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All articles by Gene Perry

SQ 640 has made Oklahoma ungovernable

by | December 14th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

In March 1992, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 640. It passed by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, but with nothing else on the ballot that day, there was very low turnout.

The total number of voters was less than one-third (32 percent) of registered voters in the state, and it was less than half (48 percent) of the number of voters who would turn out later that year for the Presidential election. For example, President Bill Clinton, who received just 34 percent of the vote in Oklahoma in 1992, still had nearly 100,000 more votes than State Question 640.

Nevertheless, the minority of Oklahoma voters who supported SQ 640 on that day has had a dramatic and long-lasting impact on our state.

continue reading SQ 640 has made Oklahoma ungovernable

Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education

by | November 30th, 2017 | Posted in Education, Education Basics, Featured Education | Comments (1)

Despite numerous promises by Oklahoma lawmakers that this would be the year they begin undoing K-12 education cuts and funding a desperately needed teacher raise, ultimately too many of our legislators refused to raise revenues. Unsurprisingly, a new update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for cuts to our state aid formula since before the Great Recession.

The report, aptly titled “A Punishing Decade for School Funding”, shows that 29 states are still providing less general school funding per student than they were in 2008. When it comes to general state aid — the most important funding source for Oklahoma schools’ daily operating expenses and the salaries of teachers and other school staff — Oklahoma’s cuts are by far the worst. After inflation and enrollment growth, our percentage cut to state aid increased this year to 28.2 percent. No other state even tops 20 percent.

continue reading Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education

Congressional tax plan would take Oklahoma’s budget mess national

by | November 17th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (2)

Oklahomans have learned the hard way what happens when you enact massive tax cuts without saying how you will pay for them. In the mid-2000s, we began slashing our top income tax rate. When Oklahoma first started cutting taxes, the economy was booming with revenues to spare. The tax cuts were also phased in with triggers over time, so we didn’t see the full cost right away.

With every passing year, it’s become harder to ignore the cost. In the past decade, Oklahoma’s made the largest cuts in the nation to K-12 school formula funding and higher education. Most state agencies now have 20 to 40 percent less funding compared to 2009. This year, Republicans and Democrats alike were talking about Oklahoma’s structural budget deficit and the ways that budget cuts are dismantling essential state services and harming Oklahoma families. That’s why a supermajority of legislators voted to raise taxes in special session (though in the House that vote was unfortunately just short of the super-supermajority required by State Question 640).

continue reading Congressional tax plan would take Oklahoma’s budget mess national

The EITC has been an unfortunate victim of Oklahoma’s budget gridlock

by | November 14th, 2017 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity, Taxes | Comments (0)

In 2016, Oklahoma lawmakers were struggling to pass a state budget amid a massive revenue shortfall. Sound familiar?

One of the measures taken by lawmakers in that year to fill their shortfall was making Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) non-refundable. The EITC is a tax credit designed to incentivize work and keep low-income working families out of poverty. It grows along with wage income up to a maximum level and then phases out gradually, so it never becomes a disincentive to earning more wage income.

Making the EITC non-refundable in 2016 saved about $25 million for the state budget, but only by undercutting a key poverty-fighting tool with a long history of bipartisan support and proven, long-lasting benefits for entire families. Refundability is critical to the success of the EITC because it allows the credit to reward work even if families have small state income tax bills — yet these families are all paying sales taxes, payroll taxes, and, directly or indirectly, property taxes as well.

continue reading The EITC has been an unfortunate victim of Oklahoma’s budget gridlock

How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan

by | November 9th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (4)

A new analysis of the Congressional GOP tax plan reveals that in Oklahoma, the wealthiest 1 percent will receive the greatest share of the total tax cut in year one, and their share would grow through 2027. The value of the tax cut would decline over time for every income group in Oklahoma except the very richest.

Republican Congress members are trying to sell this tax proposal, which will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, as a plan to boost the middle class. But a closer examination of the bill’s provisions reveals that it is laser-focused on tax cuts for the nation’s highest earning households. The wealthiest Oklahomans’ share of the tax cuts would grow over time due to phase-ins of tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich and the eventual elimination or erosion of provisions that benefit low-and middle-income taxpayers.

continue reading How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan

Statement: Lawmakers should respect wishes of the majority and pass revenue deal

by | November 8th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (4)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the Oklahoma House’s failure to pass HB 1054:

Most Oklahomans want a comprehensive solution to our budget crisis. The solution preferred by the majority would prevent deeper budget cuts, provide desperately needed raises for teachers and state employees, and put the whole state budget on firmer footing next year. Instead, State Question 640 has allowed a small number of hold-outs to block the popular will. Continuing gridlock will endanger life-saving health care services, add to next year’s budget hole, perpetuate the exodus of Oklahoma’s best teachers out of the state, and risk costly state credit downgrades.

