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There will be some revenue bills passed, but the question is how much? (Capitol Update)

by | April 21st, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

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.

The work of the standing committees is finished for this session. Bills now have one week to pass the floor of the opposite chamber to remain alive. At the same time, the appropriations and budget process is in full swing from now to the end of session. It’s complicated this year — as it has been for the past several years — because the budget cannot be balanced without revenue increases or unacceptable budget cuts. So, at this point, having taken no action on either, legislators have no idea how much money they are working with. How much revenue can be generated must be settled first before the budget picture can become clear.

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In The Know: Cherokee Nation sues drug firms, retailers for flooding communities with opioids

by | April 21st, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Cherokee Nation sues drug firms, retailers for flooding communities with opioids: Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation opened a new line of attack against the pharmaceutical industry Thursday, filing a lawsuit in tribal court that accuses the nation’s six top drug distributors and pharmacies of flooding communities in Oklahoma with hundreds of millions of highly addictive pain pills. The suit alleges that the companies violated sovereign Cherokee laws by failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market, profiting from the growing opioid epidemic and decimating communities across the nation’s 14 counties in the state [Washington Post].

State Legislators Debate Raising Taxes On Oil, Gas: As the state legislature continues to wrangle with a nearly $900-million budget shortfall, Democrats want to increase taxes on oil and natural gas production. But Republicans aren’t so sure. Democrats say increasing the gross production tax, the tax on the production of oil and natural gas, could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. But they fear the industry, with its powerful lobby, has become a sacred cow in the capitol [News9].

House Minority Leader Scott Inman announces for governor’s race: Saying it’s time for a new generation of leadership, House Minority Leader Scott Inman officially announced on Thursday that he is running for governor. Gov. Mary Fallin is finishing her second term and can’t run again. “I am running for governor because I believe Mary Fallin and (Lt. Gov.) Todd Lamb have failed this state in their leadership over the last seven years,” Inman, D-Del City, said [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: ‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut

by | April 20th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut: Oklahomans expecting an income tax cut will probably have to keep waiting. Lawmakers have approved a bill repealing the next automatic cut, which could trigger as state revenues improve. The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly supported the measure on Wednesday. It has to return to the Senate for a procedural vote before heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, but the bill’s authors expect no problems [NewsOK]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

Legislative Leader Calls For Cooperation: A major player in the state’s budget negotiations said a spending plan will be passed on time, but it will only happen if lawmakers put aside their partisan differences. “We are committed to put a bill on the floor that will solve the Oklahoma budget issue, that will both fully fund state agencies and will fund a teacher pay raise,” said Republican Rep. Jon Echols, the House Majority Floor Leader [NewsOn6].

For many at the Capitol, this year’s budget constitutes a crisis of faith: Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are pestering the Republican majority this week by asking the same two questions on just about every bill brought to the floor. The two questions are: “Does this bill contain any recurring revenue to alleviate the state’s budget crisis?” and “Does this bill have any impact on the state budget?” The answers, in most cases, are “no” and “none.” [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]

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The Indigent Defense System needs $1.5 million to avoid another constitutional crisis

by | April 19th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

In recent weeks, the Legislature has scrambled to provide enough funding to hold agencies over until the end of the year: nearly $35 million to DHS, and over $700,000 to the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS). As we pointed out last year, OIDS has been inching toward insolvency for years, as the need for representation continues to grow but appropriations continue to decline.

This year, in order to avoid a legal crisis, the agency’s budget must be returned at least to the barely-adequate level of funding provided at the beginning of FY 2016. That will require $1.5 million more than what they got in FY 2017. While OIDS is competing for very limited funds with a great number of other priorities, the Legislature must fund Oklahoma’s constitutional duty to provide indigent defense. Otherwise we risk a crisis like the one happening in New Orleans, where public defenders have begun refusing felony cases they can’t represent properly and insisting that innocent clients were sent to prison for lack of representation. Out of that crisis, Oklahoma could be forced to release thousands of defendants, innocent and guilty alike, due to lack of representation.

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In The Know: Save Our State Coalition announces Oklahoma budget wish list

by | April 19th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Save Our State Coalition announces Oklahoma budget wish list: A coalition of 20 organizations on Tuesday presented its Oklahoma budget wish list, which includes familiar ideas to raise revenue. The Save Our State Coalition proposed raising the tax rate on oil and gas production to 7 percent, up from the current 2 percent rate that lasts for the first three years. The group’s “Blueprint for a Better Budget” also would create a new income tax rate of 6 percent for income above $200,000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy dies after shooting: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says a sheriff’s deputy shot while serving an eviction notice has died and that a suspect has been arrested. Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. John Vincent said Tuesday that Logan County Sheriff’s David Wade died after being taken to a hospital for his wounds. Authorities say 45-year-old Nathan Aaron LeForce shot Wade in Mulhall and then drove his patrol car about 25 miles to a convenience store near the town of Coyle. There he stole another vehicle, which has since been found near Guthrie [Associated Press].

Gov. Mary Fallin uses Tulsa event to renew call for new revenue sources: Oklahoma’s governor reiterated Tuesday evening the view her administration has taken since the beginning of the legislative session — the state needs new revenue sources to make up its budget shortfall. She told reporters following a Tulsa Regional Chamber event at Southern Hills Country Club that if she knew how willing the Oklahoma Legislature would be to expand the sales tax to include a vast array of services, “… I’d go bet at a racetrack.” [Tulsa World]

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What happened to my refund?

