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Save the Date: Our 2019 State Budget Summit is January 24, 2019. Tickets will go on sale Monday, December 10th. 

The 5 percent solution?

by | April 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (2)

After two straight years of cuts, the state’s budget situation remains dire. Despite the economic recovery and improving revenue collections, the state faces a huge shortfall for next year. The substantial non-recurring revenues that were used to balance the budget over the past two years, including federal stimulus dollars, state reserve funds, and assorted one-time revenue enhancements,  have mostly dried up.  The Board of Equalization has certified some $500 million less in available revenue for FY ’12 than what was appropriated for the current year budget. As we stated in our recent issue brief on protecting core services:

The impact (of budget cuts) is being felt by Oklahoma families, businesses and communities in far-ranging ways… Deeper cuts will further impinge the ability of state agencies to fulfill their core missions and may seriously affect the well-being of schoolchildren, seniors, persons with disabilities, correctional and public safety officers, and other members of our communities.

In this context, the Governor and legislative leaders are actively considering additional ongoing or one-time revenue sources that could avert truly catastrophic cuts to core services. One option being discussed is appropriating this year’s “5 percent money” for next year’s budget.  This post explains the “5 percent option” and suggests why, on balance, we think a portion of this money should be used, along with other revenue solutions.

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In The Know: April 21, 2011

by | April 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, Gov. Fallin signed bills to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and prevent insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in standard policies. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants to break from a national coalition and make his own settlement with mortgage servicers who were discovered to be using flawed paperwork and forging foreclosure documents. Pruitt said he is opposed to forcing the companies to pay $20 billion in fines to help “underwater” borrowers.

The Oklahoma Senate passed a corrections reform bill, but they removed language that would make concurrent rather than consecutive sentencing the default option unless a judge states otherwise. The Senate also passed a bill that would make converting marijuana to hashish punishable by life in prison. A State Question that would lower the cap on property tax assessments from five to three percent will go to a vote of the people in 2012. Officials from Norman presented a report on many factors that could affect government budgets that are out of the city’s control. These include rising health care costs, more online purchases going untaxed, and inadequate job growth.

Only one out of nine regents attended a meeting meant to hear public feedback on tuition and fee increases. Next Friday, April 29, the Oklahoma Assets Coalition will host a webinar on financial education in public schools. CapitolBeatOK reports on a small group of conservatives who are joining with Democrats to defeat emergency clauses on bills in the Oklahoma House. Oklahoma is in the top 10 of all states for exclusive cell phone use without a land line. The study found that lower-income people are likelier to only have a cell phone.

Consultants named Santa Fe Depot as the best location for an Oklahoma City transit hub, and NewsOK writes on the questions still surrounding the future location of the MAPS 3 convention center. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine looks at some implications when a single party controls all top state offices.

More below the jump.

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Upcoming Event: Webinar on financial education in public schools, April 29

by | April 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Assets will host the second in a series of webinars on asset-building next Friday, April 29th from 10:00 to 11:00am CDT.  The 60 minute webinar, ‘Financial Education in Our Public Schools: Oklahoma’s Passport to Personal Financial Literacy,’ will explore financial education as an asset-building strategy, Oklahoma’s legislation requiring financial education to be taught in our public schools, its requirements and how it is being implemented in the state.  You can register for the webinar by clicking here.

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In The Know: April 20, 2011

by | April 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the OK Policy Blog has a quick take on the latest economic data for Oklahoma. NewsOK looks at uncertainty around the unemployment rate as the state switches to a new procedure for calculating it. Lawmakers may end runoffs for state elections to bring Oklahoma into compliance with federal law. Wayne Greene writes on a measure that would help ensure multi-state corporations pay their fair share of Oklahoma taxes. The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill to end collective bargaining rights for many municipal employees.

The Pension Oversight Committee chaired by Treasurer Ken Miller is preparing to release its recommendations, and the Senate advanced a measure to disallow unfunded cost-of-living adjustments for state pensions. Senior citizens are organizing through CARE Oklahoma to protest state Medicaid cuts that are putting many nursing homes at risk. NewsOn6 reports on continued resistance at the capitol against requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatments. An Oklahoma fertilizer producer will pay a $625k fine and install $17M in new pollution controls to settle a suit over violations of the Clean Air Act.

