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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy reviews legislative session marked by missed opportunities, finds reasons for optimism

by | June 18th, 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

OK Policy released our annual recap of the legislative session this week in a two-part blog post.  This session was marked by several missed opportunities – the structural budget deficit was not addressed, most of the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force bills were not passed, and a teacher pay raise was not enacted.  But there are reasons for hope as well.  The income tax cut trigger was repealed, the health care safety net was left largely intact, and Governor Fallin vetoed the expansion of predatory lending.

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column reminded us that there really are reasons for hope in Oklahoma politics – we’ve solved big problems in the past and we can do it again with the right approach. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained that, though the criminal justice reforms enacted under State Question 780 will certainly save Oklahoma money next year, it’s difficult to predict exactly how much. In a guest post, Amy Smith (a graduate student in Disability Studies) encourages those who are living with disabilities, or caring for someone with a disability, to become advocates for their community by becoming involved with Partners in Policymaking. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update encourages teachers to become more vocal advocates by looking back at the 1989 special legislative session called to address what Governor Bellmon called an “emergency in education funding.”

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam spoke with media outlets this week about how the proposed federal budget could impact Oklahoma. In an interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Putnam argued that the proposed 25% cut to the food stamp program (SNAP) would very likely result in fewer needy families receiving benefits and a reduction in benefits for those families still on the program. The Trump budget achieves the 25% cut in federal spending on SNAP by shifting part of the cost of the program to states – as Putnam explained to CNHI, that would mean Oklahoma would have to find an additional $221 million in the state budget to fully fund SNAP.

Perry spoke with the Tulsa World about the potential effects of Oklahoma following in Kansas’s footsteps and rolling back our income tax cuts on the top bracket – if Oklahoma were to increase the income tax on the top bracket to 5.7% we could see $400 million in new revenues. OK Policy data was used by the Red Dirt Report for a story about summer food programs for children who receive free/reduced-price lunches during the school year – Oklahoma is trying to raise awareness about summer food programs to increase participation in the program.

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The Weekly Wonk: Next year’s budget will start with a $400 million hole, Recurring revenues may be at risk due to legal challenges

by | June 11th, 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 gave us a preview of next year’s budget challenges – nearly 40 percent of the revenue for this year’s budget comes from one-time sources, so Oklahoma will be starting next year over $400 million in the hole. And some of the recurring revenues in this year’s budget may be at risk – Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the possibility that these revenues (like the cigarette fee, the sales tax on motor vehicle sales, and the increase in the gross production tax on horizontal wells) may be found unconstitutional by the courts. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison turned our attention to national legislation in her discussion of the Financial CHOICE Act – if passed, this bill would remove the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers from predatory lending practices.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explains why raising taxes in Oklahoma is so challenging – the three-fourths majority required to raise taxes is increasingly difficult to achieve in contemporary politics defined by increasing partisanship and the influence of money. Kansas did manage to raise taxes this year – the state legislature voted this week to override Governor Brownback’s veto of legislation to roll back most the 2012 tax cuts. A guest post by Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, argues that this decision to reverse tax cuts will put Kansas back on the path to fiscal stability.

Weekly What’s That

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval.

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

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The Weekly Wonk: Despite disappointing legislative session, public engagement provides reason for hope

by | June 4th, 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 reviewed the legislative session in his Journal Record column, pointing out several shortcomings but also a few reasons for hope that things might be better next year. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explored the possible constitutional issues with this year’s budget, such as the cigarette fee and the sales tax on vehicles. Intern Maggie Den Harder discussed the use of mobile food trucks by two Oklahoma school districts to provide summer meals to food insecure children.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was interviewed by Governing magazine for a story about the comparatively severe cuts to public education that Oklahoma has endured – Oklahoma now spends $1 billion less on K-12 public education that it did a decade ago. OK Policy’s statement on the disappointing budget agreement was quoted by The Ada News for their piece about the shortcomings in next year’s budget.

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The Weekly Wonk: Budget deal continues to underfund state services, Some funding measures could face legal challenges

by | May 28th, 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

OK Policy on Wednesday encouraged lawmakers to reject the budget proposal because it did not honor their promises to fix the structural budget deficit and stop the use of one-time funds to plug budget holes. After passage of the budget, OK Policy issued a statement addressing the disappointing outcome of this year’s budget process, but also pointed out reasons for hope for future years. Executive Director David Blatt emphasized that this budget does continue to underfund state services.

