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In The Know: Oklahoma Families Prepare As Legislators Work On Budget

by | November 13th, 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.

Note: In The Know will be on a break for the remainder of the week due to an all-staff conference.  We will return on November 20th.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Families Prepare As Legislators Work On Budget: State lawmakers went back to the drawing board Thursday after their latest budget plan failed just 24 hours ago. Some lawmakers are defending votes against the plan, despite severe cuts looming for state services. [News On 6] Foster mom enraged at lawmakers’ failures [KTUL] ​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk. [OK Policy]

Panic mounts in budget crisis: Panic is mounting as the state budget crisis drags on into its eighth week and cuts to health care, mental health and social services programs are now just days away. And some lawmakers warned that even deeper cuts to state agencies are on the horizon a day after House lawmakers killed a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, gasoline, beer and oil and gas producers. [CNHI] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

Stay till Christmas? Budget battle might continue for weeks: After the only bipartisan revenue package that has come out of the special legislative session died on the House floor, what’s to come depends on whom you ask. The Oklahoma Legislature will begin its eighth week of special session on Monday. Lawmakers aren’t closer to filling the $215 million budget gap than they were on Sept. 25, when they reconvened for the first time. [Journal Record] What now? [OK Policy

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The Weekly Wonk: Comprehensive revenue package fails to get required supermajority in House

by | November 12th, 2017 | 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.

Note: Due to an all staff conference and the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no Weekly Wonk for the next two weeks.  We will return to our regular schedule on December 3rd.

This Week from OK Policy

The legislature voted earlier this week on a comprehensive revenue package – Executive Director David Blatt argued that this was the last chance to make real progress on the structural budget deficit this special session. When that revenue package failed to receive the required 3/4 supermajority in the House, OK Policy issued a statement encouraging lawmakers to reconsider the measure. Blatt recapped the events of the week and explained what might happen now after the failure of the comprehensive revenue package.

Blatt’s Journal Record column offered an analogy for the legislature’s approach to funding core services – promise a sandwich, then report that they’re out of bread. An increase in the gross production tax rate could provide much needed funding, and Policy Director Gene Perry explained that it won’t hurt the economy or reduce drilling activity in Oklahoma. Perry also shared an analysis of the Republican tax plan currently under consideration by Congress – the plan would mean a tax hike on low- and moderate-income Oklahoma families by 2027.

OK Policy announced that there will be a staff change soon – Kara Joy McKee, our Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, will be leaving us as she formally announces her campaign for public office.  KJ will be greatly missed and she leaves enormous shoes to fill.  We will soon begin our search for a new grassroots advocacy coordinator and hope to fill the position before the start of the legislative session in February.

OK Policy in the News

A survey measuring support for an increased gross production tax that was commissioned by OK Policy was referenced in two articles – Arnold Hamilton’s Journal Record column about the ballot initiative drive to raise the GPT and and Oklahoma Watch piece about the great sums of money likely to be spent on that effort.

Blatt spoke with Governing Magazine to shed some light on the rash of budget battles in one-party states this year. Perry was interviewed by Public Radio Tulsa about the GOP tax plan and – the plan will benefit wealthier Oklahomans more than the middle class or low-income families.

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What now?

by | November 10th, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (0)

A week ago we wrote: “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.”

Since then, there have been several surprises, moments of new hope and great disappointment — but the prognosis remain about the same. This post is intended to get readers caught up on where we are and where things may be headed. For a full overview, see our regularly updated frequently asked questions about special session.

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In The Know: ACLU warns of lawsuit over planned elimination of programs for disabled, elderly

by | November 10th, 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

ACLU warns of lawsuit over planned elimination of programs for disabled, elderly: If a state agency does not rescind notices that programs serving more than 20,000 disabled and elderly Oklahomans will be eliminated, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma will respond with a lawsuit, a spokesman told The Frontier. The ACLU of Oklahoma plans to file a preliminary injunction next week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to try to prevent the elimination of Oklahoma Department of Human Services programs, said Brady Henderson, legal director of the organization [The Frontier]. Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy].

