In The Know: Oklahoma House approves tax cuts

by | March 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)
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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.

In The News

Oklahoma House approves tax cut bill

Following passionate debate, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday to cut the state’s top individual income tax rate by 0.25 percent and the corporate income tax rate by 1 percent. “This legislation strikes the balance between lowering the tax burden on families and businesses and ensuring core government functions are funded,” House Speaker Jeff Hickman said after the measure passed 57-34. The personal income tax rate would be reduced from 5.25 percent to 5 percent and the corporate income tax rate would go from 6 percent to 5 percent if the bill were to become law. The planned cuts would be contingent on personal income tax revenues and corporate income tax revenues experiencing enough revenue growth to offset the amount of revenue loss due to the cuts. The earliest the reductions could take effect would be 2016. The state Senate previously passed its own income tax cut bill, so negotiators from the two chambers will now meet to see if they can agree on a version that can pass both houses and be presented to the governor for final approval.

Read more from NewsOK.

STATEMENT: Tax cut defies economics and common sense

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.

Read more from OK Policy.

The colors of money

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.

Read more from OK Policy.

Oklahoma revenue in February up 3.5 percent from year ago

Gross revenue collections for February were 3.5 percent above the same month last year, according to a report released Thursday by state Treasurer Ken Miller. The $818 million collected this February was nearly $28 million more than the amount collected in February 2013. “Collections, as they did this month, have topped the same month of the prior year in 41 of the past 48 months,” Miller said. “The state’s gross receipts have grown by almost 25 percent in the last four years.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma City, Tulsa superintendents address critical issues during education forum

Third-grade reading, new education standards, teacher pay and the arts were among key issues addressed by superintendents from Oklahoma’s two largest public school systems during an education forum Thursday. Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, and Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, fielded questions from an audience of more than 50 during the forum, held at Kamp’s 1910 Cafe in Oklahoma City. The forum was sponsored by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit journalism organization. The questions gave visitors a chance to learn about the superintendents’ stances on education issues and about some of the programs going on inside the districts.

Read more from NewsOK.

Additional $6.5 million sought for Oklahoma school employee health coverage

The state Board of Education gave the go-ahead Tuesday for the Education Department to request a $6.5 million supplemental budget appropriation to fill a school employee health insurance funding gap this fiscal year.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

‘Strong possibility’ of layoffs for city workers, councilors told

City Manager Jim Twombly told city councilors Thursday that there is a “strong possibility” that there will be layoffs. “We do not anticipate any layoffs in public safety,” Twombly said during a council committee meeting. Twombly clarified his statement after the meeting to say he did not anticipate any sworn officers being laid off. “When you’re scratching for that last million dollars, you have to scratch deep,” Twombly said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tulsa ranks among 50 hardest working cities

Service website locality.com calculates the list of hardest working cities each year and both Tulsa and Oklahoma City cracked the top 50. Tulsa comes in at #50. Oklahoma City ranks #36. The list is calculated by hours worked in a week by local business. The study typically looks at the service industry to make the call. Tulsa’s average weekly hours worked are 55.66. OKC works an average of 58.34 hours per week.

Read more from KRMG.

Contractors discover new cracks in Purcell-Lexington bridge

Residents of Lexington and Purcell may have to wait longer than expected before the bridge between the towns is reopened, state officials said Thursday. Contractors have discovered new cracks in the U.S. 77/State Highway 29 bridge that could make it difficult for them the get the bridge open on schedule, state Transportation Department Spokesman Larry Clore said.

Read more from NewsOK.

L-3 Communications Bringing 60 New Jobs To Broken Arrow

If you’re searching for a high paying, cutting-edge job, then Broken Arrow may be the place for you. L-3 Communications announced it is adding 60 new jobs in the city as part of the state’s Quality Jobs Program. The Quality Jobs Program is a cash-back job creation incentive for businesses to expand in Oklahoma. That’s how L-3 Communications plans to bring the engineering jobs to Broken Arrow over the next two to three years.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Previously: We don’t know if the Quality Jobs Program is paying off from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma Lawmaker To Run For US House

A 26-year-old Republican state House member from Oklahoma City says he’s running for the 5th District U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. James Lankford. Rep. Mike Turner formally announced he’s running on Thursday morning. He says he’s running for Congress because he believes Congress needs “strong, active conservatives of a new generation.”

Read more from News9.

Oklahoma Moves Up the Ranks by Adding More Wind Energy to its Electricity Mix

Wind energy accounted for 14.8 percent of the electricity generated in Oklahoma in 2013, an American Wind Energy analysis of data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show. Oklahoma now ranks No. 7 nationally, a step up from the No. 9 ranking the state earned in 2012 when wind power comprised 10.5 percent of the state’s energy mix, according to the wind industry trade group.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Lawmakers Join Landowners Who Think Getting A Mining Permit Is Too Easy

Limestone and sand miners are getting a lot of attention lately. The amount of groundwater they can displace from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer was recently capped, and the state House could authorize a new tax on the industry. That’s not all. The Oklahoma Department of Mines has an unusual permitting process some landowners say leaves them feeling helpless when a new mine is proposed, and they want that process changed.

Read more from KGOU

U.S. attorney in Oklahoma announces ‘fresh start’ plan for people with felony convictions

The local U.S. Attorney’s Office has launched a federal prison re-entry program aimed at helping people with felony convictions reclaim their lives. Dubbed “Fresh Start,” the program will provide resources for jobs, housing and counseling services. Tulsa-based U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. says the re-entry program is another component of U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Media’s cameras, recording devices to be barred from Oklahoma prisons

The Department of Corrections has temporarily prohibited news media from bringing any cameras or recording equipment inside its correctional facilities, regardless of the interview topic. Officials at the agency notified the Tulsa World this week that requests to bring photographers inside prisons for two separate interviews were denied, that only a reporter would be allowed, with no recording equipment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

We have convenience store clerks that are making more than corrections officials.

- State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, arguing against tax cuts passed by the House in HB 2508,which would reduce revenues by an estimated $200 million when fully implemented (source: http://bit.ly/1jXY9oO)

Number of the Day

556

The number of structurally-deficient bridges in Oklahoma, 2012.

Source: OKStateStat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Penalty for Being Poor – Prison

Imagine being poor. Then imagine that the depth of your poverty is compounded because you committed a minor infraction. You can’t pay your ticket. You go to court and are put under a probation monitoring service – more fees and fines. You can’t afford bus fare, so you walk everywhere. You can’t afford food, so you go hungry. Then imagine being put in jail because you can’t pay the fines. Your life has been criminalized, and infrastructure that ought to allow you to you to make amends and move forward, traps you. You can’t escape it. Now you can stop imagining, because that is exactly what is happening across the United States today.

Read more from Alliance for a Just Society.

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