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The Weekly Wonk: Follow the new legislative session with OK Policy’s 2018 Legislative Primer

by | February 9th, 2018 | 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

The legislature returned to the Capitol on Monday and it’s been a busy week at OK Policy! If you’re looking to follow along this session, we released our 2018 Legislative Primer this week to help with that. We also issued statements on Governor Fallin’s State of the State address and the changes to the Step Up Coalition Plan that were announced this week. The plan now includes a restoration of the EITC – Strategy & Communications Director Gene Perry explained why that’s a good thing.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update pointed out that the legislature’s first task will be cleaning up last year’s budget mess. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column reminded us that budget cuts made in previous years had real consequences – especially for public education.

Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison told us about Oklahoma’s rank in a new economic well-being scorecard released this week – we’re 40th and that’s not good. A guest post by RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor (advocates for parents of children with developmental disabilities) argued against proposed changes to the leadership structure of state health agencies.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt sat down to chat with Public Radio Tulsa about the new legislative session, and spoke with the Tulsa World about changes to the income tax code proposed by the Step Up plan. Outreach & Legislative Director Bailey Perkins talked with The Oklahoman about the budget challenges that are still on the table as the legislature returns for regular session.

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As legislative session begins, the first business is cleaning up last year’s budget mess (Capitol Update)

by | February 9th, 2018 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

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.

The legislative session started Monday, and it may be one of the most difficult ever. Legislators must clean up the budget mess left last year – which means supplemental appropriations for the health and human services agencies – before beginning this year’s budget. There should be some help there from the strong revenue finish the last few months of last fiscal year, but there is still a substantial shortfall to deal with.

The big item will be next year’s budget which will require, if it’s done right, tax increases. The good news is all except the most ardent anti-taxers recognize the problem. The bad news is there are quite a few ardent anti-taxers in the House where a tax bill must begin. Further difficulty will come from trying to agree on how much and which taxes to raise. The business community’s Step Up plan has given legislators, at least the Republicans, cover to raise taxes so long as legislators do not stray too far from their recommendations.

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In The Know: Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan takes a step forward

by | February 9th, 2018 | Posted in 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

Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan takes a step forward: The Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan took a step forward just before noon today. Multiple bills cleared the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, including an 83-page bill that could create $581 million for Fiscal Year 2019 if it passes the full House and the Senate next week. That, however, will be no easy task, as five of the seven Democrats on the House committee voted against the major tax proposal, which mirrors the major revenue bill that fell five votes short in November, with two primary differences. [NonDoc]

Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families: Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the amendment to HB 1037, the income tax component of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which passed out of House committee today: The move to restore Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit and other changes in this amendment will make it easier for low- and middle-income Oklahomans to support themselves and their families. [OKPolicy]

Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor): As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience. We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours. Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence. Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX, that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies. [OK Policy]

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Statement: Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Press Releases & Statements, Taxes | Comments (1)

For Immediate Release

Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the amendment to HB 1037, the income tax component of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which passed out of House committee today:

The move to restore Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit and other changes in this amendment will make it easier for low- and middle-income Oklahomans to support themselves and their families. These changes will ensure a more balanced tax code by helping those families who pay the biggest percentage of their earnings in sales and property taxes, while strengthening our investments in education and thriving communities.

Oklahoma can do even more to restore balance to the tax code, close loopholes, and invest in our communities by restoring a higher top rate for very high incomes and ending the expensive, ineffective capital gains exemption.

Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Healthcare | Comments (2)

RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor are advocates for families on the DDS (Developmental Disabilities Services) Waiting List.

As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience.   We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours.  Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence.

Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX,  that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies.  Current boards and commissions would devolve to agency advisory committees with no formal authority. HB 1027 would grant the Governor sole authority to appoint or terminate agency leadership at OKHCA, ODMHSAS, and a half dozen more agencies. This is one of the proposals being promoted by Step Up Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Legislative Committees To Take Up ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ Plan

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in 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

Legislative Committees To Take Up ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ Plan: State lawmakers are expected to pass a series of bills in committee Thursday, that would raise taxes and give teachers $5,000 annual pay raises. There are bills to increase taxes on wind energy and coal production. Income taxes will be impacted by another bill, and yet another bill will raise the taxes on tobacco. That was a sticking point in last year’s budget negotiations [News9]. State worker pay raise would help Step Up chances, group says [NewsOK]. Sooner Poll shows Step Up Oklahoma support, wind tax omitted [NonDoc]. Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy].

Business-Backed Plan to Increase Taxes Gets Broad OK From Oil Groups After Expanding Discount: After getting concessions, a group of small independent oil and gas producers is now endorsing a suite of tax increases and government reforms written by a group of business leaders known as the Step Up Oklahoma plan. The plan calls for a 4 percent tax for the first three years of production. At first, many vertical well producers opposed this idea and backed State Question 795, which would ask voters to end all discounts and restore the standard 7 percent rate [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Step Up coalition’s new tax credit is a poor substitute for restoring the EITC: Just a few weeks ago, the Step Up Oklahoma coalition announced their plan for a variety of tax increases and reforms to resolve some of Oklahoma’s long-standing budget problems. Since then, the proposal has attracted support from a broad range of groups representing different parts of Oklahoma’s private and public sectors, and House leaders have promised that they will vote quickly on the package [OK Policy].

