In The Know: Oklahoma House approves tax cuts

by | March 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

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Today you should know that the Oklahoma House passed a measure to cut the personal and corporate income tax in 2016, based on a revenue trigger. OK Policy released a statement explaining why HB 2508 defies economics and common sense. The OK Policy blog presented a modest proposal for states that are heavily reliant on federal funding but don’t want to accept federal funds to expand health care for the uninsured.

Gross state revenues in February were up 3.5 percent from the previous year. An education forum sponsored by Oklahoma Watch drew questions about third-grade reading, education standards, teacher pay and the arts. The state Board of Education requested a supplemental $6.5 million appropriation to cover teacher health benefits. The City of Tulsa said there is a “strong possibility” of layoffs for city workers due to a budget shortfall. Tulsa and Oklahoma have been ranked among the US’s 50 hardest-working cities.

Contractors discovered new cracks in the Purcell-Lexington bridge, likely further delaying the bridge’s reopening. L-3 Communications is adding 60 new jobs in Broken Arrow, subsidized by the Quality Jobs Program. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how we don’t have transparent information about whether the Quality Jobs Program is paying off. Oklahoma state house Rep. Mike Turner announced his intention to run for the Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. James Lankford.

Wind energy accounted for nearly 15 percent of all electricity generated in Oklahoma in 2013, moving the state to 7th nationally from 9th in 2012. Landowners are asking for more public input before Oklahoma awards mining permits. The US Attorney’s office in Oklahoma is launching a program to help people with felony convictions  find jobs, housing and counseling services. Oklahoma’s new Department of Corrections director has banned journalists from bringing recording devices of any kind inside correctional facilities. Director Robert Patton said the ban may be temporary while he reconsiders the Department’s media policy.

The Number of the Day is the number of structurally deficient bridges in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Alliance for a Just Society explains how an increasingly popular probation model incentivizes for-profit companies to prey on low-income misdemeanor offenders.

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STATEMENT: Tax cut defies economics and common sense

by | March 6th, 2014 | Posted in Press Releases, Taxes | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the House passage of HB 2508 to schedule more personal and corporate income tax cuts for 2016:

More tax cuts that will provide little or no benefit to most people are the last thing Oklahomans need. Oklahoma is already a low tax state with too few college graduates. Schools are struggling to educate more students with less funds and fewer teachers than 5 years ago. We won’t be more prosperous when we’re an even lower tax state with less education. It defies economics and common sense.

It’s especially irresponsible to schedule tax cuts years in advance when we don’t know what our budget needs may be. If we can’t afford a tax cut now because revenues are down and we’re struggling to fund core services, how do we know what the best policy will be down the road? We could face a natural disaster, a drop in federal support, spiking health care costs, or who knows what. Legislators can’t predict the future, so they shouldn’t be putting our tax system on auto-pilot.

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The colors of money

by | March 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
FedFunding-771x589

Source: Oklahoma Economic Report, January 2014 via Oklahoma Watch

Recently, Treasurer Ken Miller shared data from the Council of Governments showing that Oklahoma ranked 7th  in the percentage of state expenditures from federal funds, with more than two-fifths (43 percent) of all dollars spent by the state spending coming from Washington.  Federal grants account for a large share of state spending on health care, human services, roads, education , public safety, environmental protection, and other core services.

The ten states with the highest reliance on federal dollars all have Republicans controlling both the Governor’s office and legislature (see chart), and seven of these states, including Oklahoma, are refusing to accept federal funds to expand health care coverage to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Fallin contends that accepting these federal funds is “unworkable and unaffordable,” and would “put Oklahoma on a fiscally unsound path.” However, an in-depth study by the Leavitt Group found that extending coverage would have a $14 – $17 billion positive economic impact on the state over a decade, and would reduce spending of state dollars by $450 – $485 million.

