In 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.
Today you should know that Oklahoma child welfare officials announced that they had met one of their major goals by placing all children younger than 2 in family-like environments rather than shelters. Oklahoma’s Secretary for Health and Human Services Terry Cline said underfunding of juvenile justice in Oklahoma is putting the public at risk. The deal approved by Congress to avert the “fiscal cliff” will mean lower income tax collections for Oklahoma than previously estimated.
David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses why Oklahoma’s tax on oil and gas production has almost disappeared. The okeducationtruths blog defended Dr. Jonathan Wilner’s findings that poverty has a major impact on new A-F grades for schools. Wilner originally shared his findings on the OK Policy Blog. Three Oklahoma universities were cited in a national financial magazine for providing quality education at low cost. The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma history is replete with examples of state-sanctioned efforts to appropriate assets from people of color.
NewsOK created a graphic novel guide to the health care reform debate. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has begun deactivating old Pikepass transponder units that are being replaced with windshield stickers. The Center for Public Integrity reports that nine states, including Oklahoma, have provided $19 million in subsidies to manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings. Kansas business lobbies are supporting higher sales taxes to partially make up for the budget hole created by large income tax cuts.
The Number of the Day is the number of registered library borrowers in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Tax Credits for Working Families explains how the fiscal cliff deal impacts the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
In The News
DHS reaches goal to move babies out of shelters
As of the new year, no Oklahoma DHS children’s shelters or DHS-contracted shelters have children younger than 2 sleeping under their roofs. Oklahoma child welfare officials announced Wednesday they had met one of their major goals by placing all children younger than 2 in family-like environments rather than shelters. The Pinnacle Plan, DHS’ child-welfare improvement plan, was developed in response to federal class-action lawsuit settlement reached last year. The plan sets deadlines for goals during the next several years. The Department of Human Services plans to have all children 6 and younger out of shelters by June 30 and all children younger than 13 out of shelters by June 30, 2014, according to the agency’s Pinnacle Plan.
Terry Cline: Declining funding for juvenile justice putting public at risk
Support for adequately funding Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system has eroded in recent years, placing the public at risk, the state’s secretary for Health and Human Services said this week. Terry Cline, who supervises agencies that include the Office of Juvenile Affairs, said he has “grave concern about the underfunding of OJA.” Cline’s statement comes weeks after a 14-year-old Jenks boy, Joshua Scott Mooney, was arrested in connection with the shooting death of a woman during a burglary. At one time, lawmakers and the public supported funding to adequately treat juveniles or lock up those who presented the most danger, Cline said. “The political will to support the agency and its mission has eroded over time,” Cline said in an interview Monday. “If we’re not serving that population in an adequate fashion, it puts the public at risk.”
Deal on fiscal cliff affects Oklahoma tax collections
The deal approved by Congress to avert the “fiscal cliff” will mean lower income tax collections for Oklahoma than previously estimated, state finance officials said Wednesday. Finance officials with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said an estimated $50 million in income tax revenue projections certified last month were based on the assumption that higher federal income tax rates would take effect Jan. 1. Since most of those tax hikes were averted as a result of the deal reached in Congress, OMES spokesman John Estus said some percentage of that $50 million will not be available, although the exact amount is still being determined.
Prosperity Policy: Taxing issues
With all the attention last year on failed attempts to kill off the personal income tax, it largely escaped notice that another vital revenue source has dramatically faded in strength. But the gross production tax on oil and gas now finds itself on life support. In November, the state’s general revenue fund collected no money from taxes on oil and gas production. Through the five months of this fiscal year, gross production contributions to the general fund are a miniscule $6.7 million. It’s true that oil revenues aren’t deposited into the general fund until later in the year. But since 2001, gross production taxes have contributed on average $194 million to the general fund by November. Other factors are clearly at play.
In defense of Dr. Jonathan Wilner (and math)
About two weeks ago, the Oklahoma Policy Institute published a guest blog by Oklahoma City University professor Dr. Jonathan Willner titled, Public school grades – what’s really being graded? Using multivariate regression analysis, Willner demonstrated that variables such as single-parent families, free and reduced lunch rates, student mobility, education attainment levels of adults, and median household income are adequate to predict 57 percent of all school report card grades. His research echoes the point of my first post in April about Reward Schools, my calculations when school report cards were finally released in October, and the correlations I demonstrated between poverty and district report cards in December. Facts, of course, are never good enough for the Oklahoman, which this week ran a rebuttal to Dr. Willner’s research.
