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All articles by Courtney Cullison

The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have many good options to fill the budget hole during special session

by | September 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry reminded us that lawmakers have many good options to fill the budget hole during special session – but they will need to find the will to use them. In a Tulsa World editorial, Executive Director David Blatt implored lawmakers to take advantage of this second chance and fix a budget that was not meeting the needs of Oklahomans even before the court’s ruling. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued that the worst thing legislators could do is adjourn special session without raising revenue to address the structural budget deficit.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt lamented that more and more Oklahomans have had enough – discouraged by year after year of budget cuts, Oklahomans are chosing to leave the state to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler walked us through the provisions of State Question 788, the medical marijuana ballot initiative that Oklahomans will vote on next year.

Advocacy Alert

As the legislature enters special session on Monday, they have many options to fix the state’s structural budget deficit. But they need to hear from you – revenues must be raised in order to adequately fund core services. Click here to see our Advocacy Alert to find your legislators and to get more information.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have many good options to fill the budget hole during special session

In The Know: Still no budget agreement days before special session

by | September 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Still No Budget Agreement Days Before Special Session: The governor is ordering the legislature to return to session Monday to fill a roughly $215 million budget shortfall. But as of right now, there’s no plan. The state faces the shortfall after the Supreme Court struck down a last minute tobacco tax passed by republicans after negotiations broke down with democrats. Democrats refused to support the tobacco tax without an increase in the gross production tax; that is, the tax on the production of oil and natural gas. [News9] Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Democrats eyeing statewide vote to raise oil, gas tax rate: After repeated calls to raise the tax rate on oil and gas production to 7 percent, Democrats in the Oklahoma House said they might next push for a statewide vote. Raising the tax rate is part of House Democrats’ own budget plan, but despite pressure from both inside and outside the Capitol, Republican leadership has rejected those ideas. [The Oklahoman] How much new revenue will ending oil and gas tax breaks bring in? [OK Policy]

State’s New Education Plan Calls for Big Strides: Reducing schools’ use of emergency certified teachers by 95 percent and boosting high school graduation to 90 percent are some of the goals set by the state Education Department in its plan for education under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The state also proposes attacking hunger in schools and is considering forcing failing schools that are on a four-day school week to change their calendar. [Oklahoma Watch]

continue reading In The Know: Still no budget agreement days before special session

In The Know: Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax

by | September 18th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax: Gov. Mary Fallin issued a much-anticipated order Friday calling the Legislature into a special session on Sept. 25 to rectify a $215 million budget shortfall. In addition to an immediate budget solution, Fallin called on the Legislature to find a long-term fix to repeated budget shortfalls, find waste within state government, consider pay increases for K-12 teachers and amend a new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles. [The Oklahoman] Education advocates cheer inclusion of teacher pay in special session [The Oklahoman] Don’t waste second chance to get the budget right [OK Policy]

Agencies brace for cuts as lawmakers return in special session: State agencies are bracing for possible additional cuts during an upcoming special session, but are hopeful lawmakers can find revenue to avoid it. Lawmakers could attempt to pass revenue raising measures, cut state agencies to offset the blow to the three affected agencies or do nothing. They can also use $23 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund and $83 million in cash. [Tulsa World]

DHS Announces New Child Support Services Fee: In an attempt to balance its budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Friday it would charge a new fee on child support collections. “We’ve done everything internally and administratively that the agency can possibly do,” said Jeff Wagner, Child Support Services (CSS) spokesperson. “That leaves this fee as one of the very few remaining alternatives to being able to maintain a viable program.” [News9]

continue reading In The Know: Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax

The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma falls further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rate

by | September 15th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry informed us that Oklahoma has fallen further behind the nation as a whole on poverty and the uninsured rate, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Executive Director David Blatt adds that the loss of federal funds to prevent teenage pregnancy means we’re likely to undo much of the progress we’ve made on that front as well.

Blatt explained that the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent rulings striking down the cigarette fee and upholding the removal of a sales tax exemption for motor vehicles strike a balance on the taxation rules put in place by State Question 640. Blatt also pointed out the importance of government and its programs, especially during disasters – because there are no libertarians in a flood zone. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update laments the lack of progress that has been made on criminal justice reform.

