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In The Know: State may face another tax cut trigger

by | June 10th, 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 may face another tax cut trigger: Oklahoma’s income tax rate appears poised to decline again, further reducing state revenue at a time when lawmakers are finding it hard to fund core state services. A bill that would have delayed the next incremental drop in the income tax rate didn’t advance in the recently concluded legislative session. Sufficient state revenue growth would trigger a rate decrease from 5 percent to 4.85 percent as soon as Jan. 1, 2018 [NewsOK]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

With Exams Gone, Uncertainty over School Report Cards Grows: The elimination of end-of-course tests that Oklahoma public school students take each year will throw more uncertainty into the state’s efforts to develop a new system of measuring school performance. The state’s much-criticized A through F report card system relies on students’ scores from standardized end-of-instruction exams, which were eliminated when the governor signed into law House Bill 3218 on Monday. The law is intended to preserve time in the classroom for learning, reduce what many educators say is a culture of over-testing and potentially save the state millions of dollars [Oklahoma Watch].

State Board of Education to tackle $38.2 million in school funding reductions in special meeting Friday: The Oklahoma State Board of Education is set to meet in a special session Friday to slash $38.2 million from a catch-all budget that funds everything from alternative education and remedial student services statewide to the Teachers Retirement System and Ag in the Classroom. Appropriations for the support of public school activities totaled $130.2 million at the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, but the state board has to reduce that total to just under $92 million for 2016-17. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the task is a particularly unpleasant and daunting one [Tulsa World].

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New housing study highlights major needs in Oklahoma

by | June 9th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Affordable housing is more than just shelter. To the extent that housing is affordable, it determines if people have money left over at the end of the month to provide for food, utilities, and other needs. It determines if your children can grow up in a safe neighborhood. Rising housing costs can mean instability if you have to move. It determines if you live in a safe home with running water and secure shelter in a storm.

Even though Oklahoma is considered an affordable place to live, housing costs are still unaffordable for many lower wage earners. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a family supported by one full-time worker would need to be making $14.33 per hour to afford a two bedroom apartment. Yet the median wage is well below that for tens of thousands of workers in Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Oklahoma revenue collections hit 6-year low

by | June 9th, 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

Treasurer: Oklahoma revenue collections hit 6-year low: Oklahoma’s revenue collections hit a six-year low in May as the state’s economy limps along during a slump in its key energy industry, Treasurer Ken Miller reported on Monday. The report shows May collections were lower than those from May 2015 for every major revenue stream, including taxes on income, sales, motor vehicles and oil and natural gas production. It is the ninth consecutive month that 12-month gross receipts to the treasury are lower than those for the previous 12-month period, the report noted [KOCO].

State Education Department: No New Textbooks This Year: The Oklahoma State Department of Education says it’s recommending that schools not buy any new textbooks this year because of a lack of state funding. The department says state lawmakers did not appropriate any money for new textbooks for the fiscal year that begins July 1. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says students will be forced to use “outdated and tattered school books.” [NewsOn6] Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor): Like many advocates, I’m still recovering from the Capitol last week where our elected officials passed a trash can punch of a budget. It reeks of classism and party dogma. As an Oklahoma mother who sends my children to public school and colleges, uses child support, and holds Medicaid (TEFRA) on my child with a developmental disability, our family will be paying the price. I also work on behalf of some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable – adults with intellectual disabilities and families coming to terms with their child’s developmental disability [OK Policy]. 

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Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor)

by | June 8th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Children and Families | Comments (3)

trashcan-punchErin Taylor, PhD is a mother to five and a disability advocate living in Oklahoma City. Her previous guest post, “What I Didn’t Get From My Tax Cut,” ran in March.

Like many advocates, I’m still recovering from the Capitol last week where our elected officials passed a trash can punch of a budget. It reeks of classism and party dogma. As an Oklahoma mother who sends my children to public school and colleges, uses child support, and holds Medicaid (TEFRA) on my child with a developmental disability, our family will be paying the price.

I also work on behalf of some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable – adults with intellectual disabilities and families coming to terms with their child’s developmental disability. Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and chronic medical conditions are vulnerable because of the choices we make as a state to not fund adequate supports, whether they be family-based, caretaking, medical, therapeutic or disability-oriented. The greatest challenge facing these Oklahomans is not the diagnosis but the lack of services and financial resources. If we insisted that our state human services, mental health, and Medicaid agencies were humanely funded, we’d see a sharp decline in the number of Oklahomans we classify as vulnerable. Instead, we’d have viable Oklahomans, making use of their supports, so they can exist as tax-paying, financially secure citizens.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Law Enforcement Gets Devices to Seize Funds Loaded to Prepaid Cards

by | June 8th, 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

New Front in Civil Forfeiture: Authorities Get Devices to Seize Funds Loaded to Prepaid Cards: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased several devices capable of seizing funds loaded on to prepaid debit cards to aid troopers in roadside seizures of suspected drug-trafficking proceeds. The portable card scanners are designed to be carried in law enforcement vehicles, allow troopers to freeze and seize money loaded onto a prepaid debit card, and to return money to an account whose funds were seized or frozen [Oklahoma Watch]. A group of unlikely allies is pushing to reform civil asset forfeiture in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Medicaid reimbursement won’t be cut, but clinics still worry: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority won’t cut reimbursement rates to health care providers treating Medicaid patients despite warning for months it could slash rates by 25 percent. But community clinics are still struggling because of a series of cuts since 2010, said Brent Wilborn, public policy director at a state trade association. The OHCA, expecting to receive a lower appropriation because of the state’s $1.3 billion budget hole, said in February it might make dramatic cuts to provider rates [Journal Record]. Medicaid was on the chopping block in 2014 and again in 2015, and faced unprecedented disaster in 2016.

