In 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 email@example.com. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that a coalition is forming to support adequate funding of public services. As part of this effort, OK Policy is taking applications for a new outreach coordinator. Urban Tulsa Weeklyexplains how one plan to reduce income tax rates would result in a tax increase for two-thirds of Oklahomans. In case you missed it last week, OK Policy explained how a short-sighted emergency rule passed by the Insurance Commissioner and Governor makes it impossible for some babies to get health insurance in the state.
An OKC outlet mall has brought the first local branches of several retailers, causing them to begin charging sales tax for online purchases by local buyers and boosting the city’s revenue. A new kind of zoning code is aimed at revitalizing Tulsa’s Pearl District as walkable, mixed use, urban living. The city of Tulsa has failed to collect more than $460,000 in fees from downtown property owners whose assessments were meant to finance the construction of the downtown baseball park.
The Oklahoma Gazette looks at the major challenges and change for Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes in 2011. Oklahoma City Public Schools is set to release a mobile application with updates from the district in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic. An Oklahoma death-row inmate will be the first person executed in the United States in 2012, barring any last-minute actions by the governor this week. Bob Waldrop shares his testimony to the Corporation Commission about the hardship an OGE utility rate increase would impose on low-income Oklahomans.
The Number of the Day is the average markup over the fair market price on a flight through the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City – one of the ten most expensive midsize airports in America. In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times calls for America to bring back boring banks.
In The News
Coalition being formed to safeguard funding of public services
A coalition is forming to support adequate funding of public services in light of talks at the Capitol about cutting taxes used to fund government. The Oklahoma Policy Institute is leading the effort. “We are beginning to work with other organizations about how to develop some kind of common messages and strategies to try to make the case for fair and adequate funding of public services,” David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said Tuesday. “Some of the proposals seem to create a greater risk of cutting government revenues and further endangering the funding of services while others just look to put more of the tax load on the poor and middle-class households,” he said. The Oklahoma Policy Institute wants to hire an outreach coordinator to lead efforts to educate Oklahomans about the issue.
See also: We’re hiring (again)! from the Oklahoma Policy Institute
Arnold Hamilton: The outcome of eliminating income tax isn’t pretty
The powers-that-be in Oklahoma are hell-bent on eliminating the state income tax. So, the question is, is it good or bad for Oklahoma? The answer depends on whether you’re a card-carrying member of the 1 percent or the 99 percent. The OCPA plan — developed by the so-called “father of supply-side economics,” Arthur Laffer — would eliminate all tax exemptions, deductions and credits as a means of offsetting the lost income tax revenue. What does that most likely mean for taxpayers? Standard deduction, gone. Itemized deduction, gone. Personal exemption, gone. Earned income tax credit, gone. Sales tax credit, gone. In other words, higher taxes. The Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy actually crunched the numbers. All told, 67 percent of Oklahomans would pay higher taxes under this plan — one of a myriad of possible scenarios that will be fed into the sausage-grinder known as the state Legislature that reconvenes Feb. 6.
New insurance rule throws the baby out with the bathwater
As the Affordable Care Act is implemented across the nation, states have taken varying approaches to making sure coverage is available for all children. While most states have done a good job maintaining and ensuring the availability of health insurance for kids, Oklahoma has taken an enormous step backwards by changing state law to restrict coverage for newborns and babies. This post explains the series of events leading up to a recent move by the Insurance Commissioner to pass an unprecedented and short-sighted emergency rule that makes it impossible for some babies to get health insurance in the state.
For Oklahoma tribes, a time of major challenges and change
From high-profile elections to high-profile lawsuits, 2011 was a busy year for Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes. Since before statehood in 1907, the area that would become Oklahoma has been deeply influenced by the American Indian tribes indigenous to the region or relocated to it by the U.S. government. The state is home to nearly 40 federally recognized tribes that are collectively one of the largest employers in Oklahoma. For some of the state’s largest tribes, 2011 meant transition in both tribal governments and state governments. From the governor’s office to the Legislature, a new crop of elected officials were sworn in following the 2010 elections, as well as intensifying conflict between growing urban hubs like Oklahoma City and more rural areas where tribal governments play a larger role.
Outlet mall boosts Oklahoma City’s sales tax revenue
Business has been brisk at The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City, and that has led to a better-than-expected boost to the city’s sales tax revenue. The new factory outlet mall, along Interstate 40 at Rockwell Avenue, opened in August. Since then, the chunk of city sales tax revenue from accessories and apparel has been about 20 percent bigger each month than it was last year, according to a report presented Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Council. The bump represents about an extra $100,000 per month so far for the city, Budget Director Doug Dowler said. Some of the retailers in the outlet mall also opened their first local branches here, putting them on a level online playing field with retailers that already had a physical store in Oklahoma City. Retailers with local branches have to charge sales tax to local online buyers, which brings yet more money to city revenue. “That means that now, any time (local) people buy something off the Internet off those stores, they have to pay sales tax, as well,” Dowler said.
