Skip to Content

The Weekly Wonk: State budget still recovering; 10 years for misdemeanor; back to school with Rob Miller…

by | August 26th, 2018 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’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

This week, Executive Director David Blatt examined Oklahoma’s budget and concluded that although the state’s fiscal situation has improved greatly, there is still a long ways to go to recover from a decade of deep budget cuts. In his weekly Journal Record Column, Blatt wrote about the importance of commuting sentences for individuals who are serving long prison sentences — in some cases 20 or 30 years — for crimes that are now charged as misdemeanors. 

In episode 36 of the OKPolicyCast, Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry spoke with Superintendent of Bixby Public Schools and vocal advocate in the movement for better education funding, Rob Miller, about going back to school after the walkout in April. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update assessed why campaigns choose to go negative, especially in the final days before an election. 

OK Policy in the News

Perry was quoted in a piece by Governing on states where voters will cast votes on ballot measures regarding school funding this November.  

Continue Reading »

In The Know: State budget still in recovery; Marsy’s Law questions; most expensive Gov. race in state history…

by | August 24th, 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.

In The News

The state budget is growing but is not fully recovered: As Oklahoma heads into a new budget year and closes the books on FY 2018, two things are especially clear: Oklahoma’s fiscal situation is much improved, but we still have a long ways to go to recover from a decade of deep budget cuts. After several consecutive years of shortfalls and lagging collections, last year (FY 2018) was a good one for state tax collections. [OK Policy]

Advocates see hope in Marsy’s Law ballot question, experts raise questions: State Question 794, which would give crime victims new rights under the state constitution, goes before voters on Nov. 6. Oklahoma already has a bill of rights for crime victims that includes many of the provisions the ballot initiative provides, but advocates like Vierling say the changes will help future crime victims navigate a confusing criminal justice system. [StateImpact Oklahoma] Marsy’s Law is well-intentioned, but be wary of unintended consequences. [OK Policy] For a list of voting resources and election deadlines, visit our 2018 Oklahoma State Questions and Elections page. [OK Policy]

With nearly $16 million spent already, Governor’s race shaping up to be the most expensive in state history: With runoff elections less than a week away, the race for Oklahoma’s next governor is already shaping up to be one of the most expensive in state history, according to the candidates’ most recent campaign filings. Thus far, the state’s gubernatorial candidates have spent a combined total of $15.8 million this election season. And that’s not counting more than $1 million spent in the governor’s race so far by non-candidate groups. [The Frontier] In a televised debate Wednesday night, Republican gubernatorial candidates Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt agreed on a few points but continued trying to paint the other as unsuited for the office. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Continue Reading »

The state budget is growing but is not fully recovered

by | August 23rd, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

As Oklahoma heads into a new budget year and closes the books on FY 2018, two things are especially clear: Oklahoma’s fiscal situation is much improved, but we still have a long ways to go to recover from a decade of deep budget cuts.

State revenue grew strongly last year

After several consecutive years of shortfalls and lagging collections, last year (FY 2018) was a good one for state tax collections. Total collections to the General Revenue (GR) fund, the principal funding source for most Oklahoma government operations, reached $5.85 billion in FY 2018, which was an increase of $810 million, or 16.1 percent from FY 2017. Last year’s GR collections were the largest since the start of the Great Recession in 2009, but they were still some $100 million below the pre-recession peak of 2008, as can be seen from the chart.

All major General Revenue sources saw growth in 2018 compared to 2017, with increased sales tax collections (+$285.9M) being the largest contributor to overall revenue growth, followed by the individual income tax (+$208.8M), gross production taxes (+$195.9M), and corporate income tax (+$62.2M). Legislative changes approved during the 2017 regular session and 2018 special session, which included adding a 1.25 percent sales tax on motor vehicle purchases and raising the tax rate on older horizontal wells to 7 percent, accounted for approximately $358.9 million of the total GR increase in FY 2018, according to the state budget office.

Gross Receipts to the Treasury — a broader measure of tax collections before any tax rebates, tax refunds, and remittances to cities and counties are paid out, and that includes earmarked revenues which do not go to the General Revenue Fund — increased by $1.2 billion, or 11.1 percent, in FY 2018. Total Gross Receipts in FY 2018 reached an all-time high of $12.2 billion, which is some $900 million, or 7.9 percent, above the prior annual peak of $11.3 billion back in FY 2008.

