Archive for 2011

Upcoming Event: OICA's Fall Legislative Forum, Tuesday, October 11 at UCO

by | September 29th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is hosting a Legislative Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Participants at this year’s Forum will hear a state budget overview from OK Policy Director David Blatt and listen to a panel of state agency directors as they explain how recent budget cuts impact children. The state agency panel includes: Mike Fogarty with the Health Care Authority; Terri White with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Howard Hendrick with Department of Human Services, Gene Christian with the Office of Juvenile Affairs and Toni Frioux of the State Department of Health.

Forum workshops will focus on five policy priorities for Oklahoma’s children selected by an online vote earlier this year: child health; child safety; mental health; early care and education; and maternal and infant health. Participants will work in breakout sessions on the five issues, culminating in a policy/strategy vote. The forum will also include a grassroots coalition training session.

The keynote speaker is Michelle Aguilar, winner of season six’s “Biggest Loser” competition.  Her inspirational speech will motivate others to find their own voice and inner-strength as child advocates, community members and business leaders committed to OICA’s mission in providing strong voices for Oklahoma’s children.

Go to to register and see the full agenda.

Visualizing where the money goes

by | July 7th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (4)

Every year during state budget discussions, state leaders speak about prioritizing spending to protect core services. That’s especially true when times are bad and the overall budget pie is shrinking. However, the distribution of that pie among agencies over the past decade has remained relatively unchanged (with a couple notable exceptions).

A series of visualizations created with the online tool Many Eyes illustrates this fact well. The graphs are derived from data compiled by OK Policy on the percentage of total state appropriations received by the ten largest agencies, plus another category for all other agencies, from FY ’00 to FY’12.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger, interactive version.

FY '12 Appropriations Percentages

continue reading Visualizing where the money goes

The Weekly Wonk – March 4, 2011

by | March 4th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

While tax day is still over a month away, the state tax structure got some serious attention this week from OK Policy.  Gene Perry made the case for sales tax reform in an Okahoman op-ed this weekend, citing a new issue brief that the sales tax doesn’t raise enough revenue to fund core public services and fails to evenly distribute the costs of governing.  The state income tax is set to be slashed again in January 2012; our new fact sheet, Cutting Oklahoma’s top income tax rate: Who benefits?, reports that the bulk of the cut goes to the top 1 percent, while forty-three percent of Oklahomans receive no tax cut at all.  Unless the legislature acts, the cut will reduce available revenues for FY’12 by $38 million, and when fully phased-in, by $120 million.  OK Policy’s perspective was also included in a Tulsa world editorial chastising state leadership for a top rate tax cut in a time of budget distress.

State spending as a share of the overall economy will reach a 30-year low in 2011, according to a fact sheet released on Wednesday.  While many in the state have cautioned that government shouldn’t be allowed to grow faster than the economy, the data reveals that the exact opposite is occurring, as 2011 marks the lowest percentage of state appropriated spending as a share of personal earnings in thirty years.  In fact, we may have reached a point where we are not making the investments in the core public services that support Oklahoma families, businesses, and communities.  An editorial in the Oklahoman on Thursday contends, “Not everyone will find this as alarming as does Blatt, but his point is well taken.”

continue reading The Weekly Wonk – March 4, 2011

Cutting the top income tax rate: Who benefits?

by | March 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (13)

[UPDATE: You can download ITEP’s analysis here.]

Yesterday the Senate voted to abolish the state income tax after Sen. Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa) introduced the measure as an amendment to another bill. With public services heavily dependent on income tax and no immediate revenue prospects to replace it, the language will likely be removed before the bill is finalized. Democrats introduced the amendment (which they do not support) in an attempt to show that the tax cut rhetoric of the Republican majority is not compatible with responsible budgeting and the needs of public services.

While that is a political fight that will not have immediate repercussions on policy, it mirrors the trend of successive smaller cuts that have significantly reduced the income tax over time. From 2004 to 2006, the top income tax rate was cut from 6.65 percent to 5.5 percent. Unless the legislature acts to stop it, another state income tax cut will take effect January 1, 2012. The cut, which was triggered when the state projected that revenue will rise by more than 4 percent next year, would reduce the top rate to 5.25 percent.

continue reading Cutting the top income tax rate: Who benefits?

Unfair, inefficient, and bad for business: Why Oklahoma needs sales tax reform

by | February 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

Oklahoma’s tax system is broken. Despite a recovering economy, the state is unable to raise enough revenue to sustain core public services. The strains will only increase over time as we cope with a rapidly aging population, unfunded pension obligations, and decaying infrastructure.

But inadequate revenues is not the only problem. It’s just as important that the cost of supporting government is fairly distributed and does not privilege some businesses or individuals over others without good justification.

