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Turnover of state workers climbing as their salaries fall further behind

by | October 31st, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (1)

We expect a lot from the Oklahomans who work for state government. These are the men and women we entrust to care for victims of abuse and neglect, supervise the most dangerous criminal offenders, stop the spread of infectious diseases, and ensure that our laws are applied fairly.  We expect them to be well-trained, to work hard, and to maintain the highest ethical standards. Unfortunately, a decade of budget shortfalls have made it increasingly difficult to pay state workers competitive wages. The result is that state compensation is lagging further behind the private sector, leading to increasingly expensive employee turnover.

A newly-released study  finds that average salaries for state employees fell to 24 percent below the competitive labor market in 2016, “a continued deterioration of the state’s salary position to the market.” As compensation fell further behind, the state employee turnover rate rose to 20.5 percent in 2016, which is a nearly 40 percent increase from a decade earlier. Employee turnover cost the state over $135 million in 2016, the report found.

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In The Know: House, Senate vote to ‘stop the bleeding,’ but gap remains

by | October 31st, 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, Senate vote to ‘stop the bleeding,’ but gap remains: The Oklahoma House advanced several funding measures Monday for the state’s three major health care agencies, but the money won’t be enough to fill the $215 million shortfall that triggered a special session. A funding gap will remain, but the money is reportedly enough to keep the agencies afloat until April 21, well after lawmakers return in February for regular session. The bills now move on to the Senate. They can be heard as early as Wednesday [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

State Health Department Head, Deputy Resign Amid Questions Over Agency Finances: The top official and a senior deputy at the Oklahoma State Department of Health have resigned amid findings that the agency overspent and mismanaged finances for years. In an emergency meeting Monday night, the Oklahoma State Board of Health accepted the resignations of Health Commissioner Terry Cline and Senior Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain, effective immediately. The department is grappling with an unexplained $10 million cash crunch, recently implementing furloughs and program cuts and announcing layoffs [Oklahoma Watch].

Thousands fear impact of looming DHS cuts: There is no prejudice when it comes to the number of Oklahomans who would be directly impacted by cuts at the Department of Human Services. As state lawmakers met for yet another day of debate Monday, they were met with watchful eyes. Estelle Chappell currently receives assistance through the Daily Living Center. “At the Daily Living Center we have different activities and we go to different places and do things,” said Chappell. “And we’re in touch with somebody else in the same shape we’re in.” But all of that could cease to exist if a budget deal isn’t reached. And it will impact everyone, young and old [KOKH].

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In The Know: With no budget deal, legislators ‘quickly exhausting all options’

by | October 30th, 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

With no budget deal, legislators ‘quickly exhausting all options’: Legislative leaders Friday were scrambling to come up with a plan B as the fate of the state’s only real revenue-raising measure seemed increasingly uncertain. “At this point, there’s not a plan B or an option B, I would say,” state Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, who serves as the House’s budget chair, said Friday afternoon. [CNHI] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]

Budget bill dead after committee gavels out; could be brought back at later time: A compromise discussed in the House budget committee went nowhere Friday after a failed revenue-raising measure this week. House Bill 1054 was tied 11 to 11 before the committee officially gaveled out early Friday evening. [KFOR] House Democrats release compromise letter sent prior to failure of budget bill [KFOR] Votes on state budget fix called off Saturday as revenue proposals continue to divide Oklahoma lawmakers [Tulsa World]

After failing ‘miserably’ on tax-raising measure, state lawmakers move on to ‘Plan B’ with deep cuts: On to Plan B. The Oklahoma House of Representatives Appropriations Committee “failed miserably,” in the words of Gov. Mary Fallin, to move “Plan A” on Friday, leaving legislators with the grim prospect of whacking another $60 million to $100 million from appropriations and voting on a measure that would essentially impose an ungainly and sure-to-be unpopular sales tax on motor fuels. [Tulsa World] What happens ‘when push comes to shove’ on the budget [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers should listen to their constituents during this special session

by | October 29th, 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.

This Week from OK Policy

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record Column encouraged legislators to listen to their constituents and restore the gross production tax to at least 5 percent as part of any budget deal during special session. OK Policy issued two statements this week about budget deals. On Monday, OK Policy argued that the Republican budget plan ignored obvious solutions to the state’s revenue crisis – that plan failed on Wednesday. On Thursday, OK Policy encouraged lawmakers to seriously consider a less-than-ideal compromise budget plan as, perhaps, the best possible outcome of this special session.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor for their story about the harmful effects of tax cuts and industry incentives on public services in Oklahoma.  The lack of a budget deal thus far in special session is not helping the crisis situation now being faced by some public service agencies. Blatt spoke with Public Radio Tulsa and Fox25 about the inadequacies of the Republican plan announced on Monday. And Blatt spoke with KTUL after that plan failed on Wednesday.

