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The Weekly Wonk: The cost of tax cuts, women in state agency leadership; new policy analyst; and more…

by | January 16th, 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

We released a new study on Oklahoma’s income tax cuts since the mid-2000s, which are now reducing state revenues by more than $1 billion annually. Writing in the Tulsa World, David Blatt explained why oil prices aren’t the only reason for Oklahoma’s budget problems. Steve Lewis discussed how Oklahoma’s oncoming budget shortfall could be worse than the Great Recession, because this time we don’t have help from federal stimulus funds.

Also this week, OK Policy Research Fellow Alexandra Bohannon shared her research showing that women are severely underrepresented in the top leadership positions at state agencies. In the Journal Record, David Blatt’s argued that evidence of Oklahoma’s teacher shortage crisis has become overwhelming. We announced that Ryan Gentzler has joined OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues.

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Oklahoma’s oncoming budget shortfall could be worse than the Great Recession (Capitol Updates)

by | January 15th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (3)

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.

According to State Treasurer Ken Miller, last month’s gross tax receipts were the smallest for the month of December since 2010. In December 2010 we were in the midst of FY-2011 which was a budget year with a shortfall that approached $1 billion. But the 2010 legislature had the benefit of $540 million in federal stimulus money to help relieve the shortfall. They used the money, together with rainy day funds, to protect funding for education, higher education and the agencies that match federal Medicaid funding. In that way legislators were able to keep some agencies at level funding with an overall cut of 4 percent.

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In The Know: State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP

by | January 15th, 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

State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP: J.J. Dossett’s win this week over a Republican in a Republican district should be a wake-up call to GOP decision-makers, the party’s Tulsa County chairman said. Mike Ford said his party should learn a lesson from the special election defeat, which saw a Democrat take Owasso’s Senate District 34 for the first time in a quarter century. Dossett beat Republican David McLain on Tuesday to fill a seat left empty by former state Sen. Rick Brinkley, who resigned after pleading guilty to fraud charges. Ford said that, while calling potential voters, his volunteers heard about budget cuts and education issues – topics he said could plague GOP lawmakers who want to get re-elected [Journal Record].

First State Student Advisory Council Meets At Oklahoma Capitol: Sixty-seven high school juniors and seniors from around Oklahoma met inside the Capitol Thursday morning, marking the first session of the state’s new Student Advisory Council. They took up the big task of correcting Oklahoma education giving a voice that’s not often been heard in the debate over the state of Oklahoma schools; theirs [News9].

ACLU links Medicaid expansion to criminal justice reform: The Oklahoma Legislature should move quickly to expand Medicaid, using the extra funds for health care coverage and to address criminal justice issues, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said this week. By expanding Medicaid coverage ACLU Oklahoma leader Ryan Kiesel said the state would receive millions in much-needed cash which could be used to increase mental health coverage, a key component in modernizing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system [CapitolBeatOK]. You can read the full report here. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to include three years of 100 percent federal funding for any state that newly extends coverage [Wall Street Journal].

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Ryan Gentzler joins OK Policy as criminal justice policy analyst

Ryan Gentzler

Ryan Gentzler

Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce that Ryan Gentzler has joined the organization in a new policy analyst position that will focus on criminal justice issues. The position is funded through a grant from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that is intended to support state policy groups in work that can have a significant impact on critical policy issues.

“We are very excited to be adding a dedicated staff person to examine Oklahoma’s criminal justice policies,” said David Blatt, OK Policy’s Executive Director. “Many organizations have laid the groundwork for criminal justice reform, and with an increasing number of political and civic leaders getting on board, the time is ripe for significant and urgently-needed progress.”

With the addition of an analyst focused on criminal justice issues, OK Policy will be able to expand its research on how to reduce incarceration while protecting public safety, expand proven community-based alternatives to jail and prison, and make it easier for Oklahomans with felony records to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

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In The Know: Governor Fallin defends tax cut amid budget shortfall

by | January 14th, 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

Governor Fallin defends tax cut amid budget shortfall: In a statement, Governor Fallin said the income tax cut’s budgetary impact in the upcoming 2017 fiscal year is only a little more than 10 percent of the projected budget hole. Oklahoma would still have over an $800 million budget hole even if that tax cut hadn’t taken effect [The Okie]. Repeated income tax cuts since the mid-2000s have reduced state revenues by more than $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

December state general revenue far short of expectations: Deposits to the state’s general revenue fund fell 13 percent below expectations in December, and 15 percent below the same month a year ago, according to figures from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Preston Doerflinger, the state’s chief financial officer, attributed to the large shortfall to continued declines in energy prices coupled with weak holiday retail sales. “Bad Black Friday weather sent a lot of shoppers online instead of to brick-and-mortar stores where sales taxes are paid,” Doerflinger said [Tulsa World]. Several states, not yet including Oklahoma, have made reforms to require more online retailers to collect sales tax [OK Policy].

Oklahoma schools face more students, less money — again: Last week, the state Board of Education cut nearly $47 million from state funding to public schools through July 30. This week, came the other half of the story: State Department of Education figures show those same school districts are having to deal with 4,370 more students than they did last year. More students, less money — more crushing blows to public schools, although it seems to be a consistent one from the state Capitol in recent years [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: State Supreme Court OKs vote on penny education tax

by | January 13th, 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

Sales tax petition for education to move forward, court rules: An initiative petition to let voters decide whether to increase the sales tax to fund education can move forward, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. OCPA Impact, the lobbying arm of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, had challenged the proposal, saying it violated the constitution because it contained more than one subject. The court ruled 6-3 that it embraced one subject [Tulsa World]. Although additional funding for education is badly needed, raising the sales tax will most hurt Oklahoma families who are already struggling [OK Policy].