Previously: Guest Blog (Jonathan Willner): Public school grades – what’s really being graded? from the OK Policy Blog
Three Oklahoma universities included in top college values ranking
Three Oklahoma universities were cited in a national financial magazine for providing quality education at low cost. The list ranks schools based on quality of education and affordability. In this year’s list, OU was ranked at 70th-best for in-state students, a drop from its 67th ranking in 2012. Likewise, OSU edged down slightly, falling from 92nd in 2012 to 93rd this year. USAO edged up, climbing from 93rd in 2012 to 91st this year. USAO also had the lowest total cost per year for both resident and nonresident students, and the lowest cost after need-based aid for resident students.
This land is your land? A legacy of asset-stripping in Oklahoma
This is the first post in a running series based on our recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, which assesses the racial wealth gap and proposes solutions for closing that gap through asset-building. There is a slight but important nuance in the difference between wealth that comes from building assets, and wealth that comes from rising incomes. There is mounting evidence that wealth in the form of financial assets – e.g. homes, businesses, and savings accounts – promotes financial security, interrupts intergenerational poverty, and improves household health and quality of life. In terms of racial wealth in Oklahoma, our history is replete with examples of state-sanctioned efforts to appropriate assets from people of color.
Health Care 101 graphic novel guide
Health care reform was a topic of fierce debate in 2012, and it was easy to miss out on a detail here or there. We wanted to take a look at the history of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and Oklahoma’s plan moving forward. Here’s our Health Care 101 guide in graphic novel form to catch you up on anything you might have missed.
Old Pikepass units being deactivated
Nearly 50,000 turnpike customers still have time to exchange their outdated Pikepass transponder units for windshield stickers rather than risk getting a ticket or paying more to travel on the state’s 10 toll roads. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is deactivating the transponder units of Pikepass customers who have received a fifth and final notice to switch to the stickers, which have been in place since March. The Turnpike Authority deactivated 39,245 units Friday, he said, from the list of 85,000 Pikepass customers who had failed to make the switch. The units were disabled about a month after those customers received their fifth and final notices. Transponder units will continue to be deactivated through the second week of January, Damrill said. And in March, or one year after the Turnpike Authority began using windshield sticker tags, all the old transponder units will be deactivated, he said.
Gun manufacturers got more than $19 million in state subsidies
Taxpayers across the country are subsidizing the manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings, including the massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. last month. A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting examination of tax records shows that five companies that make semi-automatic rifles have received more than $19 million in tax breaks, most within with the past five years. Any new jobs due to tax subsidies are “not worth it,” said Richardson, a nurse whose first patient ever was a 19-year-old accidentally shot by his 13-year-old brother with their father’s gun. The states providing the subsidies since 2003: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Oklahoma.
Kansas businesses supporting higher sales tax following income tax cuts
In early 2010, the state’s business lobbies and their allies trooped up to testify in the Kansas Legislature, arguing that a temporary sales tax increase aimed at preventing deeper cuts in the state budget would hurt business and kill thousands of jobs. These days, their objections have mostly disappeared. It appears likely that Gov. Sam Brownback will propose that the sales tax – which was raised 1 percentage point to 6.3 percent in 2010 and is scheduled to drop to 5.7 percent on July 1 – remain at the higher level. The revenue generated by the higher tax could be used to help fill the hole in the budget or could offset further cuts in income taxes.
Quote of the Day
We mention poverty because we know that it’s harder to teach a population of students that come from difficult backgrounds. And we know that teachers get paid roughly the same whether they’re in a suburban enclave or an urban or rural school with universal free lunch. We also know that recruiting and retaining teachers to high poverty schools is tough. And we know that those dismissing poverty as a salient issue in education policy also show little regard for the poor in all other policy discussions.
Number of the Day
The number of registered library borrowers in Oklahoma in 2009, nearly half (46 percent) the state’s residents
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
The fiscal cliff and working family tax credits
While the national media covered every twist and turn in the fiscal cliff negotiations, little attention was paid to the provisions of the law affecting tax credits for working families. So here’s the bottom line… As anticipated, the deal makes permanent the changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) that were first implemented in the “Bush tax cuts” of 2001 and 2003 tax bills. The marriage penalty relief for the EITC enacted in 2001 is now permanent, raising the income level at which the credit begins to phase-out and ends by $3,000 for married couples and indexing it for inflation.
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