Skip to Content

All articles by David Blatt

What we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge

In late March, on the eve of an anticipated teacher walk-out, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a series of bills intended to provide pay raises for teachers, school support staff, and state employees. To pay for the raises, lawmakers approved a number of revenue measures, including HB 1010xx, which managed to overcome the three-quarter supermajority requirement for tax increases established under State Question 640.

In May, a group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite launched a veto referendum petition drive that, if successful, would submit HB 1010xx to a vote of the people to approve or reject the new law. This effort has been designated Repeal Petition 25 (R.P. 25); if it gets on the ballot, it will be State Question 799. On June 22nd, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the referendum petition, ruling that it was misleading and fatally flawed. The organizers subsequently announced that they were abandoning the petition effort, ensuring that both the tax increases and the pay raises would take effect on schedule.

This post addresses key questions related to the veto referendum effort. Language in bold reflects the Supreme Court’s June 22nd ruling, which renders moot much of the discussion on this page.  (Last Updated: July 9th)

continue reading What we know – and don’t know – about the revenue bill veto challenge

What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections

by | May 10th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (2)

The filing period for the 2018 elections concluded on April 13th, one day after the Oklahoma Education Association announced the end to the two-week teacher walkout that brought tens of thousands of educators and their supporters to the Capitol on a daily basis. Many teachers vowed to turn their energy to the upcoming election campaigns, committing themselves to work to support pro-education candidates on the primary and general election ballots.

We don’t know yet what impact the mobilization of educators, or other local and national trends, will ultimately have on the election results, but here are five things we do know about the 2018 elections:

continue reading What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections

The FY 2019 Budget: Been down so long this looks like up

by | May 2nd, 2018 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

In the 1960s, the New York City poet and folksinger Richard Fariña published a novel titled “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.” This title certainly applies to Oklahoma’s FY 2019 state budget, approved by the House and Senate last week. After several straight years of large shortfalls and repeated rounds of budget cuts, including mid-year cuts the past three years, lawmakers were finally able to pass a budget that kept funding for all agencies at least flat, provided modest increases for some critical programs and services, and included over $350 million for teacher pay raises.

State agencies next year will be appropriated a total of $7.567 billion in SB 1600, which is the annual General Appropriations bill. This is an increase of $718.5 million (10.5 percent) compared to the initial FY 2018 budget approved last May, and an increase of $601 million (8.6 percent) compared to the final FY 2018 budget, which included various mid-year cuts and increases. Next year’s appropriations will be the largest in state history, surpassing the $7.235 billion budget in FY 2015; however, when adjusted for inflation, next year’s budget remains 9.4 percent ($788 million) below the budget of FY 2009.

continue reading The FY 2019 Budget: Been down so long this looks like up

Unheralded law puts increased funding in doubt

by | April 18th, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (3)

Image by photosteve101/Creative Commons via flickr

Lawmakers this year have approved over half a billion in new taxes to pay for a package of spending measures, including increased pay for teachers, support staff, and state workers, and increased operating support for schools. While the new obligations are almost fully funded for the first year, in future years legislators are counting on growth revenue from an expanding economy to meet the spending commitments they’ve already made and to do more for education and other critical priorities.

But leaving economic uncertainties aside, there’s a hitch. Under a law passed quietly in 2016, several hundred million dollars could be directed automatically to a new budget reserve fund in FY 2020, rather than being available to meet funding commitments. Unless lawmakers revisit the law this session, they may find themselves facing major unexpected budget problems a year from now.

continue reading Unheralded law puts increased funding in doubt

Will the teacher raise be delayed by a veto petition?

by | April 12th, 2018 | Posted in Education, Taxes | Comments (19)

Tom Coburn speaking at OK Taxpayers Unite press conference

[Note: The post has been edited to correct the information regarding HB 1024xx]

On March 28th, just hours before Oklahoma Senators were to vote on pay raises for teachers and other employees funded by new taxes, a group calling themselves “Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite” held a press conference at the State Capitol. Led by former-U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, the group warned lawmakers that they would lead a citizen initiative to overturn any tax increase. Senators disregarded the warning by approving HB 1010xx with the three-quarters support needed for revenue bills, and the Governor quickly signed the measure into law on  March 29th. But is the tax increase – the first to be approved by Oklahoma lawmakers in over 25 years – now in danger of being overturned at the ballot and dragging the pay raises down with it?

continue reading Will the teacher raise be delayed by a veto petition?

