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In The Know: Oil and gas downturn depresses May tax revenues

by | June 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.

Three of the state’s major revenue streams – gross production taxes, sales taxes, and motor vehicle taxes – were lower than usual in May, resulting in gross receipts six percent lower than this time last year. Oklahoma City University economist Russell Evans told members of the Oklahoma City Economic Roundtable on Wednesday that state and local economies are growing despite a struggling oil and gas industry. Governor Fallin signed bills to extend the third-grade reading teams for three years and to share the circumstances of teachers’ firings or resignations with other school districts.

Policy Director Gene Perry explained in the Tulsa World and on the OK Policy Blog that we can’t build a stronger economy by slashing taxes. Executive Director David Blatt wrote in the Journal Record how bipartisan action in the Legislature resulted in criminal justice reform this year, including bills making it easier for some ex-offenders to obtain drivers licenses and find employment. These restrictions and others have kept many Oklahomans with felony records from rebuilding their lives after prison. Writing in her blog on The Frontier, Ziva Branstetter explained how Gov. Fallin’s lawyers are arguing that the state’s one-year delay before releasing records regarding the botched execution of Clayton Lockett does not constitute a denial and that her office has the authority to determine what constitutes “prompt and reasonable access” to public records.

The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board argued that primary elections in Oklahoma should be open to independent voters. Open primaries are just one way to boost electoral participation in the state. Project leaders working on the Oklahoma State Innovation Model are looking for business leaders to help build a plan to improve health outcomes for Oklahomans while lowering costs. Up to eight of Oklahoma City Public Schools’ 11 high schools may have new principals when students return in August.

Lawton officials have canceled a contract with a cloud-seeding firm following the city’s rainiest month on record. Following years of low crop yields due to drought, state wheat farmers say that recent heavy rains have wrecked the wheat crop in parts of the state, although officials say that damages in rainier parts of the state will be offset by gains elsewhere. The Number of the Day is 23.7% – the percentage of adults in Oklahoma who reported smoking in 2013, down from 26.1% in 2011. In today’s Policy Note, The Washington Post describes how imposing harsh sentences for drug offenses in the 1980s and 1990s now mean that prisons are home to thousands of elderly inmates who have been behind bars for decades.

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Slashing taxes further is not the path to a strong economy

by | June 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

When any company leaves Oklahoma, it can mean hard times for the employees and their families. As a state and a community, we should offer support to those families and make sure workers have what they need to move on in their careers.

What we shouldn’t do is let one anecdote be used to manipulate us into making policy changes that aren’t thought through. The recently announced shutdown of Apache Corp.’s Tulsa regional office is a good example.

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In The Know: Oklahoma throws out 5th- and 8th-grade writing test results for second year

by | June 3rd, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is throwing out all 97,000 fifth- and eighth-graders’ writing test scores because of questions about the scoring. A report by the State Department of Education found that Oklahoma school districts with large populations of minority or poor students tend to have the least experienced teachers. You can read the full report here

OK Policy released the FY 2016 Budget Highlights, which include a bullet point summary of the state budget, six charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009. Damage from severe storms that dropped historic levels of rainfall across Oklahoma could reach $200 million

State lawmakers were surprised by news that Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, is being investigated for embezzling, and they said he has been expected to succeed Sen. Brian Bingman as leader of the Senate. An audit found that an employee of the private contractor managing Oklahoma City’s downtown parking stole nearly $420,000 from the city’s parking receipts

Two MAPS 3 projects hit milestones Tuesday as the city council locked in a route for the downtown modern streetcar and authorized staff to seek construction bids for the first senior health and wellness center. Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said she has spoken to Sheriff Stanley Glanz about whether he should resign, while the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations of misconduct in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

The Number of the Day is 17.5% – thepercentage of Oklahoma teachers categorized as “unqualified” because they do not have a standard teaching certification. In today’s Policy Note, The Marshall Project reports on how conservative Republicans led the way in repealing Nebraska’s death penalty.

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FY 2016 Budget Highlights

Appropriations_06-16OK Policy’s annual Budget Highlights issue brief is one of the most informative and accessible ways to track Oklahoma’s public spending. Today we’ve released the FY 2016 Budget Highlights, which include a bullet point summary of the state budget, six charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009.

