In The Know: April 27, 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 House rejected a bill to improve collections of taxes already owed on Internet and direct mail sales, after some members portrayed the measure as a tax increase. The House also passed a tax credit for donations to private school scholarship funds. Meanwhile, budget cuts may force Oklahoma DHS to reduce child care subsidies for low-income families with parents who are working or attending school. The Senate approved new restrictions on abortion inducing drugs.

NewsOn6 reports that pet breeders’ fierce opposition to any regulation of their businesses may be partially due to fears over being caught for not paying taxes. The House advanced a measure that would exempt USDA inspected breeders from state inspections, despite limitations on the USDA’s ability to closely monitor and enforce rules. The House also passed a bill attempting to shut down Hand Up Ministries, a mobile home park that works to rehabilitate sex offenders.

The Oklahoma City council approved the establishment of a non-profit to oversee the spending of public money on economic development. The hospital provider fee was approved by the Senate and is heading back to the House with amendments, though it may face more opposition after a national anti-tax group has come out against it. NPR covers the continuing argument between Grover Norquist and Sen. Tom Coburn over taxes and the deficit. In today’s Policy Note, the Tax Policy Center explains why there is no rationale for capping tax revenue at 18 percent of GDP.

More below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma House rejects sales tax bill, approves tax exemptions

The House of Representatives tried to make the state’s revenue shortfall a little bit bigger Tuesday, passing legislation projected to cut about $22.4 million from state revenue. The largest share resulted from the defeat of Senate Bill 774, a measure to authorize collection of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement on an estimated $15.5 million in sales and use taxes owed on direct mail. The deal is a multistate compact often associated with an effort to collect taxes on Internet sales. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, in fact, portrayed the measure as really being an Internet tax, prompting the bill’s House author, Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, to refer to the two as “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: More states push to end the Amazon tax loophole. Will Oklahoma join them? from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma House passes private school tax credits measure

Tax credits would be established to provide money for private school scholarships under a bill approved Tuesday by the House. Senate Bill 969 would allow companies to donate as much as $100,000 to a nonprofit organization that would award the scholarships. Couples could donate up to $2,000, while individuals could donate up to $1,000. The measure would allow a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the total amount of contribution to a nonprofit, scholarship-granting organization.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma Department of Human Services bracing for budget cuts

Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials are bracing for expected budget cuts by looking at reducing staffing levels and changing the eligibility for child care subsidies, according to a commission meeting report Tuesday. Director Howard Hendrick said the agency is anticipating about a $39 million shortfall, based on the current state budget negotiations. By possibly changing the eligibility for child-care subsidies, fewer people would be able to qualify. The subsidy helps low-income families afford child care, and parents must be working or going to school.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Measure would restrict abortion inducing drugs

The Senate on Tuesday passed a measure that would put restrictions on the use of abortion drugs. House Bill 1970 by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. The measure would require physicians to administer abortion-inducing drugs, including RU-486, in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The measure would prevent administration of the abortion drugs vaginally and reduce the amount of time the drugs could be administered from 8.4 weeks to seven weeks, requiring more medication, said Kate Neary-Pounds, director of Reproductive Services of Tulsa.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma pet breeders’ taxes questioned

Dog breeders are taking their fight to a new level as the state looks to regulate their industry for the first time in history. The new rules are set to go into effect the first of July, but many are still fighting tooth and nail to stop them. Some breeders have threatened to use violence if they don’t like the regulations that ultimately go into place. Meanwhile, some legislators and regulators are calling the breeders’ tax histories into question. Some breeders have threatened to use violence if they don’t like the regulations that ultimately go into place. Meanwhile, some legislators and regulators are calling the breeders’ tax histories into question.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

