In The Know: April 12, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the Gannett company is leaving Tulsa even after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax incentives. The OK Policy Blog looks at efforts to end the tax loophole for large online retailers like Amazon. The University of Oklahoma is consolidating $1.2B in employee retirement funds with a single firm. A bill attempting to ban foreign law will not be heard in the Senate.

The Washington Post contrasts hostility to the federal government in Oklahoma with the state’s reliance on federal jobs and money. NewsOK’s Chris Casteel took issue with the article. The latest revenue reports shows collections continue to inch upward, with a particularly strong showing from the sales tax. The legislature is looking at increasing the fee on small passenger-car tire sales to help pay for air-quality monitoring.

The Tulsa Union School District is proposing wide-ranging changes to class times, usage of school buildings, and administration. Libyan students at OU are at risk of losing their ability to stay in Oklahoma because funds for their education are part of Libyan offshore assets that were frozen during the civil war. This Land Press looks at uncertainty around what region Oklahoma is in. In today’s Policy Note, the Los Angeles Times looks at moves in several states to cut taxes for the wealthy while simultaneously reducing medical aid to the poor.

Read on for more.

In The News

Tulsa taxpayers upset after company receiving state rebate shuts down

A major media company pulls up stakes, after cashing in on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax incentives. Gannett is walking away from Tulsa with $260,000 worth of tax rebates in its pocket. Now some taxpayers are wondering whether companies that close up shop owe the state a rebate refund. After months of wooing, Gannett made Tulsa part of its media family back in 2007.  The company promised to add another 500 call center jobs to Tulsa’s economy. In return, the state gave them a break on their payroll taxes. Four years and $260,000 later, the media giant has turned out the lights.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

More states push to end the Amazon tax loophole. Will Oklahoma join them?

The state budget crisis has put nearly all public services under intense scrutiny. With most state agencies taking cuts of 15 percent or higher, and more cuts expected, public officials have been forced to streamline operations, eliminating both waste and many useful programs. With states hurting everywhere, they are also beginning to look at holes in the tax code that lack any good rationale. One glaring example is sales tax collections for online purchasers. Many states, including Oklahoma, require residents to pay taxes for online purchases, but they put the burden on individual taxpayers to identify how much tax is owed when filing their tax return.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

$1.2B in OU retirement funds changing hands

The University of Oklahoma is consolidating three of its defined contribution retirement plans with Fidelity Investments, a move that will affect the financial futures of more than 10,000 of its employees and the estimated $1.2 billion they have squirrelled away. Fidelity spokesman Mike Shamrell said his company represents more than 2,000 nonprofits and institutions like OU. In total, he said Fidelity is investing on behalf of more than 3.5 million employees of such organizations. … Shamrell said many universities and other nonprofits, which can sometimes have dozens of retirement plan providers, are consolidating to streamline the process in response to federal regulations that took effect in January 2009. Under the new regulations, employers like OU are held more accountable for a retirement plan providers’ services and results, according to John Ragnoni, executive vice president of Fidelity’s Tax Exempt Business division.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at

Oklahoma House measure on foreign laws in state courts won’t be heard in Senate

The Senate will not hear a bill that would prohibit foreign laws from being enforced in Oklahoma courtrooms. The bill was filed after a similar ballot measure — State Question 755 — was appealed in federal court after it was approved by voters in November. House Bill 1552 — which came under criticism Monday — easily passed the House of Representatives, but has languished in the Senate and is considered dormant this year. Rep. Sally Kern, the author of HB 1552, said she is disappointed the Senate sponsor of the measure did not seek to have it heard by a Senate committee. Kern, R-Oklahoma City, left open the possibility of trying to get the language attached to another bill. Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that would be bad for the state. HB 1552 would threaten all international business contracts and companies in the state, he said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

In Okla., a beneficiary sours on federal spending

Lawyer John Hager paid scant attention as Congress and the White House raced against the clock to strike a budget deal that narrowly averted a government shutdown. As the budget battle moves into its next phase in the coming weeks, he hopes lawmakers will cut the federal budget by much more than the $38 billion trimmed in the current spending plan. The less federal government, he said, the better. “Centralized anything doesn’t really work,” Hager said, adding that he was unperturbed by the prospect of a federal shutdown. “I’m not sure what they do has a big impact on my life.’’ That jaundiced view of the federal government is common here, local leaders say, even though the region’s surging economy is built to a large degree on a foundation of federal spending.