How one ordinance is changing the face of the Pearl District
The term “form-based code” often elicits blank looks. It’s a dull term for what’s becoming a fast-growing new trend in community design and sustainability. The first form-based code in the state is being implemented right here in Tulsa. With the new code, advocates hope to revitalize the Pearl District, a flagging turn-of-the-century midtown neighborhood near 6th St. and Peoria Ave. The new zoning trend has strong ties to the New Urbanism movement. The tenets of New Urbanism include: walkability (10-minute walk between work, home and amenities), connectivity (high quality pedestrian areas and smart flow of automotive traffic), mixed-used housing and development (focus on mixing races, cultures, socioeconomic status as well as shops and types of residences), quality architecture and urban design (aesthetically beautiful buildings and walkways). Simply put, the code focuses on form and function, rather than on function of the land alone.
Downtown assessment fees owed for many Tulsa property owners
The city of Tulsa has failed to collect more than $460,000 in fees from downtown property owners whose assessments were meant to finance the construction of the downtown baseball park. More than 300 invoices totaling $467,131.53 are still unpaid by property owners, many of whom could face foreclosure proceedings by the city if the debts remain unpaid. The city of Tulsa initiated foreclosure proceedings in Tulsa County District Court in late December against one property owner, Carl J. Morony, who it says failed for the past three years to pay improvement-district fees for two downtown buildings he owns. The city is considering filing lawsuits against other property owners with unpaid assessment fees, said Bob Edmiston, senior assistant city attorney.
OKC Public Schools set to launch mobile app in multiple languages
Oklahoma City Public Schools launches a new mobile application Wednesday that will allow patrons to receive updates from the district on mobile devices. Among the new features rolling out with the Oklahoma City schools application are versions in Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic. “We have a native speaker that has gone through the application and she has taken it home to her family to make sure that it all makes sense,” McDaniel said. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, slightly less than half of the district’s 43,000 students are Hispanic and 9,600 students are learning English as a second language. “We are proud to be the first school district to offer push notifications to our patrons in Spanish,” Sandra Park, deputy superintendent, said in a statement. “This will be a vital tool for the thousands of Spanish-speaking students and parents in our district.”
State to have first execution of ’12
Oklahoma death-row inmate Gary Welch’s execution will be the first in the United States in 2012, barring any last-minute actions by the governor this week. Texas has executed the most prisoners overall, and California may have the most inmates on death row, but per capita, Oklahoma has the highest execution rate since 1976. Death sentences and executions peaked nationally in the mid- and late 1990s. Since then, both have dropped by more than half, and several states have abolished or are re-examining their death-penalty policies, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Although a majority of Americans still support capital punishment, there has been a measurable shift in attitude and politics toward the death penalty in recent years, she said. High-profile cases where DNA exonerated death-row inmates – including some in Oklahoma – may be contributing toward the shift.
Bob Waldrop: My testimony before the Corporation Commission
My name is Bob Waldrop, and I am the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. Each month we deliver food to low income households that don’t have transportation. In the past year we’ve made about 4500 such deliveries. Federal, state, and local programs that help low income people are being slashed. LIHEAP, the primary program that helps with utility bills was cut fifty percent. The state’s personal income tax exemption, sales tax credit, and the earned income credit all of which benefit low income people, are programmed for abolition. Everyone is preaching austerity, except, it appears, at OGE headquarters. You can’t ratchet up the pressure on poor people without reaping negative social consequences. Financial crisis is a well-known driver of family dissolution and parental abandonment, violence against women and children, alcoholism and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, and gang involvement. I see these consequences at work all the time in the lives of real people.
Quote of the Day
We are proud to be the first school district to offer push notifications to our patrons in Spanish.
–Sandra Park, deputy superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools
Number of the Day
Average markup over the fair market price on a flight through the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City – one of the ten most expensive midsize airports in America
Bring back boring banks
Central bankers barely averted a financial panic before Christmas by replacing hundreds of billions of dollars of deposits fleeing European banks. But confidence in the global banking system remains dangerously low. To prevent the next panic, it’s not enough to rely on emergency actions by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Instead, governments should fully guarantee all bank deposits — and impose much tighter restrictions on risk-taking by banks. Banks should be forced to shed activities like derivatives trading that regulators cannot easily examine. The Dodd-Frank financial reform act of 2010 did nothing to secure large deposits and very little to curtail risk-taking by banks. It was a missed opportunity to fix a regulatory effort that goes back nearly 150 years.
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