The unwillingness of states that rely most heavily on Washington for a whole range of programs and services to accept billions in federal funds to cover the uninsured has created some confusion.  OK Policy offers the following modest proposal to sort things out:

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In The Know: Criminal charges filed against Chesapeake Energy

by | March 6th, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Michigan authorities filed criminal antitrust charges against Chesapeake Energy and Delaware-based Encana Oil and Gas for allegedly collaborating to avoid bidding against each other for oil and gas leases. Some of the nation’s biggest corporations – including Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Pfizer – said Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban dissuades them from expanding business here. In the Journal Record, David Blatt discussed how Oklahoma lawmakers are flying blind when it comes to deciding tax and budget policy.

On the OK Policy Blog, the latest post in the “Neglected Oklahoma” series shares the story of an Oklahoma nursing student who was ripped off by a private college. A group presented state lawmakers with a petition signed by more than 7,000 Oklahomans supporting Common Core education standards. A bill to force people arrested for certain crimes to submit DNA samples was rejected by the Oklahoma House.

Oklahoma City is planning a $70 million expansion of Will Rogers World Airport to improve security check-in procedures and add three new gates. House Democrats announced unanimous support for a bill to fund completion of the American Indian Cultural Center. Tulsa officials said residents should not be surprised to see a reduction in services over the next few years as the city struggles with flat revenues.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans  were lifted out of poverty by the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress discusses what a report by Congressman Paul Ryan got right and what it got wrong about early childhood education.

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Rip-off U (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

“I’m mad. Really mad. I’m stuck with thousands of dollars in debt for training that I didn’t get. The State of Oklahoma pushed me into a training program that was worthless and expensive. I spent 10 months and $15,900 on a stinking pile of nothing. They ripped me off.”

Marsha Bradley’s life started to unravel in 2007. “My mom’s breast cancer returned. She didn’t make it. My brother and sister were still in high school so I moved them in with me. I couldn’t keep all those balls in the air. I lost my job.”

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In The Know: Mick Cornett wins fourth term as Oklahoma City mayor

by | March 5th, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett won a fourth term in office. Cornett received 65.7 percent of the vote, compared to 32.8 percent for challenger City Councilman Ed Shadid. Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed a city council resolution that urged the state not to sell a rail line connecting the Tulsa area to Oklahoma City. A pro-marijuana group is seeking to have voters in Oklahoma City decide whether to reduce the penalties for possessing cannabis.

The Oklahoma House approved a bill (HB 2625) that would leave decisions about promotion of children failing the third-grade reading sufficiency exam to “teams” composed of the child’s parents, a teacher, an administrator and a reading specialist. Oklahoma Watch reported on how teachers are scrambling to prepare students for high-stakes testing that could keep thousands from leaving the 3rd grade.

The House also approved a bill (HB 2500) that extends a moratorium on state standards for maximum class sizes, updated textbooks, and library materials. The bill calls for 5 percent annual increases in education funding until the per-pupil funding level of 2009 is achieved, but those funding increases will not become law unless they are included in annual budget bills. Meanwhile, proposals approved by the Senate and being considered in the House would mandate automatic tax cuts beginning in 2016 or as soon as revenue recovers after that year. The OK Policy Blog explained why it’s irresponsible to be putting the tax system on auto-pilot.

The House voted to extend a tax break for the film industry for ten years, one day after voting it down. The Senate passed a bill to fund completion of the American Indian Cultural Center with $40 million from Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund. A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s law that shields details of drugs used in executions has been moved to federal court.  Tulsa World editor Ginnie Graham debunked myths about the safety net originating in a Cato Institute report. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why the report and a related Oklahoman editorial made big distortions of the truth.

The Number of the Day is how much a tax cut approved in the Oklahoma Senate could reduce state revenues by 2018. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog shares an interactive chart of the federal government’s spending and revenues over the last 60 years.

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Latest tax cut proposals would leave budget decisions on auto-pilot

by | March 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

blind pilotThe Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives are both considering bills to cut Oklahoma’s top income tax rate in future years based on revenue targets, or triggers. Pushing tax cuts into the future and making them conditional on triggers is presented as a “responsible” way to cut taxes. However, they are the opposite of responsible; these bills are an attempt to avoid responsibility for critical decisions by putting the tax system on auto-pilot.

