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Why shouldn’t women be allowed to talk about wages with their co-workers? (Guest Post: Liz Waggoner)

Liz Waggoner

Liz Waggoner is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, the state’s leading advocacy organization for women and girls.

You might have missed it, but April 10th was Equal Pay Day in the United States.  Equal Pay Day indicates how far into the current year women must work to earn what men made in the previous year; in other words, women must work for 15 and half months to earn what a man earns in 12 months. This day exists because the gender wage gap is still a reality – in Oklahoma, women working full-time, year round earn just 77 percent of what men earn. Though multiple factors contribute to gender pay disparities, one of the reasons women make less than men is wage discrimination – employers paying women less than their male colleagues for the same job. It’s been illegal since 1963, but it can happen easily when wage and pay information is a secret.

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Signs of progress on reducing barriers to work in Oklahoma

Last fall, we told you about the work of the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Task Force, a group of leaders from the Legislature, state agencies, and private businesses that formed in 2016 to study occupational licensing in the state. The task force’s recommendations are now popping up in legislation this session, and this is very welcome news! These legislative efforts at licensing reform have the potential to help many Oklahoma workers — especially low-income workers — move into professions and occupations that have been off-limits to them due to the cost associated with a license or a criminal history.

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Health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy

by | July 5th, 2017 | Posted in Economy, Healthcare | Comments (0)

If you ask a person on the street what Oklahoma’s economy is known for, two industries likely to come to mind are oil and gas drilling and agriculture. Yet when we look at the jobs Oklahomans are working in today, those industries play a much smaller role than that common understanding might assume.

Agricultural jobs almost vanished in the 1990s and never came back, and today the industry is barely more than one percent of the state’s GDP. Oil and gas mining still makes up a sizable portion of the state GDP, and that sector provides a large segment of Oklahoma’s highest-paying jobs. However, when you look at what the average worker is doing to make a living in Oklahoma, oil and gas jobs aren’t in the top ten.

In those top ten sectors, the big story since the turn of the century for Oklahoma workers has nothing to do with the ups and downs of oil and gas. Instead, the most important trend for workers has been the steady rise of jobs in health care.

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Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

by | April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

Brenda Granger is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Today is Oklahoma Arts Day at the State Capitol.

Arts and culture promote civility and transcend all boundaries. Arts and culture bring people together. Arts and culture are rooted in partnerships of all kinds, especially public-private partnerships. Arts and culture organizations offer transformational experiences to everyone across our great state and beyond. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution. Funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), and through them, arts and cultural organizations in our state, is important to our Oklahoma education, economy, communities, workforce, and future.

Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy. In the next months, Oklahomans for the Arts, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and several arts and cultural organizations, will have the latest economic impact numbers to share. It is expected the numbers will exceed those of the last study in 2010 of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that showed that the industry had a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy, supported 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generated more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.

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“Prosperity Districts” won’t create prosperity for all…

The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering a bill, HB 2132, that would create “a grassfire of prosperity” in our state according to Representative Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia). But Oklahoma doesn’t need another grassfire.  They are unpredictable, dangerous, and usually leave behind a great deal of damage.

Under HB 2132, any landowner or group of landowners could file a petition with their county to create a district on their land – and once the district is created, they can make most of their own rules.  They would negotiate a revenue covenant with the state instead of paying state and local taxes, and the district would be governed by a governing board.

If county officials do not act to deny a petition to create or expand a “Prosperity District,” citing specific deficiencies within 20 days, it will automatically go into effect. That creates a lot of potential for powerful special interests to force through these Districts by overwhelming county officials with applications. Basically, this bill could allow corporations and other special interests to create their own governments – all they need is a bit of land.