The Senate voted to increase the filing fees for several court actions to help fund the judicial system. The state House voted to merge Oklahoma’s Human Rights Commission into the Attorney General’s office. In today’s Policy Note, Public Citizen looks at the extensive process any new federal regulations must undergo before they can take effect.

Read on for more.

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Quick Take on the Economy: Income picks up steam, unemployment edges downward

by | April 19th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

The nation continues to show signs that it is emerging from the deep and prolonged economic recession that began in late 2007.  April’s edition of Numbers You Need, our monthly bulletin of key economic and budget trends, paints a mixed but mostly positive picture of economic recovery in Oklahoma. While the state was not the hardest hit during the recession, we saw noticeable spikes in unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies, and increased reliance on social safety nets like food stamps.  Considering Oklahoma came late to the recession, might it also be late in joining the recovery?  That doesn’t appear to be the case.  The most recent data suggest that Oklahoma may be slightly outpacing the nation in two key areas of economic growth: personal income and employment.

Personal income growth in Oklahoma paints an encouraging picture of economic recovery over the last year.   Personal income is reported quarterly and encompasses all of the different kinds of income received by Oklahomans.  When personal income rises, so does the amount citizens have available to spend, save, or invest in the economy.  Tax revenues also increase with personal income, meaning states have more to spend on infrastructure and social services.  Since a large majority of small business income is reported as personal income, it is an excellent overall measure of the health and growth of the state’s economy.

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In The Know: April 19, 2011

by | April 19th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

An op-ed in the Oklahoman today criticized the state’s decision to give back $54 million dollars in federal grant money for Oklahoma’s health care IT infrastructure.  See OK Policy’s blog post on the Early Innovator Grant for more on upgrades the state will have to forgo by refusing the grant.  Gov. Fallin signed a law yesterday prohibiting funeral protests from within two hours or 1,000 feet of a funeral.  The House Redistricting Committee prepares to present its proposed legislative districts to lawmakers in the next week.

Since 2006, the $748mil dollars in additional revenue appropriated to the state Transportation Department resulted in a 32 percent decrease in the number of structurally deficient state bridges.  Oklahoma still ranks 2nd worst in the nation in bridge quality and condition.  The Oklahoma City School Board approved an $11 million dollar bond issue for new buses and technology improvements.

The University of Oklahoma’s student government denied the mental health department additional funding in student-activity fees to promote the department’s lone psychiatrist from part-time to full-time.  A Tulsa landfill operator creates 40 new jobs by expanding recycling operations.  Oklahoma Senator Inhofe is once again at odds with the EPA, joining other national lawmakers in protesting new rules for lead-based paint removal.

In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute lays out revenue options for protecting the state’s core public services.

Read on for more.

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Bill would raise taxes for 1 million low-income Oklahomans

by | April 18th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

As we pointed out in an earlier post, there is more than one way to cut taxes. We can do it in a way that mostly benefits those with the highest incomes, as is the case with cutting the top income tax rate, or we can provide relief to those who need the most help and who suffer most from the loss of public services.

The same is true when eliminating tax exemptions. Certainly some exemptions should be removed to ensure adequate revenues and a fairly shared tax burden. However, a bill on its way to the House floor goes far beyond those exemptions that cater to special interests. SB 517 would sunset twenty tax credits, including the Sales Tax Relief Credit, which is relied on by about one million low- and medium-income Oklahomans.

Poor Oklahomans already pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy due to sales and property taxes. In particular, the sales tax on groceries disproportionately affects low-income Oklahomans. According to the 2009 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the poorest 20 percent devoted nearly twice as much of their incomes to groceries as did the wealthiest 20 percent.

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In The Know: April 18, 2011

by | April 18th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol have been setting up checkpoints to catch unlicensed drivers near the Hispanic business district in south Oklahoma City. Hundreds gathered at the Oklahoma Capitol this weekend for a demonstration with the message that Latino values are Oklahoma values. A measure to freeze property tax assessments for all seniors is dead for this year. The Tulsa World reports on controversy around closing funds and attempts by Gov. Fallin to start a new closing fund in Oklahoma. The OK Policy blog previously covered the checkered history of funds in Oklahoma and Texas.

