa World]. OK Policy has examined some of the surprising causes of rural poverty [OK Policy].

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The Weekly Wonk: Sales tax holiday is poor policy, rethinking suspensions, & more

by | August 7th, 2016 | 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

This week, Executive Director David Blatt wrote in his Journal Record column that sales tax holidays are poor public policy. He went into greater detail on the subject on the OK Policy Blog. Intern Tara Grigson argued that Oklahoma needs to rethink school suspensions. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis explained why a special legislative challenge likely wouldn’t accomplish much

In The Know took a break during our fourth annual Summer Policy Institute for much of this week. Check it out on Twitter here.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt  spoke to KOCO about oil industry objections to our Oklahoma Agenda for Broad-Based Prosperity. Blatt also spoke to the Norman Transcript about objections to sales tax holidays. Policy analyst Ryan Gentzler was quoted in the Enid News on criminal justice reforms

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Stars not aligned to accomplish much in special session (Capitol Updates)

by | August 5th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

chaotic road signs

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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

One has to wonder where Governor Fallin is headed with the announcement that she is considering a special session of the legislature. The purpose of the session would be to give a pay raise to teachers using the funds that were withheld from all state agencies, including schools, due to an anticipated revenue failure. In addition, the governor said “other funds” could be made available. Since about every bookkeeping maneuver available was used to deal with this year’s shortfall, presumably the “other funds” would come from some sort of tax increase.

It’s pretty difficult to imagine a tax increase that couldn’t pass during the regular session now passing with an election looming in about 100 days. The only way I can see it happening would be to re-litigate some of the compromises legislators were unwilling to make only two months ago. The Democrats wanted Medicaid expansion or repealing the recent tax cut in exchange for supporting the cigarette tax. Are the Republicans more likely now to give on those issues or to offer some other compromise that would attract Democratic support on a tax proposal?

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In The Know: Oklahoma City schools still seeking teachers

by | August 5th, 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 City schools still seeking teachers: The state’s largest school district is trying to fill 52 teaching vacancies for an academic year that’s already underway. Oklahoma City Public Schools is using substitutes and working on some emergency certifications to plug the holes created by what the district calls “attrition.” “Just over the summer we lost about 270 teachers who resigned, left the district to go to other school districts, left teaching to do something completely different,” said district spokesman Mark Myers [KJRH]. 

Wagoner Schools Begins Its Tuesday Through Friday School Week: Wagoner students are headed back to class, and to save money – this is the first year the district is trying a four-day school week. Superintendent Randy Harris says he really hasn’t got a lot of push back from parents, either in person or online. When Wagoner starts class Thursday morning, a school year of big changes begins. The district’s four-day school week will be Tuesday through Friday, 8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m [NewsOn6]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

Longevity bonus offered to Oklahoma City superintendent: Oklahoma City’s school board wants stability at the superintendent position, and it’s willing to pay for it. In its contract with Aurora Lora, who was named permanent superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools last month, a $10,000 bonus is offered if she reaches her two-year anniversary. Lora is eligible for another $15,000 if she makes it three years. Lora, who is the 11th superintendent since 2000, signed a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000. Rob Neu, the superintendent before Lora, made $240,000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma bipartisan coalition calls for immigration reform: While Oklahoma’s immigrant population is growing slower than the national rate, more than 10,000 immigrants came to the state from 2010 to 2014 and nearly 220,000 residents were born abroad, according to a report released Wednesday by a bipartisan group urging reforms. The report from The Partnership for a New American Economy showed that about 10,000 immigrants in Oklahoma are self-employed and that immigrant-owned businesses generate $201 million in yearly business income, while employing 29,120 people [NewsOK]. The report is available here

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In The Know: DHS announces $45 million in cuts for fiscal year 2017, but shortfall still looms

by | August 4th, 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

DHS announces $45 million in cuts for fiscal year 2017, but shortfall still looms: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced $45 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2017 on Wednesday. The agency is facing a shortfall of more than $100 million, and officials warn that supplemental funding will be needed early in the next calendar year to avoid “serious consequences.”Of the $45 million in cuts — $72.8 million with the loss of matching federal funding — 66 percent will come from additional personnel and administration reductions, 30 percent from reductions in client services and benefits and 4 percent from contract reductions [Tulsa World].

