In The Know: Lawmakers fear second revenue failure for current fiscal year

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

Lawmakers fear second revenue failure for current fiscal year: Lawmakers are concerned that a spiraling drop in oil prices could result in a second revenue failure for the current fiscal year. A number of scenarios to deal with it are under discussion, including additional cuts in general revenue to state appropriated agencies, House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, confirmed Wednesday. “If oil continues to drop, I feel there will be another revenue failure for 2016,” Sears said in response to questions about the budget [Tulsa World].  A revenue failure is the result of revenue collections coming in well below the official estimate upon which this year’s appropriations were based [OK Policy].

Suspend state income tax cut: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei has filed legislation to suspend a 0.25 percent income tax cut that went into effect Jan. 1. The proposal is politically brave and fiscally prudent, and we support it. Mazzei’s Senate Bill 1073 would back away from the cut in the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent and specify that such a reduction cannot occur in a year in which a revenue failure has been declared. It also raises the standard for the next scheduled income tax cut 5 percent to 4.85 percent [Tulsa World]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

SandRidge, Oklahoma Corporation Commission reach settlement on disposal wells: SandRidge Energy Inc. has agreed to close some disposal wells and convert others to research wells in a settlement announced Wednesday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The deal includes areas of earthquake activity in northern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City energy company said it would remove seven saltwater disposal wells from its operations [NewsOK].

Oklahoma County gets two-year reprieve to resolve jail issues: Impressed with initial steps civic leaders have taken to resolve Oklahoma County’s overcrowded jail and criminal justice issues, the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to postpone potential civil rights litigation for at least two years. Department of Justice officials agreed to the two-year grace period after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater went to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11 and spent three hours discussing how community leaders were committed to taking a holistic approach to resolving the county’s criminal justice issues rather than just building a bigger jail [NewsOK].

Legislation seeks to protect people’s property in seizures: People would be better protected from unfair police seizure of their property under bills to be considered by the Legislature this year, a lawmaker said Wednesday. Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said his legislation puts the burden on authorities to prove the seizure was correct. Current law places that burden on people whose property was seized, he said [NewsOK]. A large, bipartisan majority of Oklahomans favor reforming civil asset forfeiture laws to allow law enforcement to keep confiscated property only when a criminal conviction is achieved [OK Policy].

The right decision: Last week, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled that an initiative petition to fund education through a 1-cent sales tax increase can move forward. It was the right decision. The initiative petition, spearheaded by University of Oklahoma President David Boren, would create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund. All money generated by the new 1-cent sales and use tax would go to funding common education, early childhood education, career tech and higher education [David Blatt / Journal Record]. OK Policy’s statement on the proposal can be read here.

Tuition could increase again as shrinking state revenue affects higher education system: The state’s top higher education official doesn’t know whether shriveling state revenue will lead to tuition increases at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities, he said Tuesday. The state’s higher education system is now about two-thirds self-funded through tuition and fees and other revenue sources. State appropriations make up a little over a third of operating revenue [Tulsa World].

To improve Oklahoma’s health, we must reduce inequality: Chronic diseases create significant quality of life challenges to patients and families, are expensive to treat, and occur with uncomfortable frequency in Oklahoma. Given our state’s poor overall health rankings, it comes as no surprise that we have some of the highest occurrences of chronic disease in the nation. Evidence shows that social inequalities drive these troubling diseases. It is abundantly clear that improving Oklahoman’s health requires reducing inequality [OK Policy].

Devon Energy to Start Layoffs Amidst Downturn in Prices: Devon Energy has become another major energy company in Oklahoma to blink in the midst of the oil price downturn. The Oklahoma City based company confirmed Wednesday it is preparing to make layoffs over the next few months, calling it a “necessary part of the company’s near-term cost-management efforts.” It was eleven months ago when Devon announced during its fourth-quarter earnings report for 2014 that it planned a 20 percent cut in its exploration and production capital budget [OK Energy Today]. 

The Oklahoma Academy releases legislative recommendations: An organization that brings together people from across Oklahoma to consider pressing issues recommended Wednesday that the state improve its budgeting process, find more money for education and tax Internet sales. The Oklahoma Academy, a nonpartisan group founded by Gov. Henry Bellmon in 1967, had about 150 citizens examine how the state should better appropriate limited resources. The yearly public policy effort comes at a time when the state is facing a $900 million budget hole. A downturn in the oil industry has hurt the economy and reduced tax revenue [NewsOK].

Regional Food Bank founder, executive director announces retirement: In 1979, Rodney W. Bivens started picking up food donations and making deliveries in a half-ton pickup truck to sites feeding hungry Oklahomans. “I started picking up food at Safeway stores,” he said in a 2009 interview with The Journal Record. The pickup stayed busy for the next year, delivering 80,000 pounds of food to about 35 organizations. His efforts led him to found the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in 1980 [Journal Record]. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who don’t have access to enough food rely on the state’s food banks and other safety net programs [OK Policy].

Community Of Anadarko Heartbroken Over Recent Suicides: The city of Anadarko is struggling to make sense of four recent suicides involving young people in their town. “They’ve been violent and they’ve really shook the community to the core,” said Anadarko Police Chief Jason Smith [News9].

Former OKC Police Officer Convicted Of Sex Crimes Requests New Trial: A defense attorney for a former Oklahoma City police officer has filed a motion for a new trial one day before the former officer is set to be sentenced, sources tell News 9. Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of 18 felony charges including rape and sexual battery [NewsOn6]. 

Quote of the Day

“If oil continues to drop, I feel there will be another revenue failure for 2016.”

– Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, House Appropriations and Budget Committee (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who lived in metropolitan areas in 2013

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When the poor are forced to the suburbs, getting to work becomes a huge challenge: She set off on the latest day of job-hunting wearing tiny star-shaped earrings that belonged to her 18-month-old daughter and frayed $6 shoes from Walmart that were the more comfortable of her two pairs. In her backpack she had stashed a ham-and-cheese sandwich for lunch, hand sanitizer for the bus and pocket change for printing résumés at the public library. She carried a spiral notebook with a handwritten list of job openings that she’d titled her “Plan of Action for the Week.” It had been 20 months since Lauren Scott lost her apartment and six months since she lost her car and 10 weeks since she washed up at a homeless shelter in this suburb south of Atlanta with no money and no job [Washington Post].

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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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