SB 1246 would cut the top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent in two phases:

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In The Know: OKC considers spending $100k to examine construction of school

by | March 4th, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Oklahoma City school officials are considering spending $100k on a structural review of a school building worked on by the same firm that designed tornado-damaged Briarwood Elementary. The Journal Record asked why there is an apparent lack of concern from legislators after it was revealed that a contractor used faulty construction methods in two Moore schools that collapsed in a tornado. Oklahoma high school seniors in 2014 are the first graduating class required to learn financial literacy.

More than 630,000 Oklahomans suffer from some form of mental illness, ranking Oklahoma as one of the worst states in the nation for overall mental health. The number of flu-related deaths this year in Oklahoma has risen to 51. House members criticized the portrayal of Oklahoma in the film “August: Osage County” when they voted against extending tax incentives for the film industry. The incentives failed by three votes with 10 lawmakers not voting, and they will likely be brought up again in the House.

New Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman announced several changes in committee leadership. A bill is moving forward to create a Native American affairs cabinet position within the Governor’s office. Owasso Republican Randy Brogdon announced that he is ending a primary challenge against Governor Fallin to run for the U.S. Senate. An upcoming free public lecture will discuss meeting the needs of infants and toddlers in the child welfare system.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans aged 18 or older who experienced serious mental illness in 2011-2012. In today’s Policy Note, Washington Monthly explains why Texas’s recent record of economic growth crumbles upon inspection.

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Upcoming event: Policy & Practice lecture series discusses infant mental health in the child welfare system

by | March 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

brendajonesharden_ppls_01132014On March 6, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will host Dr. Brenda Jones Harden for her lecture “Infant Mental Health: Meeting the Needs of Infants and Toddlers in the Child Welfare System” as part of its Policy & Practice lecture series. Dr. Jones Harden will discuss an infant-centered approach to child welfare service delivery with an emphasis on providing mental health interventions to this population.

Dr. Jones Harden is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development, University of Maryland College Park, with over 30 years of experience in early childhood policy, practice and research. Her research focuses on using early childhood intervention programs to prevent maladaptive outcomes. Dr. Jones Harden received her master’s degree in social work from New York University and her doctorate in developmental and clinical psychology from Yale, and is the author of numerous publications on children and families, including Infants in the Child Welfare System: A Developmental Perspective on Policy and Practice. 

The free public lecture will be from noon to 1pm at the Oklahoma History Center’s Chesapeake Room (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr., Oklahoma City, OK 73105). For more information, contact the OKDHS Office of Planning, Research and Statistics at 405-521-3552. View the complete lecture series lineup here

In The Know: Teacher turnover wreaks havoc at high-poverty schools

by | March 3rd, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that the Tulsa World is publishing an in-depth series on a high-poverty school that was given an ‘F’ on the state’s A-F grading system. The latest story in the series looks at how high teacher turnover is wreaking havoc at the school. House members says they want a commitment from the governor and Senate to fund targeted state worker pay increases this year before signing off on a pension overhaul bill.

Eight judicial reform bills that T.W. Shannon touted before stepping down as House Speaker did not make it through committee. Governor Fallin said she will not release key e-mails related to her decision to refuse federal funds for Medicaid until after she leaves office. The Oklahoma State Board of Education’s meeting in Enid Thursday violated the Open Meetings Act, forcing the board to meet again to vote on several items that are invalid.

A bill was approved in House committee that would give a tax credit to Oklahomans for going without health insurance. The credit would be equal to any tax penalties assessed by the federal government for not having insurance. Tulsa World editor Julie DelCour discussed the consequences of Oklahoma’s underfunding of mental health treatment. Oklahoma Watch discussed how Oklahoma and other Republican-led states rely more on federal funds because we have higher poverty. 

More than a dozen Oklahoma business leaders are joining hundreds more nationwide urging Congress to pass immigration reform. Chesapeake Energy Corp. posted a net loss of $159 million this quarter. The company announced this week that it is looking to sell or spinoff its oil-field service business. Oklahoma State University settled a federal lawsuit by an anti-abortion student group. The group sued after being denied permission to display photos of aborted fetuses in high-traffic areas of campus.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in corporate income tax refunds paid out by Oklahoma through January this fiscal year, compared to the same period last year. In today’s policy note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discussed a new federal program that could make high-poverty schools hunger free.

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