Oklahoma makes progress on collecting taxes from online sales

by | April 10th, 2018 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

This session has seen the Oklahoma Legislature take a couple of important steps towards addressing the problem of untaxed online sales. These bills and reforms from earlier sessions are moving Oklahoma closer to an even playing field when it comes to taxation of online purchases versus purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. But it’s an impending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that offers the best hope for a real and lasting solution to the problem.

continue reading Oklahoma makes progress on collecting taxes from online sales

The education funding package is a major step forward. There’s more work to do.

by | April 3rd, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Featured Budget & Tax, Taxes | Comments (3)

The Oklahoma Legislature last week passed a set of bills to provide pay raises to teachers, school support staff, and public employees funded primarily by a tax increase on tobacco, motor fuels, and gross production. Passage of the revenue bill was a truly landmark moment: it marked the first time that a major revenue bill has surpassed the three-quarters supermajority threshold for tax increases since passage of State Question 640 over a quarter-century ago, and it followed at least two years of intense but unsuccessful efforts to reach agreement on a grand bargain on the budget. More broadly, it signified a belated but clear recognition by Oklahoma lawmakers that renewed investment in education and other core services is critical for Oklahoma’s prosperity and requires significant new recurring revenue.

These bills mark a crucial step in tackling some of the state’s most urgent problems. But they in no way mark an end to the state’s budget challenges.  The new revenues fall short of fully funding new spending commitments. The state will also need additional revenue to balance this year’s budget and make greater investments in education and other needs in the future.

continue reading The education funding package is a major step forward. There’s more work to do.

Surviving measures to reform SQ 640 are a choice between bad and worse

by | March 22nd, 2018 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

For a brief moment, it looked as though there might be one silver lining to the ongoing state budget crisis. Over the past two years, a majority of legislators have voted repeatedly for tax increases needed to avert budget cuts and make investments in teacher raises, health care, and other urgent priorities. In every case, the votes fell short of the three-quarters support in both chambers required to raise revenue, a provision of the state Constitution since voter passage of State Question 640 in 1992.

As we entered the 2018 session, it looked like voters might get the chance to revisit SQ 640, which had been passed by a  narrow majority (56 percent) in a low-turnout election a generation ago. A rising swell of voices from both inside and outside the Legislature acknowledged that the state’s supermajority requirement, the most stringent in the nation, has made the state ungovernable by giving a small fraction of lawmakers veto power over the will of the majority.

continue reading Surviving measures to reform SQ 640 are a choice between bad and worse

Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout

by | March 15th, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Education, Taxes | Comments (17)

The Oklahoma Education Association last week called on the Legislature to support an ambitious proposal to increase funding for public education and state services. The association, which represents nearly 40,000 teachers and school employees across the state, warned that “If the Legislature cannot fund education and core state services by the legal deadline of April 1, we are prepared to close schools and stay at the Capitol until it gets done.” The Oklahoma Public Employees Association, which is the largest group representing state employees, has announced that their members would join the teachers’ walkout on April 2nd unless lawmakers pass a significant state employee pay raise.

Oklahoma’s tax and budget policies have led to the current crisis

The threatened actions by the two associations follow years of budget cuts that have left teachers and state employees severely underpaid and the schools and agencies they work for desperately ill-equipped to do their jobs. To cite just a few examples, Oklahoma teachers have not seen an increase in the minimum salary schedule in a decade and our teachers are now the third-lowest paid in the nation. State funding for school operations is $180 million less than a decade ago, and Oklahoma schools have absorbed by far the deepest cuts in per pupil general state funding in the nation. Most state employees have gone eight to ten years without a raise; during this time, average salaries for state employees have fallen to 24 percent below the competitive labor market. State employee turnover has reached 20.5 percent, which is a nearly 40 percent increase from a decade earlier.

continue reading Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout

Legislature should resist efforts to weaken agency independence

by | March 8th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Are Oklahomans better served by state agencies that preserve their independence or that are more directly subject to the Governor’s control? That’s the key question for Oklahoma legislators this session as they consider a series of bills that would fundamentally alter the appointment and governing authority for some of the state’s largest agencies.

Currently, most major agencies are governed by boards or commissions, with the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President Pro Tem of the Senate sharing appointment authority for board members. These boards have the authority to appoint and dismiss agency directors, as well as adopt the formal rules governing the agency’s operations, subject to review by the Governor and Legislature.

continue reading Legislature should resist efforts to weaken agency independence

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 74