In The Know: State Supreme Court hears arguments on 1-cent tax increase

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

Oklahoma Supreme Court hears arguments on 1-cent tax increase: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is deciding the constitutionality of a proposed initiative for a penny sales tax election to boost teacher salaries. Opponents say the proposal violates a part of the state constitution requiring that such measures embrace only one general subject. Backers say the subject is improving education in Oklahoma, even though the plan has several facets, including raising public school teacher salaries by $5,000, providing more money for higher education and vocational education and funding these changes through a penny increase in the sales tax [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s budget woes could hamper services, groups say: Groups expressed concern Wednesday that a revenue failure for the current fiscal year and large budget hole for the next fiscal year will seriously hamper the state’s ability to provide core services. Officials said the poor revenue outlook is a result of depressed oil prices. Others blamed revenue lost due to the Legislature’s unwillingness to reduce economic incentives that benefit certain groups and industries. Some pointed toward a series of cuts to the income tax [Tulsa World].

Study shows higher teacher pay would ease teacher shortage, boost student outcomes: Evidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma has become overwhelming and undeniable. Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per pupil state aid funding for public schools by almost one-quarter after inflation, the most of any state in the nation. The average pay for Oklahoma teachers is now third lowest in the nation and well below that of neighboring states [OK Policy]. This post is the second in a three-part series examining the reasons behind Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and what we can do to fix it; you can read the first post here

Same foundation that helped OK implement A-F school report cards now involved in system’s revision: Recommendations for revising Oklahoma’s controversial A-F school report card system are set for public release Thursday, but state officials say real change to the system is unlikely in 2016. In a surprise twist, officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Education say Superintendent Hofmeister sought out and is considering the input of the Jeb Bush-founded Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was heavily involved with Oklahoma’s initial implementation of the controversial A-F system, as well as new Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist [Tulsa World].

Gratias Deus pro Mississippi: While Oklahoma’s official motto is “Labor omnia vincit,” or “Labor conquers all things,” last week brought another sad reminder of why our unofficial motto seems to be “Gratias Deus pro Mississippi,” or “Thank God for Mississippi.” In a national score card of state health system performance released by the Commonwealth Fund, Oklahoma dropped to 50th place among all the states and the District of Columbia, surpassing only Mississippi [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Oklahoma Policy Priorities 2016: OK Policy is deciding our policy priorities for the coming year, and we want your input! Our staff has identified 25 issues in the six policy areas we focus on – budget and taxes, education, health care, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and voting and elections. We’ve provided a brief explanation for each issue. Please rate how high of a priority you think each of these issues should be for us in the coming months. We will use the results to guide our research and advocacy efforts in 2016 [Survey].

Register for the 2016 State Budget Summit: As Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session approaches, the state’s budget crisis is uppermost on the mind of policymakers and the public. Plummeting oil and gas prices are worsening budget problems that have plagued the state since at least the start of the last recession. The state may face its biggest shortfall since the oil bust of the 1980’s, without any simple or painless solutions to get us through. OK Policy’s 3rd Annual State Budget Summit will bring together experts and those affected by the budget crisis for a day of thoughtful discussion and exchange of ideas [OK Policy].

State compliant on most of Real ID requirements, panel told: Oklahoma is already largely compliant with the provisions of the controversial Real ID act, a Senate panel was told Tuesday. Lawmakers next session are expected to consider overturning a 2007 state law that said Oklahoma would not comply with federal legislation passed in 2005 that creates minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses. The federal legislation was the result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which the perpetrators used fake documents [Tulsa World].

Saint Francis, OU-Tulsa establish state’s first child-abuse pediatric fellowship: It’s been a tough year for the community systems — medical, social and judicial — trying to keep up with the amount of child abuse occurring in Tulsa and Oklahoma. An agreement reached last week between Saint Francis Hospital and the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa School of Community Medicine will expand the specialists and services provided for children who are abused. A key part is the establishment of a child-abuse pediatrics training fellowship through OU-Tulsa funded by Saint Francis [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“The only responsible path forward is to put new recurring revenue on the table and to reassess tax cuts and tax breaks that are becoming more unaffordable every day.”

– David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, on the state’s $900.8 million budget hole going into FY2017 (Source)

Number of the Day


Median gross rent for occupied rental housing units in Oklahoma in 2014

Source: Census Bureau.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Pickle Problem: Back when Susannah Morgan was running a food bank in Alaska, she always needed produce. But she didn’t get much produce. Instead, among other things, she got pickles. At the same time, other food banks got more produce than they knew what to do with. On today’s show: how a bunch of food bank directors, including at least one socialist, tried to figure out a better way to get food to hungry people. Their bold experiment? The free market [Planet Money]. A transcript of this episode is available here.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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