Stars not quite in alignment for latest state budget bill: State Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, had a lot of angry messages waiting for him Thursday morning. O’Donnell voted against revenue-raising House Bill 1054 on Wednesday, and people wanted to know why. “It was just a constellation of factors,” he said. A black hole at the center of that constellation sucked in what may have been the last chance for a meaningful revenue bill during this special legislative session [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers should respect wishes of the majority and pass revenue deal [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Day after failed vote, Oklahoma Medicaid agency cuts rates: Less than 24 hours after the Oklahoma House of Representatives failed to approve the year’s best chance at a grand revenue bill, the Oklahoma Medicaid agency has approved $34.5 million in reimbursement cuts. Payment reductions include 4 percent cuts to nursing homes and care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as a 9 percent across-the-board cut for SoonerCare beneficiaries, with some exclusions [NonDoc]. Tina Seiler wept as she begged the Oklahoma Health Care Authority not cut funding for the Moore facility where she lives [NewsOK].

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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.

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In The Know: Big revenue bill goes down in the Oklahoma House

by | November 9th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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

Big revenue bill goes down in the Oklahoma House: Despite bipartisan support from the Oklahoma Senate, endorsements from two former Democratic governors, backing from Gov. Mary Fallin and pleas from dozens of advocacy organizations, the Oklahoma House of Representatives failed to pass a grand revenue bill this afternoon. Members voted 71-27 for HB 1054X, but that fell short of the 76 votes necessary for revenue-raising measures under the Oklahoma Constitution [NonDoc]. In the end, the backing of more than 45 health-care, education and public-policy advocacy groups – along with the support of a bipartisan group of current and former state leaders – wasn’t enough Wednesday [Oklahoma Watch]. Lawmakers should respect wishes of the majority and pass revenue deal [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Tulsa Elderly, Disabled Fear Losing Vital Assistance With DHS Cuts: In the wake of the Oklahoma budget failing, many programs will be eliminated if lawmakers can’t find funding sources to fill the gap. Thousands of people who are part of the Department of Human Services’ ADvantage program are getting nervous as we get closer to Dec. 1. The program helps connect seniors and people with disabilities with services so they can maintain their independence [NewsOn6].

Cutting Mental Health budgets will increase jail costs: As budgets and services are cut, law enforcement agencies find themselves taking on additional roles in order to meet the needs of the communities we serve. Due to an already dire shortage of mental health services, the Tulsa County jail is now the largest mental health facility in the state of Oklahoma. The mental health services provided to our inmates are not meant for long-term treatment [Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado / Tulsa World].

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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.

In The Know: House committee approves revived revenue package including rise in GPT

by | November 8th, 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

House committee approves revived revenue package including rise in GPT: An Oklahoma House committee has approved a revived revenue bill that includes a rise in the gross production tax. The Oklahoma House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget revived HB 1054X Tuesday which includes a $1.50 cigarette tax increase, a six cent fuel tax increase, an alcohol consumption tax and an increase in the Gross Production Tax. The bill puts an increase of the tax of four percent for 36 months on new wells and two percent on legacy wells [KOKH]. The measure, known as House Bill 1054, is identical to House Bill 1035, a measure advanced by the Senate on Monday as the “last chance” before budget cuts are necessary [NewsOK]. Early counts suggest the revenue bill may lack enough bipartisan support [CNHI]. 

This is Oklahoma’s last chance: Yesterday, 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”, now goes back to the House, where it must pass with a three-quarters majority to take effect in time to save lives threatened by the state’s budget emergency [OK Policy]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

‘Put it on the board’: How the year’s biggest vote could shape up: The 2017 Oklahoma Legislature has taken no bigger swing at a “grand bargain” than the vote that will be coming Wednesday in the House of Representatives — a doubling of the gross production tax rate on new wells, plus consumption taxes that will raise hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years. Passing such a measure would allow for a $3,000 teacher raise and a $1,000 state employee raise, if all goes to purported plan [NonDoc]. The ‘Grand Bargain’ offers Legislature a chance … if Speaker McCall can get the votes [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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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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