Read more from this Washington Post article at

See also: Where’s the love in Oklahoma City for Uncle Sam? from ,politics

Tax collections inching closer to pre-recession levels

General Revenue Fund tax collections are inching closer to pre-recession levels nine months into the current fiscal year, Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said Monday (April 11). For March, total GRF collections surpassed last year’s receipts for the same month by $37.3 million and the estimate by $42 million, Doerflinger announced in releasing his monthly revenue report. “All major tax collection categories continue to do well, but sales tax revenues are especially encouraging because year-to-date collections from this source are currently outpacing pre-recession collections for the first nine months of FY-2008 by 1.2%,” he said.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Small tire fee could rise from $1 to $2.50

The state fee on small passenger-car tire sales would go from $1 to $2.50 under pending legislation aimed at funding state tire-recycling and air pollution-monitoring and enforcement efforts. House Bill 1939 would raise $6.6 million a year in new revenue, according to a legislative staff estimate. Currently, the state has a three-tiered tire fee: $1 per tire for tires with rim diameters of 17.5 inches or less; $2.50 per tire for tires with rim diameters of more than 17.5 inches but not more than 19.5 inches; and $3.50 per tire for larger tires, primarily those used on agricultural equipment and long-haul trucks. … The first 70 cents of the fee would pay for state air-monitoring efforts, and the rest would be used to fund tire-recycling efforts, said Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Union school district proposes changing school times, shifting classes

Union administrators are proposing changes to equalize instruction time across the district and to prepare for the opening of the Union Collegiate Academy next year. Under the plan, 10th-graders would move to the high school, and the Intermediate High School would become the Ninth Grade Center in the fall of 2012. … As proposed, the plan would allow high school principals to follow each class from 10th grade to graduation. It also would enact earlier starting and ending times for elementary schools and 10th through 12th grades and later starting and ending times for sixth through ninth grades.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Libyan students at OU see funds dwindle

Libyan students may lose their funding to live and study at OU. All Libyan offshore assets are frozen due to the turmoil in Libya, which includes the funds for the 11 Libyan students at OU, said Monica Sharp, International Student Services director. Most of these are graduate students who are here with their families. The funds are managed through the Institute for International Education and the Canadian Bureau for International Education, Sharp said. The institute is still waiting on approval of its license to access Libyan funds through the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, Sharp said. However, the bureau license was recently approved and the bureau students’ accounts will be paid.

Read more from this OU Daily article at

South by Midwest: Or, where is Oklahoma?

… Before I come to that assertion, let me ask you, dear reader, who I trust has at least a passing interest in the nation’s 46th state: Where is Oklahoma? Were someone on the street to ask you this question, you might turn to a political map of the United States and point to the meat cleaver above Texas. There it is, you would say, in the mid-south-central portion of the continental United States. But where is it culturally? Is it part of The South? The U.S. Census Bureau says so. Generations of venerable southern historians, such as C. Vann Woodward, have said so.

Read more from This Land Press at

Quote of the Day

There is no question that government jobs are great ones to have in a community. They are stable, people have benefits, and there is little turnover. Losing a lot of them would hurt.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett

Number of the Day

70 percent

Increase in Oklahoma foreclosure filings between the last quarters of 2008 and 2010.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute, Numbers You Need March 2011

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Governors cut taxes — and medical aid to the poor

In their drive to cut medical assistance to the poor while pushing tax breaks benefiting the affluent, congressional Republicans are following the lead of a group of governors who have championed this approach to balance state budgets. The strategy — reprising the supply-side economics of the Ronald Reagan era — has caught on with conservatives who say that lowering taxes for corporations and wealthy taxpayers will boost state economies. But the moves are sparking a debate in capitols from Arizona to Wisconsin to Maine over who is being asked to sacrifice and whether the strategy will produce more jobs.

Read more from the Los Angeles Times at,0,5548672.story.

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


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.