Last year’s General Revenue collections exceeded the official estimate by $381.6 million, or 7.0 percent. The full amount of this surplus will be deposited in the state Rainy Day Fund, in accordance with the constitutional provision stating that GR collections above 100 percent of the final certified estimate are deposited in the Fund. This year’s RDF deposit is the largest since the Fund was created in 1988 and brings the current balance to $453.8 million (see chart). The cap on the Fund, which is 15 percent of the current revenue estimate for the General Revenue Fund, is just above $750 million.

 

The current revenue outlook is positive

State appropriations for the current budget year, FY 2019, are $7.567 billion — an increase of $718.5 million, or 10.5 percent, compared to last year. Of the total budget growth, about $500 million is a result of revenue increases approved earlier this year primarily to pay for pay raises for teachers and other employees, with the rest attributable to economic growth. The major tax increases on cigarettes, motor fuels, and new oil and gas production took effect July 1st.

Initial tax collections for FY 2019 are mixed. Gross Receipts to the Treasury for July 2018 were up 10.8 percent compared to the prior year. Treasurer Ken Miller noted, “continued improvement in state employment, notably in the oil fields, and positive numbers in other economic indicators are continued signs of ongoing growth.” However, while General Revenue collections for July were up 9.2 percent from a year ago, they fell short of the official estimate by $9.6 million, or 2.1 percent.

We still have a long ways to go to make up for years of cuts

The revenue increases approved by the Legislature in 2017 and 2018, in conjunction with a growing economy, have stabilized the budget and allowed for some critical investments in the state’s most urgent needs. Yet there’s still a great distance to be climbed before we are out of the hole created by a decade of cuts and shortfalls.

As Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David stated during debate on the FY 2019 appropriations bill, “this budget in no way makes everyone as complete and whole as we were in 2009.” This year’s budget remains 9.4 percent ($788 million) below the budget of FY 2009 when adjusted for inflation, as can be seen from the chart above. As noted above, General Revenue collections, which are the primary funding source for most government operations, have not even fully returned to where they were over a decade ago, even without accounting for inflation and population growth. The effects of sustained cuts can still be seen across much of state government. For example:

  • State support for K-12 school operations will remain $145 million less than in FY 2009 (not including the new money that must be dedicated to teacher and school staff pay raises), even as school enrollment has grown by over 50,000 students. The Legislature managed to increase state aid funding by only $17 million last session, just enough to offset mid-year cuts but not enough for most school districts to be able to replace teachers, counselors, librarians, and other positions lost in recent years. Most school districts are reporting that the teacher shortage is worse compared to last year and that they will continue to need emergency certification of teachers to fill vacancies.
  • The Regents for Higher Education received an additional $7.5 million for concurrent enrollment programs, but no additional money to support operations of colleges and universities. Higher education funding will remain $263 million, or 25.3 percent, below its FY 2009 levels.
  • State funding for the Department of Corrections is 2.8 percent above what it was in 2009, but the state’s inmate population has grown by close to 10 percent during this time, along with growing costs for medical care and other fixed expenses.
  • The Adult Protective Services division within the Department of Human Services has lost 30 percent of its workers since 2014, while the number of investigations it is responsible for has jumped more than 50 percent. 
  • State employees will receive raises of $500 to $2,000 depending on their salary this year, but a study last year found that average salaries for state employees fell to 24 percent below the competitive labor market in 2016. There were more than 4,000 fewer state employees in 2017 than in 2009.
  • Overall, of 65 agencies funded with state appropriations, 39 are operating with at least one-fifth less state support than in 2009, without adjusting for inflation.

The Legislature took bold but partial steps last year to change direction after a prolonged period of shrinking investments in our public institutions. There is still a very long ways to go before we have restored our public resources to levels needed to build a thriving, prosperous state.

In The Know: Early voting begins; celebrating 10 years of OK Policy; surge in Oklahomans seeking psychiatric crisis care…

by | August 23rd, 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.

