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This is Oklahoma’s last chance

by | November 7th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (1)

Note: This post has been updated to reflect the most recent information (11/7/17: 9:00 pm)

You are needed right now to contact your Representative and urge him or her to support the comprehensive budget plan contained in HB 1054.

Monday, the State Senate passed with a bipartisan vote of 37-5 a revised version of HB 1035 which includes a $1.50 cigarette tax increase, a 6 cent fuel tax increase, and a 4 percent gross production tax on new wells. This comprehensive revenue plan, also dubbed Plan A+ or the “Grand Bargain”, must pass with a three-quarters majority to take effect in time to save lives threatened by the state’s budget emergency.

Tuesday, a new version of the comprehensive plan containing identical language to HB 1035 was introduced as HB 1054 and passed out of the House JCAB committee on a 19-6 vote. The bill number has changed but the plan is the same.

HB 1054 is expected to be heard by the full House today (Wednesday).

The deal contained in HB 1035/HB 1054 is the only solution left to avert devastating budget cuts, provide desperately needed raises for teachers and state employees, and restore the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers. House members from both parties must support HB 1035/HB 1054so that it reaches the supermajority needed to pass a revenue bill.

This is it. This is the last chance for a comprehensive, fair, and long-term solution to the budget crisis. The hard reality is that there is no choice between HB 1054 and some better deal. The only choice is between HB 1054 and a far worse deal or no deal at all. The far worse deal, which has been promoted by House Republican leadership in recent days, involves a combination of one-time cash and cuts that would deepen next year’s budget hole, put our credit rating at risk, and do more damage to important state services needed by Oklahoman families. If there’s no deal at all by December 1st, Oklahomans’ health care and social services will be devastated.

The Senate vote means that there is now a realistic path to a good outcome — but it will take House members knowing that they have their constituents’ support for a tough vote. Please contact your House member today in support of HB 1054. Be sure to share how the failure to resolve the budget crisis will affect your family, your business, or your community. See our Advocacy Alert for talking points and additional resources and our Special Session Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Here is our full statement on why OK Policy supports the comprehensive budget plan that is on the table and that requires passage of HB 1035/HB 1054:

The comprehensive budget plan based on HB 1054 is the best possible outcome and the only good outcome under our current  circumstances. It recognizes that the state budget can only begin to be fixed with new recurring revenues and provides an important measure of fairness by curbing the tax break for oil and gas companies and restoring the earned income tax credit.  Most urgently, it averts catastrophic cuts to our health care system and social safety net while providing crucial pay raises for teachers and state employees. There is still much more work to do in the next regular session to ensure a fairer tax system and a budget that meets the needs of Oklahomans, but now is the time to approve this compromise and bring the budget emergency to an end. We  urge all House members to support HB 1054.

In The Know: Senate passes GPT bargain, puts pressure on House

by | November 7th, 2017 | 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

‘A path forward’: Senate passes GPT bargain, puts pressure on House: In an unexpected turn of events, the Oklahoma State Senate passed a bipartisan grand revenue bargain this afternoon that includes a hike in the gross production tax incentive rate from 2 to 4 percent. The bill passed 37 to 5, achieving the necessary three-fourths majority for revenue-raising measures. The Senate convened shortly after 4 p.m. Monday to take up HB 1035, which they amended in a manner to make it like HB 1034, the “grand bargain” revenue bill featuring GPT that stalled in a House committee in late October [NonDoc]. The measure’s passage came on the same day that House Speaker Charles McCall blamed the Senate for inaction during special session [KOKH]. Governor Fallin applauds Senate revenue package, urges action from House [KOKH]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Reality Check: Restoring Oklahoma’s Gross Production Tax won’t hurt the economy: 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 [OK Policy].