Blatt, in his Journal Record column, argued that oil and gas jobs would not have been lost had the legislature restored the gross production tax to the historical rate of 7%, but many public sector jobs have been lost to state budget cuts. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam cautioned that privatizing care for some SoonerCare patients could result in big cuts to the providers who serve these high-need patients.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy contributed to several media reports this week concerning possible legal hurdles in state budget bill. Blatt spoke with the Journal Record about three bills passed this week that could be considered as violations of the Oklahoma Constitution’s prohibition on passing revenue-raising bills in the final week of session, and expressed to CNHI that it’s likely at least one of the measures will face a court challenge. Blatt also talked with OETA about the questionable legality of these last-minute budget maneuvers. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with KTUL about the cigarette fee specifically – the $1.50 per pack fee one of the questionable measures that was passed in the final week.

In addition to possible legal challenges, OK policy staff contributed to reports about other concerns with the budget. Blatt spoke with the Oklahoman about cuts to common education in the budget deal. Blatt explained to the Journal Record that these cuts will likely result in vacant positions continuing to be left open, cuts to school programs, and more teachers leaving the state for higher pay.

Wayne Green at the Tulsa World, also weighed in on the budget using OK Policy data to support his argument that passing “non-revenue” bills that effectively raise revenue in the last 5 days of legislative session is illogical. OK Policy data was also used by CNHI for a piece about the possible effect of the $17,000 cap on itemized deductions recently passed by the legislature. Putnam talked with The Oklahoman for a piece about the Affordable Care Act waiver Oklahoma is planning to submit – if successful, the waiver would allow Oklahoma to subsidize its own health insurance program instead of using the ACA marketplace.

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The Weekly Wonk: Gross production tax must be part of budget deal

by | May 21st, 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 why raising the gross production tax must be a part of the state’s budget plan and shared a memo that explained how much revenue various gross production tax options would raise. OK Policy issued a statement responding to the budget plan announced earlier this week that left out an increase in gross production tax rates.   Blatt’s Journal Record column argued that we should adopt criminal justice reforms now to save money in the future.

Policy Director Gene Perry wondered if legislators would again pass a last minute budget without time for consideration or scrutiny. Perry also argued that a focus on spending, rather than the real people that benefit from that spending, is leading lawmakers astray.  Finally, Perry reminded us that spending cuts have very real consequences for many Oklahomans – real people and real lives are at stake.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy data was referenced by Wayne Greene in his Tulsa World editorial arguing that the gross production tax should be restored to 7%. Perry was interviewed by Governing Magazine for a piece about the declining adherence to democratic norms at the state and national level. 

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was quoted by The Oklahoman in a story about SB 478, a bill that would allow out-of-state companies to sell insurance policies in Oklahoma as long as those policies meet minimum coverage standards. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler contributed to a story by NBC News about the lack of success in states that have adopted a strict tough-on-crime stance toward drug crime.

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The Weekly Wonk: Legislature votes to repeal tax cut trigger, All of the Above on revenue options, Oklahoma should expand OK Promise scholarships, and more

by | May 14th, 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.

Help Ensure Better Information and Better Policy

We know that especially this time of year, thousands of Oklahomans like you count on OK Policy to help make sense of fast-moving developments at the State Capitol. We hope that you recognize the value of the information we provide through the Weekly Wonk and all our other resources. Please choose to support our commitment to better information and better policy by making a tax-deductible contribution today. Click here to donate online or send a check to Oklahoma Policy Institute, 907. S. Detroit, Suite 1005, Tulsa, OK 74120.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy issued a statement applauding the Legislature’s final passage of SB 170, a bill to repeal an automatic income tax cut trigger. Executive Director David Blatt argued that it is time for legislators of both parties to say ‘All of the Above’ to revenue options on the table as they work to resolve the state budget crisis – this theme was reinforced in his Journal Record column. Policy Director Gene Perry pointed out that those opposing the cap on itemized deductions overstated their claims that the measure would significantly reduce charitable giving.

Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison contended that expanding eligibility for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships would benefit all Oklahomans. Intern Preston Brasch argued that reforms are needed to protect Oklahoma renters from unsafe living conditions. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update suggests that crafting a budget deal that can survive the legislature and earn Governor Fallin’s approval will be a test of leadership for Speaker McCall.

