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Keeping all school taxes local would break our obligation to rural kids (Capitol Update)

by | January 12th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (2)

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.

An idea has surfaced again recently that, since the state will not or cannot properly fund public education, local school districts should be allowed to go it alone and fix their own finances, perhaps somehow with the help of cities or counties. This is not an original idea. Since I’ve been observing or participating in civic life for the past several decades, this same idea, born of frustration, comes and goes. People care about their local schools because they care about their kids. Not only that, communities depend on the quality of their schools to attract new businesses and the new residents who are employed by them. So, when their local schools suffer, people want to solve the problem. Completely understandable.

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In The Know: Statewide business, civic leaders offer revenue, reform package

by | January 12th, 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 is the last day to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets for the 2018 State Budget Summit, featuring keynote speaker Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution and a host of key Oklahoma policymakers. Ticket prices will increase from $75 to $90 on January 13th, so click here to get yours now. 

Note: In The Know is taking a break for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will return Tuesday.

Today In The News

Statewide business, civic leaders offer revenue, reform package: Frustrated by a legislative budget impasse that has stalled state progress, a statewide coalition of Oklahoma business and civic leaders proposed a comprehensive solution Thursday that would increase state revenues, fund $5,000 teacher pay raises and alter the structure of state and county government. The proposal calls for raising gross production, motor fuel and cigarette taxes, while eliminating certain individual income tax deductions and loopholes [NewsOK]. The plan faces an uphill battle [Tulsa World].

Organizations speak out about ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ revenue plan: A nonpartisan group of Oklahoma business, civic and community leaders announced their own plan on raising revenue and funding core services. Organizers say “Step Up Oklahoma” has created a plan that addresses waste and abuse through reforms and ending the boom and bust cycle of state government [KFOR]. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy].

Governor, School Leaders Discuss State Of Education In Oklahoma: School leaders from around the state had some face time with the Governor, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, and some legislators. Governor Mary Fallin was the first to address the group. She renewed her commitment to a teacher pay raise even saying she would veto a 2018 budget without one. Then, Joy Hofmeister discussed her plan to what she calls “meaningful change” in Oklahoma Education [News 9].

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In The Know: Fallin would veto another budget lacking teacher raise

by | January 11th, 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.

The State Budget Summit, featuring keynote speaker Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution and a host of key Oklahoma policymakers, is coming up fast! This is the last week to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets. Ticket prices will increase on January 13th, so click here to get yours now. 

Today In The News

Fallin would veto another budget lacking teacher raise: Gov. Mary Fallin said she would veto another proposed budget that doesn’t include a pay raise for teachers, something she called a top priority headed into her final year in office. Following an address to dozens of school superintendents on Wednesday, in which she talked about the need for a teacher pay raise, Fallin was asked by a reporter if she would veto a budget that did not include a salary increase for educators. “In the second special session? Yeah, I would,” Fallin said [NewsOK].

Poll: Likely voters would support teacher raise with gross production tax hike, give lawmakers low marks on education funding: More than half of the respondents to a poll released Wednesday believe that education funding should be increased, even if it means raising taxes. The poll was commissioned by the Oklahoma Education Association and was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research Inc., based in Colorado. The results are based on 502 random telephone interviews among likely voters in the November 2018 Oklahoma elections [Tulsa World]. Most Oklahoma voters have a positive opinion of President Donald Trump, while Gov. Mary Fallin and the state Legislature received negative ratings from most voters in a recent poll [NewsOK]. The survey is available here. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy].

Petition to increase teacher pay faces legal challenge from oil and gas group: Legal challenges were filed Wednesday against a recently announced initiative petition seeking a vote to increase the gross production tax to fund teacher pay raises. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association filed two challenges to State Question 795 with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state question petition, spearheaded by Restore Oklahoma Now Inc., seeks signatures to put on the ballot a proposal to raise the rate on new wells to 7 percent from 2 percent in order to fund a $4,000 teacher pay raise [Tulsa World].

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Roadside cameras won’t solve Oklahoma’s uninsured driver problem

In 2016 Oklahoma enacted SB 359 creating the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program. The new law allows district attorneys to contract with private companies for automated license plate readers to catch and send tickets to uninsured drivers. The company that won the contract, Gatso USA, will provide the equipment and in return will get a portion of the fine (initially about 43 percent).  District attorneys will also get a cut of any fines collected – 20 percent.

Supporters of this program argue that it will reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma.  That number does need to be reduced – we lead the nation in the percentage of drivers that are uninsured at 26 percent. But using cameras to catch uninsured cars and automatically send tickets isn’t likely to actually solve the problem.  That’s because most uninsured drivers are not opting out because they just don’t want insurance – they don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it. And that’s not because they’re bad drivers and are being charged more because they pose a bigger risk.  It’s because your car insurance rate depends on some things that have nothing to do with your driving history… like your credit score.

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In The Know: Budget crisis could disrupt ‘fragile’ improvements in child welfare, monitors of DHS plan say

by | January 10th, 2018 | 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.