OK Policy in the News

Perry was interviewed by the Stillwater News Press and Public Radio Tulsa about Oklahoma’s lack of progress on poverty and the uninsured rate – at a time when the national average was going down, our numbers were flat and still higher than the national average.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma falls further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rate

The Weekly Wonk: Special session a second chance for lawmakers to get the budget right

by | September 10th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

After Governor Fallin’s announcement that she is calling a special session beginning September 25, OK Policy released a statement urging lawmakers not to waste this second chance to get the budget right. State Question 640 is a significant hurdle to good budgeting in Oklahoma, and Rep. Marcus McEntire argued in a guest post that it’s time to revisit SQ 640 so government can work effectively for its citizens. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler implored Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA recipients after President Trump’s decision last week to end the DACA program.

Executive Director David Blatt suggested in his Journal Record column that the recent court decision upholding the partial repeal of the state sales tax exemption on motor vehicles should be seen as a blow to special interests – they can no longer argue that their tax exemptions have special constitutional protection. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argues that the court decision sets a new course for Oklahoma politics – the majority party now has leeway to remove tax exemptions (effectively raising taxes) with only a majority vote.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman about the Legislature’s options for fixing the budget in special session – lawmakers have many good options, like removing some tax exemptions that don’t benefit the average Oklahoman. The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University cited OK Policy data in an editorial expressing disapproval of the President’s decision to end DACA.

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

by | September 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy issued a statement following Thursday’s ruling upholding a law that partially ends the state sales tax exemption for auto sales – the ruling confirms that lawmakers have many options to fill the budget hole in a special session. Policy Director Gene Perry argued that, if lawmakers wait until the next regular session to address the budget hole, it will be too late.  The longer we wait to fix the problem, the worse it will get.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt found reason for optimism in Oklahoma’s recent attempts to make the Affordable Care Act work better for Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update was  less optimistic about Oklahoma’s approach to education policy – inadequate school funding and a lack of support for teachers has led Oklahoma to an education crisis.

OK Policy in the News

The Guardian used OK Policy materials for a story about the fiscal crisis in Oklahoma, and Blatt was interviewed by WHSU public radio about the crisis.  Connecticut is also facing fiscal challenges, though for different reasons.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler spoke with Public Radio Tulsa about disparities in court debt between affluent and poor neighborhoods in Tulsa. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Occupational Licensing Task Force was mentioned by the Oklahoman Editorial Board for their editorial in support of licensing reform.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

In The Know: Court upholds motor vehicle sales tax, OK prison population reaches all-time high

by | September 1st, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

In The Know will take a break on Monday for Labor Day.  We will return on Tuesday, September 5th. 

Today In The News

State supreme court upholds elimination of sales tax exemption: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of a bill that eliminates a sales tax exemption on motor vehicle sales, denying challenges to a piece of legislation expected to raise $124 million this fiscal year. Oklahomans pay a 3.25 percent excise tax when they purchase a vehicle, but were exempt from paying a 1.25 percent state and local sales tax. House Bill 2433, which removes the exemption, was challenged by the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association. [Norman Transcript] Court ruling confirms that Oklahoma lawmakers have good options to fix budget in special session [OK Policy]

Oklahoma’s prison population reaches all-time high: The number of people in Oklahoma’s corrections system topped 63,000 for the first time on Thursday, the Department of Corrections said. Thursday’s count of 63,009 means the system has grown by almost 2,000 prisoners in the past nine months, prompting DOC Director Joe Allbaugh to ask “What are we to do?” [Tulsa World] What works to stop crime? Not incarceration…[OK Policy]

Low Pay, Charity, and Emergency Certificates for Oklahoma Teachers: Oklahoma teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. They haven’t had a raise in more than 10 years. ow charities are stepping in to rescue teachers who are struggling to make ends meet, according to the Associated Press. Habitat for Humanity has built homes for two Tulsa teachers, and has received applications from about a dozen more. [Education Week] When K-12 schools are underfunded…[OK Policy]

continue reading In The Know: Court upholds motor vehicle sales tax, OK prison population reaches all-time high

