In The Know: Another study links injection wells to Oklahoma earthquakes

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that another study has linked injection wells to Oklahoma earthquakes. The Tulsa City Council approved a draft of a $919 million capital improvement proposal. Muskogee’s sales tax collections fell for the fifth consecutive month compared to last year. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a lecture in Oklahoma City that heart disease and prescription drug abuse are growing causes of death in Oklahoma.

In the Journal Record, M. Scott Carter discussed the challenge posed by the string of resignations from Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet. In Urban Tulsa Weekly, Arnold Hamilton discussed how support for public services is being shifted from tax revenue to fees. On the OK Policy Blog, Kate Richey responded to an Oklahoman editorial that claimed Oklahoma’s racial wealth gap is due to bad personal choices by Oklahomans of color.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in retail sales in Oklahoma for the 1st quarter 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that undocumented immigrants paid $70.7 million in state and local taxes in Oklahoma in 2010, and if immigration reform allows them to work legally, they would contribute $84.5 million.

In The News

Another study links injection wells to Oklahoma earthquakes

Evidence linking a cluster of central Oklahoma earthquakes to a more massive quake a continent away strengthens suspicions that nearby injection wells play a role in the seismic activity, the lead author of a scientific study says. A paper appearing this week in the leading journal Science shows that a huge Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake in Chile triggered a mid-size quake near Prague, Okla., 16 hours later, followed by months of smaller tremors. The culmination of the Lincoln County seismic activity was a Nov. 6, 2011, magnitude 5.7 earthquake, the largest in contemporary state history. “We’ve known for at least 20 years that shaking from large, distant earthquakes can trigger seismicity in places with naturally high fluid pressure, like hydrothermal fields,” said study coauthor Geoffrey Abers, a seismologist at Lamont-Doherty. “We’re now seeing earthquakes in places where humans are raising pore pressure.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tulsa City Council approves draft of $919 million capital improvement proposal

Months of number crunching behind them, the City Council approved a draft list of proposed capital improvement projects totaling $919.9 million on Thursday night. The list – which will be presented to Tulsans at five public meetings before the council completes it and puts it on the November ballot – is heavy on transportation projects, with more than 71 percent targeted for that purpose. Unlike the 2008 Fix Our Streets program it would succeed, it includes hundreds of millions of dollars for public safety, cultural amenities and other nonstreet-related needs.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Muskogee sales tax collections down

Muskogee’s sales tax collections fell for the fifth consecutive month compared with figures reported for the same period a year ago, the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s July report shows. The 3.34 percent decline of taxes collected on actual sales reported May 16-31 and estimated sales June 1-15 was significantly larger than the 0.32 percent dip recorded in the commission’s June report. The revenue lag comes as the U.S. Commerce Department reported higher household income and increased consumer spending in May.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

Heart diseases, prescription drug abuse growing causes of death in Oklahoma

Heart disease and prescription drug abuse are growing causes of death in the U.S. and especially in Oklahoma, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a lecture Thursday in Oklahoma City. CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden came to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center on Thursday to discuss what the center’s data has shown about improving public health and health care in the U.S. and Oklahoma. The No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. by far right now is cardiovascular illnesses, such as heart disease and strokes, Frieden said.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Fourth Reading: Fallin cabinet undergoing drastic changes

Just about a year out from her next gubernatorial campaign, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has watched her cabinet undergo drastic changes. This week, Fallin’s third cabinet secretary – Education Secretary Phyllis Hudecki – resigned. Hudecki’s resignation follows those of Environmental Secretary Gary Sherrer and, before that, Energy Secretary Mike Ming. Last year Fallin’s chief budget negotiator, Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, also resigned. The departures have left many supporters of the governor scratching their heads and wondering if the Fallin administration has issues or if the departures are a normal sign of change. For her part, Fallin has praised each departing member of her team and said little if anything that might lead to speculation of problems.

Read more from the Journal Record.

A tax by any other name

It’s all but impossible for state lawmakers to raise taxes in Oklahoma thanks to a constitutional amendment that voters approved two decades ago. Indeed, the anti-tax mood remains so entrenched that our elected leaders now routinely cut state income taxes — another quarter-percentage-point kicks in January 2015. Of course, it doesn’t cost any less today than it did 20 years ago to build bridges, staff prisons, or operate public schools. It just means our elected leaders must be especially ingenious to have it both ways politically — lower taxes and decent public services.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

A response to The Oklahoman: It’s about economic opportunity, not bigotry

A recent report by Oklahoma Policy Institute, “Building Equity: Closing the Opportunity Gap in Oklahoma,” outlines large and persistent gaps in wealth, income, and opportunity between Oklahomans of different races and ethnic backgrounds in our state. It explains how the gap was historically created, presents data on the size and scope of the gap, and proposes public policies to equip all Oklahomans with the tools they need to have a better chance at prosperity. A recent Oklahoman editorial (“Bigotry not to blame for Oklahoma’s shortcomings,” June 24) takes issue with this report.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

There’s two things about the Texas Model. First, there’s this kind of arrogant refusal to distinguish what God has done for you and what you’ve done for yourself. So, we’re awash in oil and gas, which is nothing we did–God did that–and it’s powered our economy. We have a coast and one of the biggest ports in the world, Houston. And we’ve got interstate highways that run north and south, east and west. And we’ve got great weather. So it’s really geography and geology. The other piece of it is the arrogance of refusing to look at our very high poverty rate, our very high percentage of low-wage jobs, our top rate of uninsured medically in the country, and say that this is a miracle.

-Scott McCown, executive director of Center for Public Policy Priorities, a think tank based in Austin (Source:

Number of the Day

6.3 percent

Percentage increase in retail sales in Oklahoma for the 1st quarter 2013, compared to 2012

Source: Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Undocumented immigrants state and local tax contributions

In the public debates over federal immigration reform, much has been made of the argument that undocumented immigrants would be a drain on federal, state and local government resources if granted legal status under reform. But it is also true that the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are already taxpayers, and that their local, state and federal tax contributions would increase under reform. This report provides state-by-state estimates on the state and local tax contributions of the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Read more from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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