In The Know: State Supreme Court OKs vote on penny education tax

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

Sales tax petition for education to move forward, court rules: An initiative petition to let voters decide whether to increase the sales tax to fund education can move forward, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. OCPA Impact, the lobbying arm of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, had challenged the proposal, saying it violated the constitution because it contained more than one subject. The court ruled 6-3 that it embraced one subject [Tulsa World]. Although additional funding for education is badly needed, raising the sales tax will most hurt Oklahoma families who are already struggling [OK Policy].

Tax cuts now reducing state revenues by over $1 billion per year: A new report by OK Policy finds that the cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually. Repeated tax cuts and shrinking state budgets have left state services severely weakened, even before next year’s expected massive budget shortfall that could reach or exceed a billion dollars. These billion-dollar tax cuts have come at the direct expense of funding for core public services that are important for the prosperity and well-being of Oklahomans [OK Policy]. Oklahoma Watch covered the report here.

DHS offers buyouts to employees due to budget cuts: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has implemented an agencywide voluntary employee buyout offer to help it deal with a projected shortfall of about $40 million by 2017. In December, state agencies were told to make reductions of 3 percent based on low projected state income. For DHS, this is about $18.7 million less in state funding, triggering a loss in federal matching money for a total of $28.1 million [Tulsa World]. Read the full press release here.

Oklahoma City Public Schools hit hard by mid-year budget cuts: Budget cuts will cost Oklahoma City Public Schools about $1.5 million in state aid and that amount could grow to $4 million in the coming weeks, district officials warned Monday night. Oklahoma’s largest school district learned earlier in the day it will receive a mid-year payment of $105,490,673 instead of $107,059,553, a difference of $1,568,880, according to figures provided by the state Education Department [NewsOK]. Oklahoma leads the nation in per-pupil education cuts since the recession [OK Policy].

Norman High’s Sheehan finalist for national teacher award: An Oklahoma teacher is one step closer to receiving the profession’s highest honor. Shawn Sheehan of Norman High School today was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. Since being named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in August, Sheehan has traveled the state speaking with future educators about the profession. One of his many goals is to shine a positive light on teaching [Norman Transcript]. 

Acting Tulsa County sheriff abruptly retires after ‘contentious’ budget meeting with county: Budget concerns at the Tulsa Jail prompted a heated meeting Monday between Tulsa County and Sheriff’s Office officials, with the acting sheriff unexpectedly announcing his retirement Tuesday morning. A news release from the county stated that Weigel told county commissioners he has put in countless hours since stepping in for former Sheriff Stanley Glanz “but at this time, his family needs him” [Tulsa World].

Corporation Commission, SandRidge working on disposal well, earthquake settlement: Oklahoma officials and SandRidge Energy Inc. are working on a possible settlement that could resolve a monthlong dispute over whether the energy company should voluntarily shut down saltwater disposal wells in an area of recent earthquake activity. “Talks are underway,” Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said Tuesday. “Obviously, we’d like to avoid a protracted court battle if at all possible” [NewsOK].

Study finds wind turbines are blowing tax money toward Oklahoma counties: Wind farms are blowing hundreds of millions of dollars into school districts and county coffers, while also giving Oklahoma a growing source of alternative energy, according to a study looking at the impact of wind production in western Oklahoma. Since 2004, wind-energy companies have paid nearly $134 million in ad valorem taxes, increasing revenues for local schools and mostly rural counties, said Shannon Ferrell, a professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics [Enid News].

Democrat J.J. Dossett elected in state Senate District 34: Owasso teacher J.J. Dossett on Tuesday became the first Democrat since 1990 elected to the state Senate from north Tulsa County’s District 34. With all but one of 35 precincts reporting, Dossett had 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Republican David McLain. The unusual January special election was to fill a vacancy created by last summer’s resignation of Republican Rick Brinkley [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I am extremely proud of our dedicated DHS employees. Year after year, they have responded to reductions in the workforce by taking on more and trying to ensure that our clients do not suffer.  However, at some point, there is a human limit to what they can continue to do at the same level of quantity and quality.”

– Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake, on mid-year cuts that, combined with the loss of federal matching funds, mean $28,070,000 in cuts to DHS (Source).

Number of the Day


Percent of the Oklahoma population age 16 and up who were part of the labor force (working or looking for work) in 2014

Source: Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In 21 states, local newspapers lack a dedicated D.C. reporter covering Congress: Recent shifts in the media landscape have meant big changes within the Washington press corps – including a decline in the number of Washington-based reporters who work for local newspapers. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of D.C.-based reporters for local newspapers around the country who are accredited by the Senate to cover Congress declined by 11%, according to data from the U.S. Senate Press Gallery, which accredits Capitol Hill journalists [Pew Research Center].

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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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