Policy Director Gene Perry criticized the cigarette-tax-only approach to addressing the budge hole in an interview with KTUL. And on a brighter note, Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison was quoted by the Oklahoman in their piece about signs of progress in occupational licensing reform.

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 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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In The Know: ‘This is literally it’: State lawmakers build new budget plan after Senate pushes to add gross production tax hike to proposal

by | October 27th, 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

‘This is literally it’: State lawmakers build new budget plan after Senate pushes to add gross production tax hike to proposal: The Oklahoma State Senate sent a message to the House on Thursday. Translated, it read “Let’s get on with it already.” In a remarkable if not unprecedented move, the Senate approved by voice vote a resolution calling on the House, which must originate revenue bills, to put an increase in the gross production tax into the package that failed the House on Wednesday, and to pass the whole thing immediately [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].  The new budget proposal, which includes raising the gross production tax to 4 percent on new wells, appears to be the best possible outcome under the circumstances [OK Policy].

Oklahoma cut taxes. Now a squeeze on public services forces a rethink: As past president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, an industry body that his father helped to create, Dewey Bartlett Jr. is a familiar voice in policy debates. So when he began calling this year for higher state taxes on oil producers to help fund cash-strapped public services, Oklahomans sat up and listened. “I came out of the closet,” jokes Mr. Bartlett, a two-time Republican mayor of this city, once called the Oil Capital of the World [Christian Science Monitor]. Amid budget deadlock, a reminder of what’s at stake [OK Policy].

Tulsa’s growing homeless population pushes downtown shelters beyond capacity: Downtown shelters are struggling to keep up with the rising number of homeless people using their services in Tulsa. The city’s homeless population is a fluctuating number that’s edged upward in recent years, but John 3:16 Mission CEO Steve Whitaker said he’s noticed a real uptick at the mission since this summer. …The John 3:16 Mission typically doesn’t see large crowds until the winter, when the building at Easton Street and Cheyenne Avenue fills up as people try to escape the cold [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: GOP budget plan falls short of votes needed to survive

by | October 26th, 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

GOP budget plan falls short of votes needed to survive: In what appeared to be a rare gesture of bipartisanship this special session, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats teamed up Wednesday to kill a series of taxes on cigarettes, beer and gasoline. Supporters of the plan, which had the backing of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, were banking on the new taxes to help plug the state’s $215 million shortfall and avoid devastating cuts to mental health, Medicaid and social service programs [CNHI]. Oklahoma educators disappointed over failure of budget deal that included teacher pay raise [Tulsa World]. Video: Tensions flare between Speaker Charles McCall, Rep. Cory Willams at State Capitol [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]. 

Oklahoma DHS lists potential program cuts if budget deal isn’t reached soon: An Oklahoma agency is bracing for impact as lawmakers continue to battle over a budget at the Capitol. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote. The fee was expected to generate $215 million for several state agencies [KFOR]. Without a deal, 10,000 people could be forced into nursing homes [NewsOK]. Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Listen to your constituents: Josh Cockcroft is a fourth-term Republican House member from Tecumseh. Last week he surveyed his constituents on how to resolve the budget crisis that currently threatens health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans with mental illness, addiction, and physical disabilities. Over 1,000 constituents responded, with a majority being self-identified Republicans. Well over half favored three revenue measures: a $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax, an income tax surcharge on high earners, and by more than a three-to-one margin, an increase in the gross production tax [David Blatt / Journal Record]. New poll finds Oklahoma voters want comprehensive revenue deal in special session [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Thousands of health care advocates pack Capitol to rally against cuts

by | October 25th, 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

‘Save our services’: Health care advocates pack Capitol to rally against cuts: Thousands of health care advocates on Tuesday packed the Capitol and legislative offices to ask lawmakers to prevent cuts to state agencies that provide services. They chanted “Save our services” and wore buttons and hats bearing the message. “Do your job. Fix the budget,” read one sign. Advocates wore green to symbolize mental health and red to support substance abuse and addiction awareness [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Tax hike that would fund pay raises headed to House floor: A tax hike proposal aimed at shoring up the ailing state budget and funding teacher pay raises is expected to be heard Wednesday in the House. Legislative panels on Tuesday passed House Bill 1035, which now heads to the House floor where it faces an uncertain future. The measure calls for a $1.50 per pack tax hike on cigarettes, a 6-cent per gallon hike in gasoline and diesel taxes, and increases the tax on low-point beer [Tulsa World]. OK Policy’s Gene Perry pointed out that the measures all target low-income and middle-income Oklahomans [KTUL]. The plan ignores obvious solutions [OK Policy].