The State Budget Summit, featuring keynote speaker Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution and a host of key Oklahoma policymakers, is coming up fast! This is the last week to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets. Ticket prices will increase on January 13th, so click here to get yours now.

Today In The News

Budget crisis could disrupt ‘fragile’ improvements in child welfare, monitors of DHS plan say: Noticeable progress within the child welfare division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has been made, but it’s far from a permanent change in the system or culture. On Tuesday, the monitors of the Pinnacle Plan released their bi-annual report of the agency’s reform effort, which launched in 2012 after a negotiated settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged abuses in foster care. The three-person panel tracks 31 areas within the foster-care system including shelter use, recruitment of foster homes, placements of children and maltreatment in care [Tulsa World].

Tax revenue beats estimate but officials warn it’s no budget fix: General Revenue Fund collections in December totaled $512.6 million and were $36.6 million, or 7.7 percent, above the monthly estimate. Collections for the month were $93.1 million, or 22.2 percent, more than collections in December 2016, according to a monthly report from Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger. Collections over the first six months of the fiscal year that started July 1 totaled $2.7 billion, which was $75.2 million, or 2.9 percent, more than estimates for the first six months of the fiscal year and $278.1 million, or 11.6 percent, more than collections for the first six months of the previous fiscal year [Journal Record].

Oklahoma House bill would lower revenue-raising threshold: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants voters to amend the state constitution to lower the number of lawmakers required to approve revenue-raising measures. Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright filed a bill Friday that calls for a statewide vote to amend a constitutional amendment voters approved in 1992. Wright, of Weatherford, says the current threshold has stymied lawmakers’ ability to raise revenue to adequately provide for core services like public education [AP]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy].

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Watch This: Ending Hunger in Oklahoma Schools

by | January 9th, 2018 | Posted in Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

One in four Oklahoma children are at risk of not having enough to eat, yet the state leaves over $400 million in child nutrition funding on the table each year because of our low participation in federal assistance programs. By expanding access to federal school meal programs, we can get students the nutrition they need to develop and learn. 

Hunger Free Oklahoma, a nonprofit advocacy group in Tulsa, has a plan to help low-income schools feed more kids and increase their revenue. This video by OETA describes Hunger Free Oklahoma’s  initiative to get more Oklahoma schools and districts involved in options to minimize food insecurity, like in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin hopeful ‘backup support from community leaders’ will push through budget fix

by | January 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.

The State Budget Summit, featuring keynote speaker Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution and a host of key Oklahoma policymakers, is coming up fast! This is the last week to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets. Ticket prices will increase on January 13th, so click here to get yours now.

Today In The News

Gov. Fallin hopeful ‘backup support from community leaders’ will push through budget fix: Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday that she is hopeful lawmakers can craft a solution to the state’s current budget problem before the start of their next regular session in February. The governor is banking on a coalition of organizations, individuals and businesses to help lawmakers come up with a response to the recurring budget hole the state finds itself in as a result of tax cuts, declining oil prices and an inability to reduce tax incentives designed to generate economic development [Tulsa World]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Three reasons Oklahoma fiscal crisis hasn’t passed: Oklahoma’s fiscal landslide might finally be easing. Thank goodness. State Treasurer Ken Miller reports that in 2017, state revenue increased in comparison to the same months in 2016, 11 of 12 months. A year ago, the state was facing a huge and terrifying decrease in state revenue, caused by a faltering economy and bad fiscal choices by the Oklahoma Legislature. Every major revenue stream in the state was declining [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

School consolidation plan could present taxpayers with math problem: As Oklahoma get closer to the deadline for administrative service consolidation, some education advocates said one financial issue is often overlooked. Any school district that absorbed another would have to assume that district’s bond debt. That would mean residents and businesses in the area would have to pay the increased property tax rate those bond issues require. Residents and school boards already make that decision on their own, but requiring areas to do so could become controversial [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Local lawmakers waiting to hear from leadership

by | January 8th, 2018 | 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.

This is the last week to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets to our State Budget Summit on January 25th! Ticket prices will increase on January 13th so click here to get yours now.

Today In The News

Local lawmakers waiting to hear from leadership: Oklahoma’s second special session is supposed to be looking for a budget fix, but most lawmakers are back in their districts as negotiations are conducted by legislative leaders behind closed doors.With the Legislature convening for its regular 2018 session on Feb. 5, there is some talk about what effect the special session can have. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

New Year, Same Budget Issues: Oklahoma lawmakers are still in a special session looking to find additional revenue, one month before the next regular session is scheduled to begin. If nothing else is done to provide additional revenue, the next session will begin on February 5 with a $425 million hole. [Capitol Insider/KGOU] Oklahoma’s budget outlook is improving, but major challenges remain [OK Policy]

Tulsa, Oklahoma Pre-K Shows Benefits Into Middle School: Middle school-students who were enrolled in Tulsa’s prekindergarten program as 4-year-olds were more likely to be enrolled in honors courses, and were less likely to be retained in a grade compared to their peers who were not enrolled in pre-K. That’s according to the latest study to find long-lasting benefits from high quality early-childhood education. [Education Week]

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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy announced three new board members!

by | January 5th, 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

OK Policy announced three new board members this week! Kara Berst (Ada), Dr. Jason Kirksey (Stillwater), and Erica Lucas (Oklahoma City) have recently been appointed to the board.  We also looked back on 2017 with a review of our ten most popular blog posts of the year.