In The News

Early voting for Tuesday’s runoff elections begins: Early voting begins Thursday in the run-off election that will help determine several party’s candidates for state and federal offices. You can start early voting at 8 a.m., but, in most counties, you can only vote at your county election board. Sometimes there’s a second site – in Tulsa County, you can vote at the downtown Election Board or at Hardesty Library near the Creek and Memorial. There are several state races for Oklahomans to decide. [NewsOn6] Advocacy 101 Video: Runoff Primaries in Oklahoma [Together Oklahoma]. Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections [OKPolicy].

Celebrate, support OK Policy with New Yorker humorist: The past decade of Oklahoma politics has featured a lot of changes, but one thing lawmakers, media and voters have more of than ever before is access to quality, nonpartisan data. Thanks largely to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, this state has had an incubator for responsible public policy since 2008. Now, executive director David Blatt, the OK Policy board and its passionate base of supporters want you to consider making a $100 donation — $10 for each year of existence, perhaps? — to ensure Oklahomans keep receiving responsible information about public policy decisions for the next decade. In making that donation, you will receive a ticket to OK Policy’s 10th anniversary gala dinner. [NonDoc] The deadline to buy tickets for the September 13 dinner is September 7 [OK Policy].

‘People seem sicker now’: The number of Oklahomans seeking psychiatric crisis care has surged: In an era of budget cuts to state agencies, the number of Oklahomans in need of psychiatric crisis care services has surged and mental health providers say people are sicker than previous years. From fiscal years 2015 to 2018, the number of Oklahomans who are need of crisis care centers across the state increased by 21 percent — from 8,049 people to 9,735, according to data provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [The Frontier]

Continue Reading »

In The Know: More growth in nonaccredited teachers; Fallin touts economic gains; marijuana rules go forward…

by | August 22nd, 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.

In The News

Finding more teachers a focus for Oklahoma schools: Harlee Reed is one of around 5,400 university students across Oklahoma who are preparing to become teachers, a number that has been on the decline in recent years. Last year’s count of education majors at Oklahoma universities was 21 percent lower than just four years earlier, according to survey results from 21 of 23 teacher preparation programs compiled by the Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Preparation. [NewsOK 🔒] Oklahoma is poised to break last year’s record-setting number of emergency certifications for nonaccredited teachers in just three months. [Tulsa World]

Top education officials detail challenges: Some of the state’s top education officials are settling into their new posts, and they’ve been working on their plans. Oklahoma City Public Schools got a new superintendent this year, and the University of Oklahoma appointed a new president. Each of them talked about the challenges their systems face and how they plan to address them during the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s annual State of the Schools event on Tuesday. [Journal Record] To raise awareness of Oklahoma’s low ranking for public education funding, a group of state artists are launching Faces of the 47th, a large-scale art installation that will go up this month in five Oklahoma cities. [NewsOK]

OKPolicyCast 36: Back to School (with Rob Miller): This month many kids and teachers are heading back to school in Oklahoma. Also this month, an increase in Oklahoma’s teacher pay scale is going into effect for the first time in a decade. It was a hard won raise for teachers, and it came only after massive advocacy efforts culminating in a teacher walkout and rally at the state capitol near the end of the last school year. But even this much-needed raise won’t be enough to make up for years of cuts to education in Oklahoma. That’s why for this episode, I spoke with an experienced educator and administrator about what it feels like coming back to school after all that’s happened. [OK Policy]

Continue Reading »

OKPolicyCast 36: Back to School (with Rob Miller)

by | August 21st, 2018 | Posted in Education, Podcast | Comments (1)

The OKPolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry with production help from Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OKPolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

This month many kids and teachers are heading back to school in Oklahoma. Also this month, an increase in Oklahoma’s teacher pay scale is going into effect for the first time in a decade. It was a hard won raise for teachers, and it came only after massive advocacy efforts culminating in a teacher walkout and rally at the state capitol near the end of the last school year. But even this much-needed raise won’t be enough to make up for years of cuts to education in Oklahoma, and the symptoms of these cuts are still visible in rising class sizes, missing programs, and reduced support staff.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Why campaigns go negative; OK judge resigns over abuse of power; teachers turn to politics…

by | August 21st, 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.