The bullet points are excerpted below. You can download the full issue brief here. You can find more information and analysis about the state budget at our Budget & Taxes Issue Page.

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In The Know: Oklahoma leads nation in rate of police shootings

by | June 2nd, 2015 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma police kill people at a higher rate than officers in any other state, according to two new reports that tally how many lives law enforcement have taken since the beginning of 2015. The Tulsa World reported on how a group of activists is taking a stand against police brutality and Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Teachers at Roosevelt Middle School are complaining that policy changes aimed at reducing a large racial disparity in suspensions are preventing them from maintaining student discipline. KGOU discussed the potential impact of new legislation giving Oklahoma judges more discretion in sentencing certain nonviolent offenders.

Governor Fallin signed a $7.1 billion budget bill, saying she’s proud of a budget that maintains flat funding for common education. Transportation Department officials said the rainiest month in state history has left unprecedented road and bridge damage throughout the state. Gov. Fallin requested a federal disaster declaration for 13 Oklahoma counties that were hit hard by severe weather, tornadoes and flooding since May 5. Fallin has signed into law a bill preventing towns, cities and counties from banning hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas activities.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed why Oklahoma lawmakers reined in tax breaks for the wind industry while continuing much larger giveaways to the oil and gas industry. In-depth climate science curriculum and activities will be showcased for Oklahoma’s classroom teachers at the state’s first teacher climate summit. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Tulsa woman who was denied a job at clothing chain Abercrombie Kids because she wore a Muslim headscarf to the job interview. Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, has come under investigation because of accusations he embezzled funds while he was a top official at the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is 22 – the number of Oklahomans killed by police officers this year, giving the state the highest per capita deaths by police in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, political science professor David Schultz argues that states have become too willing to repeat and replicate policy initiatives found elsewhere without asking if in fact they work.

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An easier target

by | June 1st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.

Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.

An earlier version of this post appeared as a column in the Journal Record.

One day when I was in junior high, some friends and I came across a schoolyard fight between two of our classmates. A number of children were taunting one of the combatants, Bobby, and I must confess that I joined in the name-calling. After losing the scrap, an incensed Bobby looked around at those who’d been mocking him from the sidelines. Though not blameless, I had not been the loudest taunter in the crowd, or the cruelest – but I was one of the smallest. Bobby came charging over and socked me hard.

I was reminded of this incident by the Legislature’s actions this session regarding  tax breaks for the wind-power industry.

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In The Know: Record numbers of homeless children in Oklahoma schools

by | June 1st, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

A record number of students are finding themselves homeless in Oklahoma, despite a five-year oil and gas boom and falling jobless rates. Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities will receive a 3.5 percent budget cut next year, but Chancellor Glen D. Johnson said it’s too early to speculate on whether they will seek tuition increases to offset the drop in revenue. An Oklahoma Watch Radio report discussed how Oklahoma is losing hundreds of teachers per year due to having some of the lowest teacher pay in the country.

State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph said bond rating agencies will not like the extensive use of one-time funds in Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2016 budget. The final statewide average rainfall in May was 14.41 inches, 9.59 inches above normal and well above the previous record for the wettest month in state history. Rain, wind and severe flooding have caused significant damage to state prisons, including leaking roofs, electrical systems damaged by water, power outages and a downed exterior fence that required extra officers to be posted at the breach. The state Corrections Department has halted all weddings within prison walls until after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether same-sex couples are guaranteed the right to marry.

A plan to finish construction of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is now waiting on approval from Oklahoma City. Oklahoma’s Osage Nation has become the 20th tribe to sign a U.S. Interior Department plan to buy back and consolidate small parcels of land owned by individual Indians. Gov. Fallin signed a precedent-setting compact with the Cherokee Nation to allow its tribal citizens to hunt and fish in Oklahoma for free.

StateImpact Oklahoma examined what the state is doing to regulate oil and gas wells suspected of causing earthquakes. Architects are developing a detailed 3-D model of the state Capitol building to guide repair efforts. A judge has found in favor of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in a wrongful-death lawsuit over 5-year-old Serenity Deal. Former state Rep. Randy Terrill on Friday began a one-year prison sentence on his bribery conviction. At a public forum on the issue, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid said transparency and public input are missing from Oklahoma City’s eight Tax Increment Financing (TIF) projects.