New Oklahoma Health Department Leader Says Finances Grim: The temporary new leader of the Oklahoma State Department of Health says the agency is suffering from financial mismanagement that stretches back more than five years and needs an immediate infusion of cash from the Legislature just to meet payroll for the next few months. Gov. Mary Fallin’s top finance official, Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston Doerflinger (DOR’-fling-ur), delivered the grim financial picture and asked the Legislature for an emergency $30 million appropriation during a briefing on Monday at the Cleveland County Health Department in Norman [AP].

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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.

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In The Know: Bill Passed To Raise Taxes On Older Oil Wells But Addiction Programs Could Still Be Cut

by | November 6th, 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

Bill Passed To Raise Taxes On Older Oil Wells But Addiction Programs Could Still Be Cut: The state House of Representatives passed a bill raising the taxes on so called “Legacy” oil wells, but lawmakers still seem miles apart on a budget solution. [News9] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

Special session produces first revenue measures: After agreeing on nothing for more than a month during its special session, the Oklahoma Legislature has sent one funding bill to Gov. Mary Fallin, and will likely send another soon. House Bill 1081 passed the House of Representatives 92-3 and appropriates $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [Tahlequah Daily News]

Funding Not Enough to Prevent Massive Cuts: Legislation that appropriates $23.3 million to Oklahoma’s mental health agency is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk to be signed into law. The measure received final approval in the state Senate on Wednesday. [AP] Public Health In Question In Light Of Impending State Agency Cuts [NewsOn6] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Legislature will likely avoid doomsday, but won’t address chronic budget problems

by | November 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (1)

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

With the clock ticking on special session, Executive Director David Blatt posited that the most likely outcome will be a budget that averts a doomsday crisis of cuts but does nothing to addresss Oklahoma’s chronic budget problems. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update pointed out that most Oklahomans have been left guessing by the happenings thus far in this special session. A guest post by Shelley Cadamy explained one of the many consequences of the state budget crisis – cuts to support for adoptive parents.  High turnover among state workers is yet another consequence – as Blatt pointed out, the average pay of our state workers is now 24% below the competitive labor market and most state employees have not seen a pay increase in 10 years.

Blatt’s Journal Record column implored federal lawmakers to stop sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and allow the program to work.  For those who buy insurance coverage through the ACA, open enrollment for 2018 has begun.  Intern Lydia Lapidus walked us through the process of enrolling and pointed out some helpful resources for those needing help to make sure they’re covered next year.

Advocacy Alert

The legislature is still in special session and they still need to hear from you – revenues must be raised in order to adequately fund core services. Click here to see our Advocacy Alert and to find your legislators and to get more information. You can also check out our Special Session FAQs for updated information about what’s happening during the special session.

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Oklahomans left guessing by actions in special session (Capitol Update)

by | November 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (3)

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.

I can’t imagine that any Oklahoma citizen not participating in or observing full time the actions in the special session has any real idea of what is going on or why. Even for those who did observe or participate in the proceedings, it’s a guessing game.

For background, the governor issued a special-session call that, if passed, would create a vision of Nirvana in which: 1. the short-term revenue failure for this fiscal year; 2. the long-term structural budget deficit; 3. additional funding for a teacher pay raise; 4. additional funding for a state employee pay raise; and 5. a tax break for the trucking industry would all get done in a brief special session. Unrealistic? Ya think?

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In The Know: DHS ADvantage Waiver members receive notification of program elimination

by | November 3rd, 2017 | 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

DHS ADvantage Waiver members receive notification of program elimination: Concern has turned into sheer panic after the Department of Human Services mailed a letter this week to members of the ADvantage Waiver program warning them that without state funding, the program would be eliminated. “It says, ‘We regret to inform you that DHS must eliminate the ADvantage Waiver effective December 1, 2017,’” said Andre Dewberry, whose 68-year-old mother is an ADvantage member. It’s the notification he and numerous other Oklahomans hoped would never come [KOKH].