While lawmakers debate on Lincoln, Oklahomans wait on 23 Street: Sam Lee worked the food counter Tuesday at a northeast Oklahoma City convenience store, handing out egg rolls, fried chicken and other “grab-and-go” items to the incoming lunch crowd. Just a few blocks away, thousands of Oklahomans gathered at the state Capitol, protesting a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, fuel and alcohol, while Republican leaders remain opposed to tax hikes on oil and gas production [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Fallin, McCall, Schulz tout ‘agreement,’ decline questions

by | October 24th, 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

Fallin, McCall, Schulz tout ‘agreement,’ decline questions: Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican lawmakers announced “an agreement between House and Senate Republicans” at a press conference this morning but declined to take questions from media, saying she was headed to The Oklahoman’s editorial board to discuss the plan. Fallin, House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz ignored questions from press, including The Oklahoman’s own Capitol reporter who noted that his editorial board surely “would not mind” if they took time to answer questions about the proposal [NonDoc]. Read our statement on the proposal: Latest Republican budget plan ignores obvious solutions [OK Policy]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

“Another waste of time,” Analyst says Republican state budget plan doomed to fail: With no accommodations to Democrats’ suggestions, the state budget plan Oklahoma Republicans unveiled Monday will not have enough support, an analyst says. The plan Governor Mary Fallin announced Monday was only an agreement between Republicans in the House and Senate. There is not enough Republican control at the State Capitol for tax plans to pass without Democrat support. Revenue items need a supermajority of 75% to pass [KOKH]. State lawmakers react to proposed revenue package [NewsOK]. The plan was meant to pressure House Democrats [NewsOK]. Democrats say they weren’t invited to the discussion table [KOCO].

Budget plan raises questions on revenue, cost projections: Oklahoma’s top Republican officials unveiled their long-awaited budget plans Monday morning, but the announcement raised as many questions as it answered. The plan would fill the $215 million budget hole for this year, raise teacher salaries by $3,000 annually, raise public employees’ salaries by $1,000 and restore the earned income tax credit. To do so, the state would increase cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack, increase motor fuels taxes by 6 cents per gallon and adjust alcohol taxes. Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz announced the plan during a press conference Monday morning [Journal Record].

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Statement: Latest Republican budget plan ignores obvious solutions

by | October 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (4)

Oklahoma Policy Institute issued the following statement on the new budget proposal announced by Governor Fallin and Republican legislative leaders:

Since the beginning of special session four weeks ago, the bipartisan framework needed to end our budget emergency has been clear. Lawmakers must pair a cigarette tax increase with restoring some income taxes on very high earners and ending some of Oklahoma’s extraordinarily generous tax breaks for big oil and gas. These are the revenue options most popular with Oklahoma voters and most likely to win the needed super-majority approval in the Legislature.

That Governor Fallin and Republican legislative leaders chose not to offer this obvious plan is extremely discouraging for the Oklahomans in severe danger due to lawmakers’ budget deadlock. Foster families, people with mental illness, people who depend on rural hospitals, vulnerable seniors and children, teachers and state employees, and all of us among their friends and families deserve better.

Oklahoma’s structural budget problems will not be solved while lawmakers insist on asking nothing from the wealthiest households and most profitable businesses in our state. This proposal simply continues the political grandstanding that has prevented the obvious, popular, and fair solution preferred by a large majority of Oklahomans.

We’re encouraging Oklahomans to continue contacting lawmakers and visiting the Capitol if you are able. Click here for more information and ways to take action.

In The Know: Is there an end in sight for the legislative special session?

by | October 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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

Is there an end in sight for the legislative special session? Here is what has lawmakers frustrated: Two Tulsa-area Republicans say they are frustrated that the Legislature’s stalled special session isn’t moving ahead, and they say they are ready to vote for controversial changes to the state’s gross production tax if given the chance. Democratic House leaders say they think there are enough supporters — Republicans and Democrats — to get that idea across the finish line if House Speaker Charles McCall would put it to a vote. [Tulsa World] Secret votes and unwillingness to lead are prolonging Oklahoma’s budget stalemate [OK Policy] Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy]

Midwest City Police Chief: ‘We will be killing Oklahomans on a daily basis,’ one result of mental health and substance abuse treatment cuts: Violent crime will spike, and jails across Oklahoma will be overwhelmed in the aftermath of impending budget cuts to the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, law enforcement officials warned Wednesday. [The Oklahoman] An example of what abdication of duty produces [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]

Outpatient services to be slashed amid budget shortfall: Officials announced Wednesday that they must gut mental health and substance abuse programs that serve hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Standing beneath a sign reading “Crisis Center,” Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said there’s no option left but to cut state funding for all outpatient services in order to fill her agency’s $75 million shortfall. [CNHI] OK House Speaker Tells State Agencies To Hold Off On Cuts [News9] Members will be called back to vote on short-term appropriations plan [Fox25]

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