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Watch out for wasteful tax giveaways disguised as help for ‘small business’

by | October 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Economy, Taxes | Comments (0)

Last week a press release from Governor Fallin advertised that she was participating in the “Bring Small Businesses Back Bus Tour” when it came to Oklahoma City. This tour is sponsored by the “Job Creators Network”, an association of corporate leaders started by the former presidential candidate Herman Cain and one of the founders of Home Depot. Governor Fallin’s press release especially focused on promoting H.R. 5374, a proposal by Illinois Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren that he calls the “Bring Small Business Back Tax Reform Act.”

Rep. Hultgren’s legislation would enact a large tax cut for “pass-through income” — the term for business income that is reported on the personal tax returns of the business owners. Business owners typically choose to pass through this income so they can pay a lower personal income tax rate than they would if it was taxed as normal business income. It’s already a lucrative tax break that is estimated to reduce federal tax revenues by more than $100 billion per year.

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State-tribal deal could end long dispute over water rights (Capitol Updates)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

When the federal lawsuit was filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in 2011 to stop an agreement between the State of Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City to allow OKC to receive water from Sardis Lake in Southeast Oklahoma, predictions were that it would tie up water policy in Oklahoma for many years. At stake was the tribes’ claimed ownership interest in public waters, including Sardis, located in their treaty areas. Many of these types of complex cases have taken decades to resolve, either by trial and appeal or by agreement.

But recently an announcement was made by the tribes, the state and OKC that a settlement had been reached. News coverage has not included the complex details, but generally the agreement retains the state’s primary authority to make agreements regarding the water, but it gives a role to the tribes in the management of the waters, largely dealing with conservation measures such as lake levels. The tribes will not be entitled to payment for water sold by the state.

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Upcoming Event: Sleeping Giant author on how the ‘new working class’ is transforming America

by | August 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, OK Policy, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

sleeping giant2There was a time when America’s working class was seen as the backbone of the economy with considerable political, economic, and moral authority. In recent decades, the working class has transformed as far more female and racially diverse workers have been employed by the restaurant, retail, health care, and other service industries. At the same time, this new working class has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits.

As Tamara Draut makes clear in an important and timely new book, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, this is changing, swiftly and dramatically. As the November election draws near, Tamara Draut will be visiting Oklahoma to discuss her book at a pair of public events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City:

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Confront the ‘parasite economy’ by raising the minimum wage

by | July 21st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Every three months, the ADP Research Institute releases its Workforce Vitality Index, a measure of private sector job and wage growth.  For the past two quarters, Washington state has led the nation in growing jobs and boosting wages, far outpacing the national average and such states as Texas, Florida, and California.

Why does this matter?   Because Washington state has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation at $9.47 an hour. And since April 2015, the city of Seattle has been moving towards a $15 minimum wage, with the current minimum ranging from $10.50 to $13 depending on employer size.  As the Workforce Vitality Index shows, businesses in Seattle and Washington state are thriving and generating more employment. Seattle’s restaurant industry — which fought the wage laws fiercely — is continuing to add jobs.

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Income inequality in Oklahoma has declined but there’s more work to be done

by | July 20th, 2016 | Posted in Economy, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Income inequality between people conceptKylie Thomas is an OK Policy intern and a Master’s student in economics at American University. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently released an updated report on income inequality in the U.S. by state, and the data shows improvements in Oklahoma. In 2012, income inequality in Oklahoma reached a historic high. The bottom 99 percent of Oklahomans were earning an average income of $41,995, while the top 1 percent were earning $1,105,521, which was 26 times greater. Overall, in 2012, Oklahoma ranked 12th highest in the nation for income inequality.  

However, Oklahoma’s income inequality gap narrowed in 2013 (the year of most recent data). To be considered part of the top 1 percent in 2013 in Oklahoma, an individual needed to make an income of at least $324,935. The average income of the bottom 99 percent rose nearly $3,000 to $44,849 and fell for the top 1 percent to $903,201, which is still 20.7 times greater than the bottom 99 percent. That’s a little more equal than overall in the U.S., where the average income of the top 1 percent was 25.3 times greater than the bottom 99 percent. Consequently, Oklahoma’s national rank improved from 12th to 15th most unequal.

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