It’s tax time again, and if you are one of the more than 300,000 Oklahoma households that claim the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) you may have noticed that your tax refund is lower than it was last year, even if there was no change in your income. That’s because the Oklahoma Legislature slashed the state EITC to help close last year’s budget hole. The state EITC is no longer refundable in Oklahoma, so most people who qualify for the credit will no longer get the full benefit.

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In The Know: Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets

by | April 18th, 2017 | 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Lawmakers could tax OKC Thunder tickets: Lawmakers could tap into Oklahoma City Thunder’s loyal fan base as a way to raise revenue. House Bill 2350 would reinstate sales tax for professional sports tickets, which could raise $1.8 million for Oklahoma’s budget. The legislation and four other bills that would raise revenue were quickly introduced Monday just hours before lawmakers were called to vote on them. After passing the committee stage, the bills are now just one vote away from reaching the governor’s desk [NewsOK].

Oklahoma to end tax credit that propelled wind production: A state tax credit that helped propel Oklahoma to third in the nation in its capacity to generate electricity from wind is coming to an end, but it will be years before state coffers see results of the change. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed legislation that rolls back a 10-year tax credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities that was launched in 2003. Under the measure, zero-emission facilities must be operating by July 1 this year to qualify for the credit, instead of Jan. 1, 2021 [Associated Press]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

House Bill 1913 is a legislative outrage: The Tulsa World has had some harsh words for Rep. Kevin Calvey in the past. But when it comes to House Bill 1913, Rep. Calvey couldn’t be more correct. Calvey wrote a prayerfully considered and well argued op/ed column for the Tulsa World last week that presents the conservative case against HB 1913, which seeks to create the legal framework for a new predatory loan product [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The “small loan” product created under the bill would trap Oklahomans in debt [OK Policy].

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Oklahoma school meals programs bring new strategies to fight child hunger

Maggie Den Harder is an intern with Oklahoma Policy Institute and a Masters of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.

In Oklahoma school meal programs are vital to helping children who are food insecure get reliable access to nutritious meals. Schools offer breakfast and lunch as a matter of course, but some districts are going a step further and providing after-school meals. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, Capitol Hill High School is testing a pilot program providing dinner at school at no cost to students who choose to participate. Similarly, Shawnee Public Schools provides an “enhanced snack” to students at the end of the school day. The pilot programs set a good example for how we can better feed hungry children across the state.

More than 8 in 10 students in Oklahoma City Public schools qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, and administrators recognized that for many students, two school meals a day still meant many were at risk of going to bed hungry. To combat hunger and meet the needs of students, the OKC school board voted in 2016 to begin a pilot supper program at Capitol Hill High School, using funds available through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

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In The Know: Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session

by | April 17th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Questions remain on how to balance budget 10 weeks into legislative session: The 10th week of the legislative session came to an end at the Capitol, and lawmakers are still working to figure out how to balance the budget. “We’re well aware of the time frame,” Sen. Mike Schulz said. As lawmakers get over committee deadline week, it’s still not clear how they will fill an $878 million budget hole. [KOCO News 5] See OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide for more information about legislative deadlines and the budget process in Oklahoma.

Condolences on the death of state Rep. David Brumbaugh: State Rep. David Brumbaugh died suddenly Saturday. He was 56. The Broken Arrow Republican had served the people of District 76 since 2011. We knew him to be a man of faith and conviction, but also of gentleness and humility. He was a man whose fundamental fairness allowed him to rise above faction. [Editorial Board/Tulsa World]

State giving up hundreds of millions in petroleum tax giveaways: Oklahoma’s state budget is in crisis. We are unable to pay our teachers and state employees competitive salaries, or ensure adequate staffing at our veterans care centers. Thousands of Oklahomans with mental illness or disabilities are stuck on years-long waiting lists for care. These problems are not just about the state of our economy. Policy choices have made our financial situation much worse than it needs to be. [David Blatt/Tulsa World] Oklahoma is expected to lose $513 million in FY 2018 due to gross production tax breaks and rebates. [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts will hit rural Oklahoma hard, no clear plan for next year’s budget, a new OK PolicyCast, and more

by | April 16th, 2017 | 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

Executive Director David Blatt explained that state budget cuts will likely hit small towns and rural Oklahoma especially hard, and argued that fixing the state’s budget woes will require legislators to put our common interest above self-interest  in his Journal Record Column. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison contended that extending unpaid parental leave for state employees would be a good first step in modernizing Oklahoma’s family leave policies.

A new episode of OK PolicyCast provided a mid-session update on our legislative priorities. Brenda Granger, Executive Director of Oklahoma Museums Association, reminded us of the importance of the arts and culture to Oklahoma’s economy and education system. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update lamented the lack of a clear plan for next year’s state budget.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was interviewed by The Oklahoman for a story about SB 478, a bill that would allow insurance companies to sell policies in Oklahoma that don’t cover all mandated benefits. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s analysis of HB 2132, a bill that would allow the creation of “prosperity districts” in Oklahoma was used by the Humane Society in a news piece about the issue.

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