Executive Director David Blatt shared that Oklahoma’s budget outlook is improving (but there are still challenges ahead for us this year), and that hunger is still a significant problem in Oklahoma. Blatt’s Journal Record columns pointed out the misplaced priorities of the federal government (the fate of DACA recipients and the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program are still in limbo) and shared the truth about Oklahoma schools (our per-pupil state aid funding has decreased more than any other state and administration is only 3% of our total school spending).

OK Policy in the News

Legislative Liason Bailey Perkins spoke with The Oklahoman about the political outlook for Oklahoma in 2018. Blatt also spoke with the The Oklahoman about the smaller than expected decline in enrollment for health insurance on the ACA exchange this season.

Upcoming Opportunities

Join us for our 2018 State Budget Summit! On Thursday, January 25th, we’ll bring together all those with an interest in state policy issues for a day of thoughtful discussion and an exchange of ideas aimed at understanding the challenges we now face and charting a course for a more prosperous future. This week is your last chance to register at the special early-bird registration price of just $75. Early bird discounts will only be available through this Friday, January 12th. The cost as of January 13th is $90. Click here to register

Weekly What’s That

1017 Fund

The 1017 Fund, or Education Reform Revolving Fund, is a dedicated revenue fund that is appropriated to the State Department of Education. The fund initially consisted of personal and corporate income tax, sales tax, and use tax revenues attributable to the revenue provisions of HB 1017. In addition, a portion of cigarette and tobacco tax revenues and of tribal gaming and horse track gaming revenues are also now allocated to the 1017 Fund.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“We’re hopeful that this large chorus of voices will continue pushing in 2018 for a balanced mix of new permanent revenues so that our teachers will no longer need to cross the border to support their families and Oklahomans with disabilities and senior citizens won’t have to wonder what will happen to their life-sustaining services every few months.”

– OK Policy Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins, predicting that the bipartisan push for new revenues will continue in 2018 (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World

Each year, the state of Oklahoma produces a book called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It is not a best-seller. Technically, it couldn’t be a best-seller because it isn’t for sale. It’s free on the Office of Management and Enterprise Services website. But, even at that price, it doesn’t have many takers. Which is a shame, because more Oklahomans should read the CAFR, as it is known, or attempt to. Its 200-plus pages delve deeply into the details of the state’s finances. Problem is, a person practically needs an advanced degree in management to fully understand it. It’s like something Faulkner or Joyce would have written had they been accountants. But most people can get the gist of it. The unifying plot line is that state government, even one the modest size of Oklahoma’s, is unimaginably large and bewilderingly complex.

Numbers of the Day

  • 67% – Percentage of Oklahoma children aged 19 to 35 months who have received all recommended vaccinations, 2017
  • 12.8% – Percentage of adults who reported binge or chronic drinking in Oklahoma, 2nd lowest in the US in 2017
  • 961.628 – Number of children in Oklahoma in 2016, 25 percent of the state population
  • $42,692 – Per capita income in Oklahoma in 2016

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression [Huffington Post]
  • A Journey Through A Land of Extreme Poverty: Welcome to America[The Guardian]
  • Most Americans do not support making cuts to programs for people with low incomes [Washington Post]
  • The ‘forgotten’ part of special education that could lead to better outcomes for students [The Hechinger Report]

In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin sets vote for medical marijuana ballot measure

by | January 5th, 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. Mary Fallin sets vote for medical marijuana ballot measure: Oklahoma voters will get to decide on June 26 whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. Gov. Mary Fallin’s announcement Thursday came on the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked an Obama-era policy that was deferential to states’ permissive marijuana laws. Oklahoma’s vote will come during the primary election. Fallin’s other option would have been to set it during the November general election [Tulsa World]. Medical marijuana vote date good news for proponents [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

An Oilman Who Helped Write Energy Industry Tax Breaks Is Leading An Effort To Remove Them: Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one. Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Tax breaks for the oil and gas industry will continue to cost Oklahoma close to $400 million this year and next [OK Policy].

Health Department files suit against House of Representatives: The political investigation into financial trouble at the Oklahoma State Department of Health has resulted in the state of Oklahoma functionally suing its own House of Representatives. Late Wednesday, the OSDH filed a “cause of action” to modify a subpoena issued by the House Special Investigation Committee that requires testimony and document provision from the agency’s chief financial officer, Mike Romero. Chairman Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) subpoenaed Romero on Tuesday, Jan. 2, to appear before the House committee at 9:30 a.m. today [NonDoc].

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