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Step Up coalition’s new tax credit is a poor substitute for restoring the EITC

by | February 7th, 2018 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity, Taxes | Comments (0)

Just a few weeks ago, the Step Up Oklahoma coalition announced their plan for a variety of tax increases and reforms to resolve some of Oklahoma’s long-standing budget problems. Since then, the proposal has attracted support from a broad range of groups representing different parts of Oklahoma’s private and public sectors, and House leaders have promised that they will vote quickly on the package.

Several of the revenue ideas in the Step Up plan have been discussed in Oklahoma for years. The plan includes well-vetted ideas like increasing the cigarette tax to raise revenues while reducing smoking, increasing the gas tax which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in three decades, and partially rolling back Oklahoma’s unnecessary tax breaks for oil and gas drilling. However, the plan also includes changes like a first-of-its-kind production tax on wind energy and a complex set of changes to the income tax that haven’t been nearly as well-vetted.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin’s budget proposal includes $288 million for teacher raises

by | February 7th, 2018 | Posted in 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

Gov. Fallin’s budget proposal includes $288 million for teacher raises: Gov. Mary Fallin played the opening gambit in the annual chess match called the Oklahoma legislative session on Monday. She pushed out some big pieces — a $700-million revenue package, $288.5 million for teacher raises and the promise of making it through a budget year without digging through sofa cushions for nickels and dimes [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma needs a plan to increase teacher pay that is backed by identified recurring revenue [OK Policy].

Wind Group Pushes Back Against Proposed Gross Production Tax for Renewable Energy: A wind power organization said Tuesday they support a fair tax structure, but the Step Up Oklahoma plan doesn’t offer that. Members of OK WindPower said the proposed $1 per megawatt hour gross production tax on renewable energy would be levied in addition to property taxes wind farms pay but oil and gas firms don’t. Former Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson said assets can’t be double taxed in Oklahoma, creating a problem for more than 50 schools where a wind energy business is the No. 1 taxpayer into county sinking funds [Public Radio Tulsa]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

Oklahoma slips in new economic rankings: Recent good news about gains the national economy – lower unemployment, small declines in the poverty rate, and a booming stock market – is not reflected here in Oklahoma. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard paints a picture of many Oklahoma families struggling to make ends meets and build a better future for themselves. Oklahoma’s 40th place ranking is a decline from our 37th place score last year – which itself was a decline from 34th the year before [OK Policy].

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Oklahoma slips in new economic rankings

Recent good news about gains the national economy – lower unemployment, small declines in the poverty rate, and a booming stock market – is not reflected here in Oklahoma. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard paints a picture of many Oklahoma families struggling to make ends meets and build a better future for themselves. Oklahoma’s 40th place ranking is a decline from our 37th place score last year – which itself was a decline from 34th the year before.

The Prosperity Now Scorecard uses the most recent data available from several sources to offer the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, move out of –and stay out of – poverty, and create a more prosperous future. It also evaluates 53 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing their residents.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin calls on Legislature to pass budget proposed by Step Up coalition

by | February 6th, 2018 | Posted in 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

Gov. Fallin calls on Legislature to pass budget proposed by Step Up coalition: Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday called on lawmakers to quickly find a compromise to fix the state’s budget problems. She called it a defining moment for the state. “The time to act is now,” she said in remarks released before her State of the State address to a joint session assembled in the House chamber. “No more delaying. No more putting things off. No more kicking the can down the road. No more addressing long-term budget problems with short-term solutions. We can do this, and we must do this now.” Fallin, the state’s first female governor, delivered her eighth and final State of the State address to the second regular session of the 56th Legislature [Tulsa World]. OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt released a statement saying that Governor Fallin has identified the right goals for this year’s legislative session [OK Policy]. Annotating Fallin’s State of the State speech [Oklahoma Watch].

Five takeaways from the first day of legislative session: Monday marked the start of the second regular session of the 56th Legislature, and it began with Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address. The 2018 regular session opens with Oklahoma facing a major budget hole, which Fallin told the Legislature they were primarily responsible for fixing. However, problems with the state budget have persisted through four regular sessions (and two specials) as legislators have struggled to fill consecutive budget shortfalls [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Legislature leaders optimistic of a compromise following State of the State: Leaders in the Oklahoma legislature hope for compromise following Governor Mary Fallin’s final State of the State address. The governor delivered her eighth State of the State address Feb. 5 to kick off the second regular session of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature. Fallin spent several minutes during the speech urging legislators to work for a compromise and pass the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan. The plan was proposed by a group of community and business leaders to fund education, public safety, health and infrastructure needs [KOKH].

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