Tax cuts now reducing state revenues by over $1 billion per year: A new report by OK Policy finds that the cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually. Repeated tax cuts and shrinking state budgets have left state services severely weakened, even before next year’s expected massive budget shortfall that could reach or exceed a billion dollars. These billion-dollar tax cuts have come at the direct expense of funding for core public services that are important for the prosperity and well-being of Oklahomans [OK Policy]. Oklahoma Watch covered the report here.

DHS offers buyouts to employees due to budget cuts: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has implemented an agencywide voluntary employee buyout offer to help it deal with a projected shortfall of about $40 million by 2017. In December, state agencies were told to make reductions of 3 percent based on low projected state income. For DHS, this is about $18.7 million less in state funding, triggering a loss in federal matching money for a total of $28.1 million [Tulsa World]. Read the full press release here.

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Tax cuts now reducing state revenues by over $1 billion per year

by | January 12th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (3)

Financial crisisA new report by OK Policy finds that the cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually. Repeated tax cuts and shrinking state budgets have left state services severely weakened, even before next year’s expected massive budget shortfall that could reach or exceed a billion dollars.

These billion-dollar tax cuts have come at the direct expense of funding for core public services that are important for the prosperity and well-being of Oklahomans. At the same time, the report finds that tax cuts have not brought the boost to the state’s economy that supporters predicted, and they have given the biggest cash benefits by far to the wealthiest Oklahomans while doing little for low- and middle-income families.

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In The Know: School Funding Cuts Expected to Deepen

by | January 12th, 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

School Funding Cuts Expected to Deepen: Another $19 million could be cut from Oklahoma’s public schools as early as next month, potentially raising the total mid-year revenue reduction to $66 million. The additional cut would fall on top of $47 million in cuts enacted last week by the state Board of Education, acting on advice from state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Shawn Hime, director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said if additional cuts occur, as projected by the state Board of Equalization, he would not be surprised to see layoffs at schools [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma leads the nation in per-pupil education cuts since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Oklahomans Donate Tax Cut To Education: At the beginning of this month, a tax cut went into effect for most Oklahomans. But some are upset that legislators are moving forward with a tax break, while education faces huge cuts. So they’re asking you to donate your tax cut to a school. Using this calculator from Oklahoma Policy Institute you can calculate just what kind of tax cut you are going to get [News9].  

Oklahoma schools see increase of 4,370 students as TPS enrollment dips: While schools statewide added students, Tulsa Public Schools saw a dip in enrollment, according to figures released Monday. Enrollment for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade across Oklahoma increased by 4,370 students this academic year, according to the State Department of Education [Tulsa World].

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Women are severely underrepresented in leadership of state agencies (Guest Post: Alexandra Bohannon)

by | January 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Demographic Change | Comments (1)

Alexandra Bohannon

Alexandra Bohannon

Alexandra Bohannon is an OK Policy Research Fellow. She is currently a second-year student in the Master of Public Administration program with a concentration in public policy at the University of Oklahoma. Alexandra works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Carl Albert Congressional Studies and Research Center. 

Having a government that is able to fully represent its citizens is a vital facet of smart policy creation. Oklahoma is falling behind in involving women in its government and policymaking. While women make up slightly more than half of the state’s total population (50.8 percent) only 13.4 percent of legislators [Update: Now 14.1 percent with the election of Cyndi Munson in HD 85] in the Oklahoma House and Senate, or less than one in seven, are women – the third lowest rate of female representation in the nation. Oklahoma is making gains in some areas of elective representation, but primarily in offices tasked with implementing policy, such as county clerks and treasurers. Women are still highly underrepresented in offices that develop policy, such as legislators or county commissioners. With the recent appointment of a female Labor Commissioner, four of eleven statewide office holders in Oklahoma are women.

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In The Know: State Finance Secretary blasts Tulsa Chamber leader for criticizing tax cuts

by | January 11th, 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

State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger blasts Tulsa Chamber chairman for criticizing tax cuts: The state’s top budget officer called the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s new chairman “disingenuous,” “out of touch” and arrogant in two Facebook posts Thursday night. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, a Tulsa resident, was responding to Chairman Jeff Dunn’s blunt criticism of “a senior Cabinet official” for defending the 0.25 percent reduction in the state income-tax rate that went into effect last week, even as state agencies were told to trim spending by 3 percent because of a general revenue failure [Tulsa World].

Let’s Give it Back: During a recent chat on Facebook, myself, Rick Cobb (okeducationtruths) and several other passionate advocates for Oklahoma public education decided to launch an important campaign. Using the tax cut calculator provided on the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s website, my monthly checks may increase by as much as $12 during 2016. I refuse to be a hypocrite and accept this money when I know essential services are being cut across our state. Therefore, on April 15, 2016, I will be redirecting the full amount of my income tax cut ($144) to support students in my school district [View From the Edge].

Earthquakes in Oklahoma Raise Fears of a Big One: Oklahoma was rocked Wednesday night by two of the state’s largest earthquakes in recent years, further fueling scientists’ concern that the continued burial of oil and gas wastes in seismically active areas was courting a much more powerful earthquake. The two quakes, measured at magnitudes 4.7 and 4.8, struck at 11:27 p.m. in rural northern Oklahoma, directly beneath a major oil and gas production area. The second quake, which came about 30 seconds later, was the fourth-largest recorded in the state [New York Times].

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