Polls show Oklahomans support penny sales tax for education, sentencing reform: State questions aimed at increasing education funding and decreasing incarceration rates have strong support headed into the final few months before the November election, according to recent polls. In cooperation with The Oklahoman, SoonerPoll found 62 percent of likely voters support State Question 779, which asks voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase for common and higher education, including pay raises for public school teachers [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Teachers Oppose Special Session for Potential Pay Raise: These past few years have been fiscally tough ones for Oklahoma. An oil crisis and a series of miscalculated tax cuts has left the state with little revenue to distribute, and the state’s school system has suffered greatly. Over the last two years, with schools already undergoing a severe teacher shortage crisis, the state’s legislature has cut close to $60 million from its public school system over the last two years [Education Week]. Governor Mary Fallin has met with legislative leaders to discuss the possible special session, but hasn’t made a decision yet [Associated Press]. Don’t forget other Oklahoma government workers [Debbye Bryner / NewsOK].

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Sales tax holiday is poor policy

by | August 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

This weekend, many Oklahomans will flock to the stores to take advantage of the state’s annual three-day sales tax holiday weekend. Since 2007, shoppers are allowed to buy clothing items under $100 free of state and local sales tax during the first weekend in August. Many retailers report a major boost in business over the weekend that can rival Black Friday. “It will take all of our available staff to handle those three days,” said the President of Drysdale’s Western Wear in a news article last year.

Sales tax holidays are good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for Oklahoma, right?

Actually, no.

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Oklahoma needs to rethink school suspensions

by | August 1st, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

African American teenaged student holding question mark signTara Grigson is an OK Policy intern. She is a psychology and Spanish major at the University of Tulsa and previously worked as a Mission Impact Intern at YWCA Tulsa.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a new report on equity and opportunity gaps in public schools. This report shows that nationally, black students are more than twice as likely to be arrested for school-related offenses as white students and nearly four times as likely to be suspended. The disparity goes as far back as pre-school, where the youngest black students are more than three times as likely to be suspended.

Oklahoma’s statistics are similarly jarring. During the 2011-2012 school year in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), almost two-thirds of black secondary students were suspended at some point during the year. The problem is not limited to Oklahoma City; it exists statewide. In 2011-2012, black elementary school students in Oklahoma were suspended at a rate more than three times the state average. The suspension rate for black high school students was more than twice the state average. Perhaps most shocking, the suspension rate of black elementary school students (9.21 percent) was greater than the rate for white high school students (7.65 percent).

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The Weekly Wonk: An agenda for prosperity, the limits of direct democracy, and more

by | July 31st, 2016 | 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.

Summer Policy Institute

Our fourth annual Summer Policy Institute runs Sunday – Wednesday this week, and we’ll be livetweeting it! You can follow along on Twitter at #okspiIn The Know, our daily news update, will take a break during the Summer Policy Institute and will return on Thursday.

This Week from OK Policy

This week, in response to Oklahoma’s continuing budget crisis, we released an agenda for broad-based prosperity in Oklahoma.  The agenda comes in two parts: part one outlines how Oklahoma can create a better budget and tax system that would put out finances on a more sustainable path in a way that is fair and responsible to the needs of regular families; part two outlines policies that would help to restore America’s basic bargain for Oklahoma families — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. Both parts combined are available here

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the proposed penny sales tax for education and the limits of direct democracy. OK Policy’s statement on the proposal is here. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt made the progressive case for the sales tax increase. On the blog, Blatt explained how cuts to alternative education will come back to haunt us. 

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SQ 779 and the limits of direct democracy (Capitol Updates)

by | July 29th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education, Taxes | Comments (1)

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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court this past week ruled against OCPA Impact, the group that had challenged State Question 779, the penny sales tax for education, in an attempt to keep it off the general election ballot in November. The court ruled that the challenge was untimely because it challenged the “gist” of the question—the language that appears on the ballot—and the challenge should have been made before the initiative petition was circulated.

The court did, however, change the language of the “gist” to make it more clear where the money is actually going. The one-cent increase in the sales tax will generate $615 million per year in state revenue beginning July 1, 2017 and guarantee public school teachers a $5,000 per year raise. Of the new revenue, 69.5 percent will be allocated to public schools, 19.25 percent to public higher education and 3.25 percent to career tech education. There’s also language in the measure to prevent the legislature from “supplanting” education dollars, which means allocating the new revenue as directed but removing funding from past revenue sources that would otherwise have gone to education.

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