In The Know: Creek County to vote on sales tax increase for volunteer firefighters

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 Creek County is putting a sales tax increase on the November ballot to increase funding for volunteer firefighters who have struggled with inadequate and unreliable equipment. The Tulsa County Republican Party has voted to oppose the Vision2 extension of a county sales tax and to censure GOP County Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo, who approved sending the issue to voters. The OK Policy Blog discussed the results of chronic underfunding of the agency tasked with investigating violent deaths in Oklahoma.

Rep. Jason Murphey wrote in the Edmond Sun that IT consolidation is saving the state $40 million per year. The federal government is releasing restrictions on millions of earmarked federal transportation dollars, including more than $8.1 million designated for Oklahoma. Beginning Sept. 3, the maximum number of weeks that Oklahomans can collect Emergency Unemployment Compensation will drop to 14 weeks from 20 weeks. This Land Press examined statistics on murders in Oklahoma between 2000 and 2010.

Former veterans center administrator John McReynolds has been named interim director of Oklahoma’s embattled Department of Veterans Affairs.  The three largest universities in Oklahoma — the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma — are breaking enrollment records with the start of the fall semester. A poll found that two-thirds of Oklahomans think human activity is partly responsible for climate change. Planned Parenthood has added more general-practice health-care services to its Tulsa centers.

The Number of the Day is how many women are in the Oklahoma State Senate, fewer than 25 years ago in 1987. In today’s Policy Note, CNN Money highlights a report showing that child care costs exceed the costs of rent in most states. Read the full report here.

In The News

Creek County to vote on sales tax increase for volunteer firefighters

Just two weeks after wildfires blackened thousands of acres in Creek County, county commissioners took steps to help volunteer firefighters whose resources were severely strained if not depleted. The commission agreed to put a one-third cent sales tax increase on the November ballot for voters to decide on. Like all of Creek County’s volunteer fire departments, the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department is terribly under-funded. It doesn’t have enough equipment, and the equipment it does have is a bunch of old, unreliable hand-me-downs from the Oklahoma Forestry Department or other regional fire departments. During the recent wildfires, volunteer firefighters had to make tough decisions on how to use the limited funds they get. For instance, if they had $500 to use they had to decide between filling up their trucks with diesel to get to the fires, or replacing parts to make sure the trucks work once they get to the fires.

Read more from Fox23.

Tulsa County GOP opposes sales tax extension, censures 2 Republican officials

The Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee has voted to oppose the Vision2 extension of a county sales tax and to censure GOP County Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo, who approved sending the issue to voters in November. Seventy-five to 80 people attended the county committee meeting Saturday, and all but three voted in favor of the censure, Tulsa County Republican Chairman J.B. Alexander said. On Aug. 13, Perry, Smaligo and Democratic Commissioner Karen Keith approved a measure to send the proposed 0.6 percent county sales-tax extension to county voters. The two-part proposal would use about half of the money raised by the tax extension to pay for bonds that would finance improvements to city of Tulsa industrial facilities at Tulsa International Airport and half for bond-financed public works projects in the county and its cities.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Getting what we pay for

We’ve seen plenty of examples of cuts to our state’s core services in recent years, as well as chronic underfunding that is causing us to fall short of many of our common goals. One of the most dramatic examples is the plight of the state Medical Examiner’s office. The Medical Examiner is responsible for investigating homicides, suicides, and other violent or suspicious deaths. They also investigate deaths from diseases which may pose a risk to public health. Recent reports have brought to light the extent of our failure to provide this important service and the real human costs.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Rep. Jason Murphey: IT reforms bring $40 million in savings for state

Oklahoma taxpayers received some great news as part of a recently released report from Oklahoma State Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit. During the last legislative session, the Government Modernization Committee was told the state’s information technology consolidation plan allowed taxpayers to realize $30 million of savings each year. Pettit’s latest report has upgraded that estimate to $40 million. He will testify to this effect next month before a Government Modernization committee hearing. Without a doubt, the consolidation of Oklahoma state government’s information technology infrastructure represents the single largest government modernization savings initiative. It would have never been possible without the hard work of a team of dedicated officials who are determined to cut the cost of your state government.

Read more from The Edmond Sun.

Restrictions on unspent federal earmark money lifted

Federal transportation officials announced last week that they were releasing restrictions on $473 million in earmarked federal transportation money, including more than $8.1 million designated for Oklahoma. Between 2003 and 2006, federal lawmakers wrote special provisions into federal spending bills, designating the money for special projects, but state and local transportation agencies haven’t spent all of the money, and in the case of some projects, none of it has been spent. States must identify how the money will be spent by Oct. 1 and obligate the money by the end of the year. Any unobligated money at year’s end will be redistributed to other states, under the U.S. Department of Transportation plan. Nineteen Oklahoma earmark projects have all or some of their funding from three federal spending bills in the balance, according to federal transportation officials.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Emergency unemployment benefits to become more restricted

Some extended federal unemployment benefits are about to change, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Monday. Beginning Sept. 3, the maximum number of weeks an unemployment benefit recipient can collect on an Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier 1 claim will drop to 14 weeks from 20 weeks. About 2,500 Oklahomans apply for those Tier 1 benefits each month, said John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Barring action from Congress, payment on all Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims will end Jan. 6 after the legislation authorizing those benefits expires at year’s end.