See also: State House advances pet breeders measure from The Tulsa World

Oklahoma House OKs bill targeting sex offenders’ housing

The House approved a measure Tuesday intended to break up a south Oklahoma City mobile home park where more than 250 men who are registered sex offenders live. David Nichols, founder, president and executive director of Hand Up Ministries, said in an interview that he would talk with his attorneys about how the measure would affect his Christian prison ministry. “I’m sure we’ll try to file an injunction first,” Nichols said. “The worst — I’ll just have to move them out into tents. I’ll offer to let them stay on the property if they want to because they’ve got to keep a job. The only way they can do that is if I help them.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma City council establishes nonprofit for economic development

Oklahoma City Council members approved an amended contract Tuesday with The Alliance for Economic Development, a nonprofit group organized to help broker deals requiring public funding. The contract first was submitted to the council two weeks ago, and council members voiced concerns about the nonprofit board’s lack of diversity and public transparency. The council will provide $424,000 in public funding this year for the group, which will be led by Assistant City Manager Cathy O’Connor.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Hospital provider fee clears Senate, heads to House as national group announces opposition

With a strong bipartisan vote of 39-9, the “SHOPP” (Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program Act) cleared the Oklahoma state Senate yesterday afternoon (Monday, April 25). The measure in an earlier form easily cleared the state House. However, a national group’s opposition could impact prospects in the next round before the lower chamber, which will take up the Senate-amended version within the next few weeks. House Bill 1381 would allow participating hospitals to levy a 2.5 percent fee on “net patient revenue,” according to the state hospital association. That revenue would trigger federal dollars that could be used to serve uninsured Oklahomans, primarily Medicaid recipients. Opposition to the idea came from Americans for Tax Reform. ATR President Grover Norquist said his group will “score” support for SHOPP as a violation of ATR’s “no new taxes” pledge.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Conservative heavyweights trade jabs over taxes

Over the past month, a quarrel has broken out in public between two conservative heavyweights in Washington. On one side is Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who’s looking for a grand compromise to bring down annual deficits. He says the solution may involve an increase in tax revenues. On the other side is anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who says Coburn is breaking a long-standing pledge not to raise taxes. The fight between the feisty Coburn and the pugnacious Norquist got going last month. Initially, it was over Coburn’s drive to end $5 billion a year in tax breaks for companies that blend ethanol with gasoline.

Read more from this NPR article at

Upcoming event: Gov 2.0a Conference, May 6-7

Mobile apps, social networking, and digital connectivity are already transforming our lives in many ways. Alongside these developments has been a growing movement, known as Government 2.0, to apply these technologies to make government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. As a short film by the Open Knowledge Foundation explains, government data combined with these newly available tools has huge potential value both for governments and ordinary citizens. Next week, leaders in Oklahoma’s Gov 2.0 community will gather for the 2nd annual Gov 2.0a conference, May 6-7 at the Skirvin Hilton in downtown Oklahoma City.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

We are at a place where we have no more one-time dollars to keep deferring reductions. We did the right thing by deferring reductions because we got through the deepest part of the recession. If we would have been forced into reductions earlier, then the economic conditions of our state would be much more serious.

-Oklahoma DHS Director Howard Hendrick, who is anticipating a $39 million shortfall for his agency based on current
state budget negotiations.

Number of the Day


Non-farm jobs added to the Oklahoma economy between February and March 2011.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why should taxes be 18 percent of GDP?

“The Path to Prosperity,” Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) solution to federal budget deficits, called for keeping “overall revenue as a share of the economy at historical averages between 18 and 19 percent.” The House budget resolution chose the higher value and set the revenue target at 19 percent of GDP through 2050. What’s so special about those numbers? Nothing.  It is true, as Ryan’s plan noted, that that level of revenues matches the historical average for recent years. Over the past half century, the share of GDP claimed by federal taxes has ebbed and flowed, ranging from a high of 20.6 percent in 2000 to a low of 14.9 percent each of the last two years. The 50-year average was just a hair under 18 percent (see graph). But nothing says this should be the correct level of taxation going forward.

Read more from the Tax Policy Center at

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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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