In The News

(Capitol Update) In final days before election, many pressures to go negative: With about a week to go, the statewide runoff campaigns have turned negative. Surprise, Surprise. People wonder why this happens. It happens for two reasons: Neither candidate wants to lose — and it works. Most of us have something in our lives we’d just as soon everyone not know about. It could be something personal like an embarrassing family situation. Or, perhaps it’s something in our business dealings like a lawsuit. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma judge resigns amid abuse of power allegations: campaign website and Facebook page for an Oklahoma district judge facing suspension and possible removal from the bench were deleted Monday, the deadline for which the judge could either submit to voluntary suspension or submit a response to the suspension request. Citing a desire to spend time with his family, rather than the mounting abuse of power allegations made against him, District Judge Curtis DeLapp announced his resignation today, according to a radio station in Bartlesville. [The Frontier]

After the walkout teachers turned to reading, writing and politics: Five days into a statewide teacher walkout, Sarah Carnes was scrolling through her social media feeds when she came across a Facebook post asking if a teacher in the Mustang area would be willing to run for an open state House seat in the upcoming election. Carnes, who is an art teacher at Mustang High School, had spent the previous week with thousands of other educators at the state Capitol, demanding that lawmakers increase funding for schools, only to be told repeatedly that the level of increase being sought was not going to happen. The exhilarating experience of participating in one of the state’s largest public demonstrations helped open her mind to an idea she hadn’t really considered before. [NewsOK 🔒]

Continue Reading »

In final days before election, many pressures to go negative (Capitol Update)

by | August 20th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

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.

With about a week to go, the statewide runoff campaigns have turned negative. Surprise, Surprise. People wonder why this happens. It happens for two reasons: Neither candidate wants to lose — and it works. Most of us have something in our lives we’d just as soon everyone not know about. It could be something personal like an embarrassing family situation. Or, perhaps it’s something in our business dealings like a lawsuit. For people with a record in politics, it’s often having taken an unpopular stand on an issue or having made a stupid remark publicly.

Continue Reading »

In The Know: Campaign dark money; underfunded prison staff; medical marijuana draft bill…

by | August 20th, 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.

In The News

Dark money groups spend tens of thousands of dollars leading up to Oklahoma runoff races: Dark money groups with ties to Oklahoma business interests are injecting tens of thousands of dollars into key state legislative races leading up to the August 28 runoff election. While political action committees must disclose their donors, dark money groups, which include social welfare groups, trade associations and unions do not. [The Frontier] Both men seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general have put a considerable amount of money into the race. [Tulsa World]

DOC director: Oklahoma needs to invest in prison staffing: In “Will ‘hero’ emerge on prison reform?” (Our Views, Aug. 14), The Oklahoman quoted a Texas politician asking who Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform hero would be. “Who would lead this and get it done?” the politician asked. I ask whom among our legislators does not want safer communities? Who does not want inmates, most of whom will be released, to be productive citizens? [Joe M. Allbaugh / NewsOK] The Oklahoma town of Taft is facing safety issues as the area’s minimum-security men’s prison has seen several inmates escape. [AP News]

Pro-cannabis groups agree on draft bill: Oklahoma’s somewhat disparate marijuana advocacy groups have agreed on proposed legislation to fill gaps in State Question 788. The proposed 202-page bill is largely based on model legislation drafted by New Health Solutions Oklahoma, a group representing more than 90 businesses interested in the medical marijuana industry. [NewsOK] The cannabis community in Oklahoma has grown significantly in the two years since a group of activists successfully petitioned to put medical marijuana on a ballot. [Tulsa World

Continue Reading »

The Weekly Wonk: Reconsider the runoff; second-class citizens; encouraging signs for #okleg

by | August 19th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’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

This week Summer Intern Max West urged us to reconsider the runoff and pointed to possible solutions for improving our election system. Executive Director David Blatt’s weekly Journal Record column featured Still She Rises legal defense advocate D’Marria Monday and explored how people in Oklahoma with felony convictions are disenfranchised even after being released from prison. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis gave us hope with some encouraging signs from this year’s legislative candidates

Continue Reading »