Read more from NewsOK.

Murder, mapped

Between 2000 and 2010, 165,068 murders were committed in America (not counting Florida), and The Wall Street Journal has mapped them all in an interactive database, providing additional demographic and circumstantial information where available. By combining FBI reports with voluntary state data, the WSJ painted as complete a picture as possible of the nature of murder in America. The database is searchable by state; sex, age, and/or race of the perpetrator or victim; relationship between the two; circumstance; and method. You can also compare any of those variables across states. Oklahoma saw 2,403 murders in the 10-year period. Fifty-seven percent of victims and 53 percent of killers were white; 31 percent of victims and 36 percent of killers were black. The majority of both victims and killers—55 percent and 67 percent, respectively—were between the ages of 18 and 39 and male—74 percent of victims and 89 percent of killers.

Read more from This Land Press.

Commission names interim director of OK Veterans Affairs Department

A former veterans center administrator has taken the reins of Oklahoma’s embattled Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA). The Oklahoma War Veterans Commission named John McReynolds interim director late Friday afternoon, and he was on the job Monday morning. Mr. McReynolds was one of three candidates that the Commission considered for the job. One of the others was Maj. Gen. (retired) Rita Aragon, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs. One member of the Commission, Jerry Riley, told News 9 that, in the end, the members selected McReynolds because they felt he would be best able to quickly step in and get things under control.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma universities break enrollment records

Many colleges and universities across the state, including the state’s three largest institutions, began their fall semesters Monday. And those three largest schools — the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma — are breaking enrollment records. Colleges and universities won’t have final enrollment numbers until they complete their fall enrollment periods. OSU: Most freshmen On Monday, OSU’s freshman class size stood at 4,298, making it the largest freshman class at any public university in the state’s history. That total tops the previous record of 4,053, set by OU last year. Overall enrollment at OSU’s Stillwater campus is also at an all-time high. Monday’s enrollment total stood at 23,459, topping the campus’ previous record of 23,053, set in 1982.

Read more from NewsOK.

Poll shows Oklahomans vary on climate change issues

Oklahomans’ attitudes and opinions on climate change can be as hard to interpret as an occluded front in March. Only 8 percent of the 495 surveyed in the latest Oklahoma Poll think human activity is solely responsible for any change in the Earth’s climate. But two-thirds think human activity may be partly responsible. More than half say the record-breaking heat of the past 18 months has not changed their minds about climate change. But more than a third says it has. One interpretation might be that while Oklahomans are somewhat concerned about changing climate, they don’t perceive it to be a crisis.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Planned Parenthood in Tulsa adds family practice

Until three months ago, Planned Parenthood in Tulsa was limited in what health-care services it could provide. But the consolidation of two affiliates of the family planning nonprofit organization has added more general-practice health-care services to its Tulsa centers, emphasizing more family-centered medicine. Senior clinician Amie Otterstrom said it is not unusual for a person who has avoided health care to go to Planned Parenthood, usually seeking contraception. Now if it is determined that the patient has other medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, a doctor is available for treatment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s trying to use older equipment to fight things that are outrageous. We went to suppress it with our engine, and our engine went down right in the middle of it and shut the pump off.

-Jason Bradley, Assistant Chief of the  Silver City Volunteer Fire Dept., which has struggled with inadequate and unreliable equipment when fighting wildfires due to a lack of funding

Number of the Day


Number of women in the Oklahoma State Senate; there were more women in the state senate 25 years ago in 1987 (6), than there are today.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Child care costs exceed rent in most states

While the experience of raising a child may be priceless, the cost to provide care for them is getting to be more than most parents can afford. According to a report from Child Care Aware of America Thursday, the annual cost of infant care increased roughly 2% last year and ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi to $15,000 in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the cost of providing care for a four-year-old increased by more than 4% and ranged between $3,900 a year in Mississippi to almost $11,700 a year in Massachusetts. For most parents, child care is by far their largest household expense. And the growing costs have put a tremendous strain on their budgets. In almost half of all states, the cost of center-based care for one child exceeded annual median rent payments, the report said. And when two children are factored in, the costs exceeded rent payments in all 50 states.

Read more from CNN Money.

See also: The full report from Child Care Aware of America

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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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