FY 2017 Budget Highlights: OK 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 2017 Budget Highlights, which includes a bullet point summary of the state budget, charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009. You can find more information and analysis about the state budget at our Budget & Taxes Issue Page [OK Policy].

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FY 2017 Budget Highlights

Piggybank and calculatorDownload the budget highlights as a pdf.

OK 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 2017 Budget Highlights, which includes a bullet point summary of the state budget, charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009. You can find more information and analysis about the state budget at our Budget & Taxes Issue Page.

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In The Know: Incumbent Oklahoma lawmakers draw challengers for primary election

by | June 7th, 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

Incumbent Oklahoma lawmakers draw challengers for primary election: More incumbents seeking re-election to the Oklahoma Legislature face a contested primary election than in years past. Thirty-two members of the state House and Senate are running against at least one primary challenger in their re-election bids this year, compared with just 13 in 2014 and 17 in 2012. The majority of state lawmakers seeking re-election will be uncontested on the June 28 primary ballot, but a year of budget shortfalls, exasperated educators and a growing dislike for government on all levels has appeared to motivate more Oklahomans to seek elected office [NewsOK].

Overall state revenue collections for May hit six-year low: Overall state revenue collections in May were the lowest in six years, State Treasurer Ken Miller said Monday. The month’s Gross Receipts to the Treasury report illustrates the continued contraction in the state’s economy, he said. Gross receipts for May brought in $782.5 million, down 7.2 percent from May 2015. Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $246.9 million, down 9.2 percent from the prior year [Tulsa World].

Gov. Mary Fallin signs bond legislation to repair Oklahoma Capitol: Legislation that authorizes a $125 million bond issue to pay for a second phase of repairs and renovations to the Oklahoma Capitol has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The bill is among 49 pieces of legislation Fallin signed into law Monday that were approved by the Legislature before it adjourned last month. State lawmakers approved a $120 million bond issue to repair the state’s nearly 100-year-old Capitol two years ago [Associated Press].

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Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session

The 2016 session began with some high hopes and grave concerns given the state’s massive budget shortfall. Prior to session, OK Policy laid out our top priorities in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and voting and elections. A few of our priorities met with success, many did not, and there were more than a few surprises along the way.  Here’s our staff’s recap of the major highs and lows of the 2016 session in the issue areas in which we were most deeply engaged.

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In The Know: Initiatives easing drug possession penalties, providing treatment likely will be on Nov. 8 ballot

by | June 6th, 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

Initiatives easing drug possession classification, providing treatment likely will be on Nov. 8 ballot: Backers of an initiative that would downgrade simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor say they have collected more than enough voter signatures to get it on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot. Members of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform said boxes they dropped off at the Oklahoma secretary of state’s office Thursday contained petitions with about 110,000 signatures for the proposal, and a like amount for a companion initiative. Each measure needs about 65,000 voter signatures to qualify for the ballot [NewsOK].

President Obama commutes life sentence of man serving in Oklahoma prison: A Texas man who has been serving a life sentence in an Oklahoma prison will soon be a free man. On Friday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 42 people, including 50-year-old Douglas Ray Dunkins, Jr. When he was just 26-years-old, Dunkins was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and sell crack cocaine. Even though it was a nonviolent offense, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole [KFOR].

Education legislation creates victories in ‘reform wars’: The 2016 Oklahoma legislative session was awful. The Republican-controlled House, Senate and executive branch ducked their responsibilities, but we can shout for joy about one thing: Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister, quietly led us to three great education policy victories. Moreover, in an age of irresponsible governance and venomous rhetoric, she exemplified the way to rebuild our schools [John Thompson / NonDoc].

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The Weekly Wonk: Behind smoky doors, a kick in the pants, & more…

by | June 5th, 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 on the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that lawmakers’ habit of unveiling bills in the last days of the legislative session breeds public distrust. Blatt’s Journal Record column argued that legislators ducked the hard choices the shortfall required. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis suggested that the state’s budget problems won’t be solved until both parties find a way to work together.

OK Policy Legislative Liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons pointed out that 95 years after the Greenwood massacre, survivors are still waiting for justice. Research Fellow John Lepine explained how an Education Savings Account measure introduced this year would have widened inequality.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator DeVon Douglass was interviewed by NPR’s Marketplace about TANF in Oklahoma. Slate has a write-up of the segment here. The Tax Justice Blog wrote that Oklahoma lawmakers failed to raise to the challenge during the legislative session. The Tulsa World included a quote from Blatt in a discussion of the end of session. The Tahlequah Daily Press included a statement from OK Policy in a discussion of the failed effort to raise the cigarette tax.

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