The Number of the Day is 47.5% – the percentage of Oklahomans who identified as “very religious” in 2014. The national average was 40.6 percent. In today’s Policy Note, USA Today examines why only about 1 in 9 of the 22.7 million Americans who needed drug or alcohol treatment in 2013 actually got it.

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The Weekly Wonk May 31, 2015

by | May 31st, 2015 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This is the last day to apply for OK Policy’s annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI)! SPI is a three and a half-day public policy intensive for Oklahoma undergraduate and graduate students in early August. Participants learn about the nuts and bolts of state public policy, meet and work with students with similar interests, and network with policymakers in a range of fields. Scholarships are available for any students who need them. Click here to apply.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, former intern Drew Capps explained how the state’s rejection of federal funds to expand health coverage is particularly harmful to African-American and Hispanic families. Michael Meachman, Director of State Fiscal Research for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shared new research that further undermines claims states can boost their economies by cutting taxes. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis detailed how state officials filled the budget hole.

Writing in the Journal Record, Executive Director David Blatt questioned why lawmakers rushed through passing the budget – the most important bill of the legislative session. In The Oklahoman, Policy Director Gene Perry called for an honest conversation over what Oklahomans expect the state to do and how to pay for it.

Weekly What’s That:

1017 Fund

The 1017 Fund, or Education Reform Revolving Fund, is a dedicated revenue fund that is appropriated to the State Department of Education. The fund initially consisted of personal and corporate income tax, sales tax, and use tax revenues… Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

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How Oklahoma filled its budget hole (Capitol Updates)

by | May 29th, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (2)

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.

It looked for a while as if legislators would not make their self-imposed early adjournment deadline, but after leaders finally reached a budget deal they suspended the rules to bypass some time limit procedures and adjourned Sine Die on Friday.  Miraculously, after talk all session of draconian cuts in budget priorities, appropriations leaders and their staff dug deeply into the state’s books and found the money to close the budget gap from $611 million to $74 million.  They also found enough to appropriate an additional $48 million in supplemental appropriations for this year’s budget.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs bill to finish American Indian Cultural Center and Museum

by | May 29th, 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.

Gov. Fallin has signed a bill calling for $25 million in state bonds to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. The facility is expected to be completed in 2018. House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) and other legislators are requesting Gov. Fallin call a special session of the Legislature to address rural roads and bridges damaged by flooding. In his Journal Record column this week, Executive Director David Blatt questioned why legislators rushed through passing the this year’s budget, the most important legislation this session. Policy Director Gene Perry wrote in The Oklahoman that we need to have an honest conversation about what Oklahomans expect from state government, and how to pay for it. Officials warn that the overcrowded, outdated Oklahoma County jail could be the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Arnold Hamilton, editor of The Oklahoma Observer, wrote in the Journal Record praising the implications of the state Democrats’ biennial convention, where the party will decided whether to allow registered independent voters vote in the party’s primary. On the OK Policy Blog, prior intern Drew Capps explained that the state’s decision to reject federal funds to expand health coverage particularly harms African-American and Hispanic families. The state Board of Education heard from an expert on Thursday that schools with high minority and low-income populations have fewer experienced and effective teachers, harming learning opportunities. The Tulsa World reports that incoming Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist will maintain her membership with education advocacy group Chiefs for Change, and that the state Board of Education has issued Gist a one-year waiver of Oklahoma certification requirements. Gist has said that she expects to attain the required certification as soon as possible.

Following a month of heavy rain, Tulsa County is officially drought-free for the first time in over a year, and Oklahoma is under its lowest drought status statewide since 2010. Dawn Warrick, the director of Tulsa’s Planning and Development Department, was interviewed about PLANiTULSA, the city’s general plan, in Planetizen. StateImpact described the process by which oil and gas wells deemed earthquake risks are augmented with cement to make them shallower and guide them away from granite basement rock. The Number of the Day is 23,852 – the net international migration into Oklahoma from April 2010 to July 2014. In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times shares how hospitals are increasingly becoming economic anchors in rural towns.

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