Lawmakers still have time to reconsider the vote today. Allowing this plan to fail after coming so close would be a tragedy. We urge the lawmakers standing in the way of this deal to hear the thousands of advocates for mental health, disability care, and other crucial services who are communicating the dangers of more budget cuts. We urge them to respect the wishes of the majority and pass the only bipartisan consensus plan that has emerged from weeks of special session.

Reality Check: Restoring Oklahoma’s Gross Production Tax won’t hurt the economy

by | November 6th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

In a recent editorial, The Oklahoman newspaper accused critics of Oklahoma’s huge tax breaks for the oil and gas industry of ignoring reality. They wrote that the claim that oil and gas companies pay far less taxes in Oklahoma than in other states is “false upon inspection.” They go on to claim that removing the tax break would push investment out of Oklahoma. However, to justify their argument, The Oklahoman makes deeply flawed assumptions about Oklahoma’s taxes and the role of those taxes in decisions about drilling. Here are the facts.

continue reading Reality Check: Restoring Oklahoma’s Gross Production Tax won’t hurt the economy

Statement: Latest Republican budget plan ignores obvious solutions

by | October 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (4)

Oklahoma Policy Institute issued the following statement on the new budget proposal announced by Governor Fallin and Republican legislative leaders:

Since the beginning of special session four weeks ago, the bipartisan framework needed to end our budget emergency has been clear. Lawmakers must pair a cigarette tax increase with restoring some income taxes on very high earners and ending some of Oklahoma’s extraordinarily generous tax breaks for big oil and gas. These are the revenue options most popular with Oklahoma voters and most likely to win the needed super-majority approval in the Legislature.

That Governor Fallin and Republican legislative leaders chose not to offer this obvious plan is extremely discouraging for the Oklahomans in severe danger due to lawmakers’ budget deadlock. Foster families, people with mental illness, people who depend on rural hospitals, vulnerable seniors and children, teachers and state employees, and all of us among their friends and families deserve better.

Oklahoma’s structural budget problems will not be solved while lawmakers insist on asking nothing from the wealthiest households and most profitable businesses in our state. This proposal simply continues the political grandstanding that has prevented the obvious, popular, and fair solution preferred by a large majority of Oklahomans.

We’re encouraging Oklahomans to continue contacting lawmakers and visiting the Capitol if you are able. Click here for more information and ways to take action.

‘Neglected Oklahoma’ book release parties / Save the date for budget summit

by | October 20th, 2017 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

We’re excited to announce the release of a new book from Oklahoma Policy Institute! Neglected Oklahoma: Voices from the Margins is a collection of nineteen essays written for the OK Policy Blog over four years by Oklahoma City writer and social justice advocate Camille Landry. Each tells the story of an individual or family struggling with the kinds of troubles that pile up for those on the margins of our society. The essays are newly annotated by OK Policy staff with facts and data that give context to the personal stories.

Join us for the OKC release party on Nov. 7th, 6:30pm, at Full Circle Bookstore (RSVP here), or the Tulsa release party on Nov. 29th, 6:30pm, at Bound for Glory Books (RSVP here). You will hear remarks from Camille Landry, enjoy snacks, mingle with OK Policy staff, and be able to purchase a signed copy. If you can’t make it to either event, you can also purchase a copy online here.

continue reading ‘Neglected Oklahoma’ book release parties / Save the date for budget summit

Oklahoma taxes are the lowest in our region, and falling

by | October 18th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (2)

This week the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services began alerting care providers that they will have to shut down the state’s entire outpatient behavioral health system, with just a few exceptions, if lawmakers don’t find ways in special session to fill the agency’s $75 million budget hole. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is planning to cut rates paid to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes by 9 percent — a scenario that would likely put more rural hospitals out of business at a time when pregnant women in rural Oklahoma already are being forced to travel long distances for basic care. Teachers are continuing to flee the state as one study found those who left Oklahoma are making on average $19,000 more per year.

With headlines like these, few can dispute that Oklahoma’s state budget is deeply deficient. The details of how Oklahoma ended up in its latest budget mess are complicated. However, the big picture reason why Oklahoma struggles year after year to fund basic services is simple — we’ve slashed our revenue base.

continue reading Oklahoma taxes are the lowest in our region, and falling

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