Advocacy Alert

With only a few days left to negotiate a budget agreement, now’s the time legislators need to hear from you. They especially need to hear your support for ending tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and restoring the historical 7 percent tax rate on all gross production so that we can avoid devastating cuts and make critical investments in our workforce, infrastructure, and health.  Call your Senator at 405-524-0126 and your House member at 405-521-2711. You can look up contact info for your legislators here. See our advocacy alert on ending the special subsidy for oil and gas drilling for more information and resources.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy’s work in opposing HB 1913 was acknowledged in a Tulsa World editorial lauding Governor Fallin’s veto of the bill. The Tulsa World also used OK Policy research for their editorial about the harm that may come if the American Health Care Act becomes federal law. Tulsa Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Steinocher referred to OK Policy data in her editorial calling for an increase in education funding

Perry was quoted in a Bloomberg BNA piece about Oklahoma’s move to decouple our standard deduction from the federal standard deduction. Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator KaraJoy McKee was interviewed by CNHI for their coverage of the Save Our State Coalition’s budget blueprint proposal.

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The Weekly Wonk: New online budget simulator, Vacancies may make it easier to increase revenue, budget concerns may be holding up CJ reform, and more

by | May 7th, 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

OK Policy debuted a new online budget simulator this week – the simulator allows people to put themselves in lawmakers shoes and decide how to fix the state budget. Policy Director Gene Perry informed us about one promising solution – itemized deduction reform – that Oklahoma could consider. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update points out that current vacancies in the state legislature could make it easier to gather the 75% needed to pass new revenue bills. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentlzer argued that concerns about the budget may be holding up desperately needed criminal justice reforms at the state capitol.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column argues that HB 1270, the Restore Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act is the most misleadingly named bill this session.  Policy Analyst Carly Putnam tells explains why HB 1270 won’t save the state money and will create additional hurdles for low-income families trying to access the benefits they need.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy’s recent Budget Briefing Breakfast was the topic of  a recent Non-Doc piece about possible solutions to our state budget crisis. Perry was interviewed by The Economist for a story about how cities are coping with broken state budgets. Blatt was quoted in an Oklahoma Watch piece about HB 1913, the predatory small loan bill that was recently vetoed by Governor Fallin.

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The Weekly Wonk: New OK Policy budget report examines past successes and current struggles, Save Our State releases budget blueprint, and more

by | April 30th, 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

OK Policy released a new budget report that examines our past successes and evaluates how we’re building on those, or falling behind. Executive Executive Director David Blatt was a guest on the latest episode of STANDcast from Stand for Children, where the discussion focused on the new budget blueprint from the Save Our State Coalition, and authored a blog post regarding the importance of restoring the Gross Production Tax to its historic rate. Blatt also was a guest on Public Radio Tulsa for a discussion of the Save Our State Coalition’s budget blueprint.

Blatt’s Journal Record column implored legislators to fix the budget crises with responsible revenue solutions, instead of more cuts to state agencies. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update wonders if Oklahoma is, at last, breaking free from anti-tax dogma. Policy Director Gene Perry was quoted by the Huffington Post in a story about the use of state lotteries to fund education

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The Weekly Wonk: Potential financial crisis facing Indigent Defense System, Solving our budget crisis will require responsible revenue options, and more

by | April 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (1)

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

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler made us aware of the potential financial crisis facing the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System if their funding levels are not restored in this year’s budget. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison reminded us that a decision made last year to cut Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit is impacting many low-income Oklahoma families this tax season. OK Policy Intern Maggie Den Harder told us about a new school meal program in some Oklahoma school districts providing after-school meals and snacks to food insecure students.

Executive Director David Blatt celebrated the 5-year anniversary of his Prosperity Policy column with some good news – tax cut fever seems to have broken in the state legislature this year.  In an editorial for the Tulsa World, Blatt contended that solving our budget crisis will require policy makers to adopt responsible revenue options like restoring the tax on oil and gas drilling to its historic rate. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update reminds us of the importance of increased revenue in this year’s budget discussion. 

OK Policy in the News

The Save Our State (SOS) coalition, a group of more than 21 statewide organizations including OK Policy, unveiled their budget blueprint for Oklahoma’s current fiscal emergency. Click here to find out more about the coalition or see the budget blueprint.

Gentzler was interviewed by OETA for Dollars for Dimes, which explores the increasing cost of fines and fees in the Oklahoma criminal justice system.  You can view the full episode at OETA Presents. Blatt was interviewed by The Oklahoman for an article about the the legislature’s decision to halt the next income tax cut. Cullison’s work was used by the Muskogee Phoenix for a story about the importance of the EITC to low-income families in Oklahoma

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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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