NewsOn6 reports that nearly all 42,000 Tulsa Public Schools students could be affected by district consolidation plans. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said the most dramatic of three consolidation options is off the table. An Oklahoma City tobacco wholesaler says the state has lost millions due to delayed enforcement against illegal tobacco sales. Fees to the state paid by Indian casinos have increased more than tenfold since 2006. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission may be allowed to keep more of the fees it collects from late filers to help offset cuts to its appropriations.

The Senate rejected a proposal to allow cities and schools to use extra money from funds for paying off lawsuits and bond issues for other purposes. Oklahoma City is considering increasing enforcement of a restriction against taxi drivers parking at metered spots. Clay Pope explains the role of partnerships between agricultural producers and the state and federal government in preventing another Dust Bowl. In honor of tax day, the OK Policy Blog imagines what it would like to have a world without taxes. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress analyzes problems with pursuing policy through tax exemptions rather than direct spending.

Read on for more.

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The Weekly Wonk – April 11-15, 2011

by | April 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy responded to the Governor’s call for ideas on how to close the state’s $500 million budget gap with a new report, “Protecting Core Services: Revenue Options for a Balanced Budget.”  The report lays out a series of revenue-raising options, summarized on our blog, including deferring cuts to the top income tax rate and suspending tax exemptions and loopholes.

One of those loopholes, online sales tax exemptions, was covered this week on our blog in a piece about ongoing efforts across the country to close the ‘Amazon’ online sales loophole.  An op-ed in today’s Oklahoman acknowledged that the main obstacle to a balanced budget in Oklahoma is not spending – as we’ve already drastically cut agency budgets.

Also this week on OK Policy Blog, a quick take on March revenue numbers.  All major tax categories increased in March over the same month a year ago with the exception of the personal income tax, but remain significantly below pre-downturn levels.  The U.S. Congress is debating hotly contested budget proposals for the coming year.  Yesterday’s blog post takes a look at one proposed budget change that would shift Medicaid funding from covering a fixed share of a state’s costs to an ever-shrinking annual block grant allotment.  Under the Ryan proposal, Oklahoma stands to lose 8.2 billion in health care dollars for seniors, persons with disabilities, and children over ten years.

Numbers of the Week

  • 13.9 – Students per teacher in Oklahoma public education classrooms, 2008-2009; the national average is 15.3
  • 70 percent – Increase in Oklahoma foreclosure filings between the last quarters of 2008 and 2010
  • 1,266,189 – Recreation visits to National Parks in Oklahoma in 2010
  • $7.25 – Hourly minimum wage in Oklahoma; state statute adopts the Federal minimum wage rate by reference
  • 74 – Tornadoes in Oklahoma in 2010; 6th most in the country

Click here for source citations and archived numbers of the day.

A day without taxes

by | April 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

As the deadline for filing income tax approaches, we return to a favorite blog post from our friend Paul Shinn that we first ran in 2009. You may also enjoy this video tribute to the many things we can be thankful our tax dollars help support.

April 15. I’m not a fan of tax day. Who is? After several tortuous weeks of determining whether I have excess distributions from my 529 plan  and deciding how much I owe to the two states I lived in last year, I’m in line at the post office to send all these forms and too many checks to too many different governments. I’ve had it. Why can’t we make society work without taxes? I’m willing to try, I think, as I dose off…

In the morning, it slowly dawns on me that I’ve awakened in a tax-free America. So far, it’s great; I didn’t need to set the alarm! No real point in taking the kids to school, if it’s even open today. I’m not wealthy, so I can’t afford one of the schools that is open five days a week, requires the teachers to have a degree, uses textbooks, and has standards about what my kids should learn during the year. When little Heather asks about whether she can go to college, I just laugh. We can’t pay the tens of thousands of tuition for a private college. There’s no grant or loan programs and womens’ sports don’t make a profit, so there are no athletic scholarships awaiting her. Child care is risky too, since nobody determines if day care operators are qualified, safe, and not just in it to find victims for something.

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