Questions Deepen over Cash Shortfall at State Health Department: The Oklahoma State Department of Health went more than a year without a chief financial officer, and questions later arose about whether the agency overestimated revenues and used restricted federal funds to fill the gaps, sources told Oklahoma Watch. However, a former chief financial officer at the agency said he had no knowledge of restricted funds being used to cover shortfalls. Complicating the agency’s finances was a struggle by state information technology officials to reconcile the health department’s internal financial system with the state’s consolidated system, the former CFO said [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Health Department budget gap grows to $30 million: The Oklahoma Health Department has a funding gap of at least $30 million and eventually won’t be able to pay employees unless it receives an injection of cash from the Legislature, its new leader told employees Thursday. In an emotional, two-hour meeting with Health Department workers, Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger described the situation as “desperate.” [NewsOK].

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​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk.

by | November 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (5)

Shelley Cadamy

Shelley Cadamy is a native Oklahoman. She has worked in economic development in Oklahoma since 1994 and is a foster/adoptive parent.

Nine years ago, I fostered and then then adopted my three kids. They’re biological siblings, now 12, 15, and 18 years old, and they’re fabulous. I can’t imagine my life without them. However, like most kids in the foster care system, my kids have significant mental health needs due to neglect, trauma and abuse. When I adopted them, the State of Oklahoma offered limited resources to help support my kids, including a monthly subsidy and SoonerCare coverage until adulthood. Even with my income, which is above average, that support was what made adopting them possible for me. However, due to years of budget cuts, that support is at risk.

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In The Know: Senate sends Fallin bill to tap Rainy Day Fund for $23 million

by | November 2nd, 2017 | 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

Senate sends Fallin bill to tap Rainy Day Fund for $23 million: The Senate on Wednesday sent Gov. Mary Fallin a bill to tap the Rainy Day Fund for $23.3 million to go to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The measure, House Bill 1081, passed by a vote of 36-1. It is the first bill of the special session to make it to the governor’s desk. Fallin called lawmakers into special session on Sept. 25 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled lawmakers illegally passed a $1.50 cigarette tax as a fee, tossing out the measure [Tulsa World]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House Raises Oil, Gas Production Tax on Some Wells: The Oklahoma House has approved a measure to increase the gross production tax on oil and gas to 7 percent for some wells after defeating a proposal to impose the maximum 7 percent rate on all wells. The House approved the measure Wednesday on a 64-31 vote. The Republican-controlled chamber tabled attempts by Democrats to raise the gross production tax for all wells as high as 7 percent [AP]. Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy].

Without a state budget solution, funding cuts pose challenges for mental health consumers, their families and local agencies: When the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services leaders announced that the state agency must shed 23 percent of its budget — $75 million — effectively eliminating all outpatient services by early December, Jeanette Moore and her staff began the harder work. As executive director of Hope Community Services Inc., one of the state’s 15 community mental health centers, Moore delivered the news that 4,439 clients — called consumers in the mental health field — might lose access to case management, therapy and other programs they rely on for their health [Oklahoma Gazette]. DHS sends letters to seniors, disabled adults notifying of home-care program elimination [The Frontier] Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy].

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What now? With clock ticking, Legislature weighs options to avert Doomsday

by | November 1st, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (11)

Last week, lawmakers’ attempt to address the state budget crisis in special session collapsed. They rejected proposals that would have filled the entire budget hole and averted imminent and catastrophic cuts to the three health care and social service agencies — the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services , Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and Department of Human Services — that lost $214 million in funding when the State Supreme Court found a cigarette fee passed earlier this year unconstitutional.

At this point (barring further surprises), special session is likely to conclude with a new budget that averts the doomsday scenario facing the three health and social services agencies but does not address Oklahoma’s chronic budget problems. It would also impose a new round of cuts on most or all state agencies. In the meantime, with each new day that passes without an agreement, the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans served by the three agencies must grapple with rising anxieties that the crisis won’t be resolved and that they will lose the services that their health, and even their lives, depend on. 

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