As we explain in an issue brief released today, Oklahoma’s sales tax has fallen victim to both of these problems. The economy has evolved so that services and online goods which are not covered by the sales tax make up a larger proportion of purchases. In addition, the legislature has granted a growing number of exemptions, many with questionable economic rationale. One report found that just 35.7 percent of all purchases in Oklahoma were covered by the sales tax in 2003, compared to 52.0 percent in1990. Trends in the economy make it likely that the situation has only gotten worse since then.

continue reading Unfair, inefficient, and bad for business: Why Oklahoma needs sales tax reform

The Weekly Wonk

by | February 18th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments Off

Since it’s such a busy time for Oklahoma Policy Institute, we’ve decided to dedicate a blog post to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

In state budget news, Tuesday’s blog reviews the latest monthly report of General Revenue (GR) collections, where for the 11th straight month revenue collections surpassed those of the same month a year ago.  Two caveats are in order: personal income tax collections remain sluggish, and revenues continue to come in far below pre-downturn levels.  Click below to watch our Director David Blatt on OETA this past week analyzing the latest budget numbers or see our newly-updated Budget Trends and Highlights for a concise overview of the state’s fiscal situation.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk

Do parties matter less than we think?

by | June 4th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (0)

In the heat and passion of the legislative session, the battles that divide the political parties tend to grab the spotlight. This year, for the first time in history, Republicans controlled both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature. The session featured the Republican majority pursuing a wide range of policy priorities that had long been out of reach while the Democrats controlled the Legislature (pre-2004) and, more recently when control of the chambers was divided (2004-08): examples include tort reform, prohibitions on embyronic stem cell research, education deregulation, voter ID requirements, and term limits for statewide officeholders. Many of these issues pitted  Republican lawmakers against their Democratic counterparts and/or Governor Brad Henry.

Yet without minimizing the legitimate and heartfelt differences that divide the parties on many issues, if you look at budget and tax policies, the story looks rather different. Here the Legislature and Governor reached an agreement that used over $640 million in federal stimulus dollars to maintain funding for vital state services while increasing overall spending by 1.5 percent. In the context of declining state revenues, no significant tax cut measures were adopted this session. It’s hard to imagine the outcomes being significantly different had Democrats been in control of one or both chambers.

As a very rough, preliminary attempt to measure whether party control affects budget decision, we went back through the appropriations history and compared the allocation of appropriated funds between the subcommittees  over the course of this decade as party control of the Governor’s office, House, and Senate has changed. Have funding decisions  changed significantly as Republicans have assumed the Chairmanships of the key appropriations committees?  What we found suggests not.

continue reading Do parties matter less than we think?


by | May 5th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

kfc2Recently, Louisville, KY negotiated a deal with Kentucky Fried Chicken to have KFC pay to fill in pot holes in exchange for the right to advertise on those potholes. Upon hearing this, the first thought I had was about the ugliness of the advertising that accompanies the over commercialization in our society. However, a few days later, I heard an NPR story about another creative advertising scheme.

“In a cash-strapped Idaho high school, where signs taped near every light switch remind the staff to save electricity, an enterprising teacher has struck a sponsorship deal with a local pizza shop: Every test, handout and work sheet he passes out to his students reads MOLTO’S PIZZA 14″ 1 TOPPING JUST $5 in bright red, inch-high letters printed along the bottom of each page.”

moltoIs it really that bad? Is that really how we want to finance education in this country? We should all be thankful that, in Oklahoma, we haven’t pitted properly funding such a critical public service as education against selling advertising and endorsing something that may not be healthy for our children. Could you imagine if the schools were so underfunded that they relied on the revenue from Coca-Cola or Pepsi to make their budgets? Could you imagine if we, as a community, were so unwilling to pay the necessary amount required to ensure that our next generation was properly educated and healthy that we were willing to allow them to fill their maturing bodies with caffeine and corn syrup and potato chips just so that the school districts could get the revenue from soda companies and vending machines? Let’s be thankful that we have not become that off base in our priorities…or have we?

What's happening on Lincoln Boulevard?

by | April 22nd, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

Right now at the state Capitol, the Legislature is working on a tough budget for the upcoming fiscal year, 2010. It often seems nothing is happening from the time the governor submits a budget in February until an agreement rises from the Capitol as if a new pope had been elected, usually in early May. What’s going on in there? An upcoming product from OK Policy will shed light on this and many other mysteries of Oklahoma budget and taxes.

OK Policy will soon release the Online Guide to Oklahoma Budget and Taxes. We’re excited about this first of its kind online guide to how government finance and policy work in Oklahoma. It’s a simple, plain-English look at government spending, revenues, budget processes, and important policy issues Oklahoma faces in  the years ahead. It will be  different from any other product on Oklahoma budget and taxes because 1) it will cover all state spending, not just appropriations; 2) it will include basics on local governments–what they do and how they are financed; 3) it will take a serious look at two major problems–our inequitable tax system and the looming  long-term fiscal deficits at every level of government–and offer serious options for addressing them; and 4) it will be online, so it can be readily updated, linked to sources for more information, and easily searchable.

continue reading What's happening on Lincoln Boulevard?

Numbers You Need – April 2009

by | April 16th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Numbers You Need | Comments (0)

Numbers You Need is a monthly publication from OK Policy that presents key data on the state’s economy, work force, human services, and budget in one concise easy-to-read fact sheet.

April’s edition of Numbers You Need provides further evidence of the worsening economic situation in Oklahoma and the nation. The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate hit 5.5 percent in February, which is up from 5.0 percent in January but still well below the national rate of 8.1 percent. Personal income for the final quarter of 2008 rose by 0.1 percent in Oklahoma and fell by 0.2 percent nationally. Meanwhile, state revenue collections in March fell steeply for the third straight month, coming in 19.1 percent below last year’s amount and 17.2 percent below the certified estimate. The silver lining may be that inflation in the South region rose by 0.5 percent in February due in large part to rising energy prices, taming fears of deflation and providing some hope that the oil and gas sector may be rebounding.

continue reading Numbers You Need – April 2009

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