The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts are putting higher ed out of reach for many Oklahoma students

by | August 27th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Executive Director David Blatt  reminded us that, after the recent events in Charlottesville, that addressing racial inequality requires more than simply denouncing overt white supremacy. Blatt also pointed out that recent tuition hikes as a result of budget cuts to higher education are making college unaffordable for many Oklahoma students.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam introduced us to reinsurance – part of Oklahoma’s plan to lower health insurance premiums and attract more insurers to offer policies on the healthcare exchange in Oklahoma. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler brought to light that pattern of court debt in Oklahoma – residents of poor areas are much more likely to be facing high levels of court debt than other Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update talked us through the multiple ways that a special legislative session could play out this year.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke twice this week with the Oklahoma News Report on OETA – about severe cuts in state support for higher education and about the $215 budget hole now facing the state since the court finding that the cigarette fee was an unconstitutional tax. Blatt also talked with the Tulsa World and with The Oklahoman about how we ended up with the budget shortfall and our options for dealing with it.

OK Policy data was used by the U.S. News & World Report for a piece about the connection between Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and school science curriculum in the state. Gentlzer was interviewed by the Journal Record for their coverage of Kris Steele’s appointment to the Pardon & Parole Board – there is a bottleneck in the parole process in Oklahoma that needs to be addressed. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Reform Task Force was covered by the Journal Record – this is an issue where there is bipartisan consensus.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts are putting higher ed out of reach for many Oklahoma students

In The Know: Doerflinger says Oklahoma must broaden its tax base, What to watch in potential school funding lawsuit

by | August 21st, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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

Doerflinger says Oklahoma must broaden its tax baseOklahoma has shown signs recently that it has turned the corner after a sharp economic downturn, but State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger warns that the underlying problems remain. “There’s so many good things occurring in this economy,” he told KRMG Wednesday, “but as far as the general revenue fund goes, which is what we use to fund state government, we’re not seeing the types of collections come into that that we need to as rapidly to really, really turn this thing – from a state funding standpoint – around.” [KRMG] The Save our State Coalition proposed new revenues as part of their Better Budget Blueprint [Save Our State]

What to Watch in Potential School Funding Lawsuit: A school funding lawsuit, like the one being considered by the Oklahoma City Public Schools board, threatens to force the state Legislature to find more money for schools — a maneuver attempted in nearly every state with varying degrees of success. The district announced Thursday its board plans to pursue legal action against the Legislature, and specifically House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, due to unfunded legislative mandates, especially items like textbooks. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too. [OK Policy]

Parole board vacancies concern defense attorneys: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is short two members, and some criminal defense attorneys said that could create a burden for defendants and prisoners. The board can’t meet unless three members are present. This has prevented hearings only one month in the past year, when officials had to cancel the April docket and postpone each of those hearings until May. Defense attorneys are less concerned about the possibility that hearings could become more difficult to schedule. They said that having only three members on the board could make it more difficult to get the requisite positive votes. [Journal Record]

continue reading In The Know: Doerflinger says Oklahoma must broaden its tax base, What to watch in potential school funding lawsuit

The Weekly Wonk: Legislature has a second chance to fix the state budget

by | August 20th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Summer Intern Leslie Briggs advocated for bail reform as a solution to over crowded jails – about 80% of Oklahoma County jail inmates haven’t yet been convicted of a crime, but can’t afford bail to get out of jail while they await trial. Executive Director David Blatt walked us through some of the options that might be taken up in special legislative session to fix the budget hole created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s finding that the $1.50 per pack cigarette fee is unconstitutional. 

In his Journal Record column, Blatt implores the legislature to make good use of this second shot at the state budget and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the regular session. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update echoes that theme, encouraging lawmakers to avoid political gamesmanship and engage in real statesmanship to fix our budget crisis.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was a guest on Studio Tulsa to discuss the legislature’s options for filling the budget hole that was created by the striking down of the cigarette fee – you can listen to the entire episode here. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman and the Red Dirt Report about the state of education funding in light of the petition drive in Oklahoma City proposing a temporary city income tax to raise money for teacher stipends.

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