In The Know: Cutting taxes would put state in economic peril | State needs to invest in food security | Lawmakers have cut corporate taxes despite public sentiment

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Lawmakers cut corporate income taxes while polls show corporations should pay their fair share: Although state leaders have reduced the taxes that corporations pay in recent years, the public and businesses both agree that Oklahoma has more pressing concerns that, if addressed, will provide more long-term success and economic growth for our state. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

State Government News

Ryan Walters has been ‘very forthcoming’ since House-issued subpoena, lawmaker says: In an unexpected turn, state Rep. Mark McBride expressed satisfaction on Friday concerning information he’s received from state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters after the Oklahoma House of Representatives issued a legislative subpoena last month. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmaker calls for ‘independent investigation’ of Oklahoma Department of Corrections: The chairman of the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee called Friday for an “independent investigation” of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. [The Oklahoman]

Service Oklahoma touts decreased wait times for driver’s licenses, registrations: The state agency tasked with reducing wait times for customers needing vehicle registrations or driver’s licenses is celebrating its success with a new check-in system. Service Oklahoma said this week that customers in December experienced a 64% decrease in wait time on average compared to December 2022. [Tulsa World]

New Ethics Commission director says fairness a priority: Lee Anne Bruce Boone spent her first day as executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission meeting people in Tulsa. As the new leader of an agency with big responsibilities and a small staff and budget, Bruce Boone is depending on relationships to get the job done. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmakers ponder state gold and silver depository: Surveys suggest that 10% to 12% of American adults own gold or silver. To what extent Oklahoma fits the profile is unknown, but it is among a wave of mostly conservative states considering state-owned bullion depositories that issue debit cards allowing depositors to draw against the cash value of their precious metals. At least two such bills have been filed for the upcoming session. [Tulsa World]

Political notebook: Tax receipts continue lower due to declines in oil and gas: Gross receipts to the state treasury were almost 6% lower in December than in the same month a year ago, Treasurer Todd Russ reported. All of the $88.3 million drop was attributed to a $92.2 million decline in oil and gas tax receipts. [Tulsa World]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Stitt’s new top aide, summer food program, Ryan Walters subpoena and more: The panel talks about Gov. Kevin Stitt hiring as his new top aide an oil executive who was the deciding vote on a controversial Catholic charter school, Stitt rejecting a new federal summer food program for low-income children and the State Department of Education saying 578 new teachers were hired under a new signing bonus. [KOSU]

Capitol Insider: Lawmakers to appropriate $13.9 Billion in next state budget: When they return to the Capitol in February, Oklahoma legislators will have $1.3 Billion more to appropriate in the fiscal year 2025 budget than they did last year. [KGOU]

Opinion, Sen. John Haste: Oklahoma’s roads and bridges won’t build themselves: Oklahoma, like other states, is experiencing workforce shortages in critical industries like transportation. This industry is tasked with planning and building Oklahoma’s roadways and bridges — a massive undertaking that requires a large, highly-trained workforce. [Sen. John Haste / Tulsa World]

Opinion: A forward-thinking legislative approach to early childhood is not just about spending money: The first few years of a child’s life are crucial for brain development, laying the foundation for future cognitive, emotional and social abilities. Research consistently demonstrates that quality early childhood experiences significantly improve a child’s cognitive skills, emotional resilience, physical health and overall well-being. 
[AJ Griffin / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Why policymakers need to invest in programs that address Oklahomans’ food insecurity: The USDA recently released its 2022 U.S. Household Food Security report that demonstrated what we have known for years: Oklahoma’s food insecurity rate is substantially higher than the national average. Oklahoma has so much to offer those looking for a new place to call home, but allowing our children and families to be significantly more likely to be food insecure than their counterparts across the country is not acceptable and will not attract or retain talent. [Chris Bernard / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Stitt shouldn’t have opted out of USDA program that feeds hungry youth: The governor insists that it’s “not reasonable to think that kids are going to go hungry” in Oklahoma this summer because the state isn’t opting into a “brand-new Biden administration federal program.” Here’s a news flash — Oklahomans are already going hungry and struggling to afford food. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion, Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn: Tell your legislator cutting taxes would put our state in economic peril: Once again several of our state government leaders are calling for cutting taxes in the upcoming legislative session. Their carefully worded statements make it seem so appealing. They say we are taking in too much money, more than we need to spend on core services, that our surpluses are too high, that we are overtaxing our citizenry. The thing is, we have heard these arguments before, and they put our state into economic peril. We are finally back on a strong financial path; we must heed the lessons of the past. [Leslie Osborn / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation won’t join Oklahoma governor’s new reservation public safety task force: Oklahoma’s largest tribal nation won’t join Gov. Kevin Stitt’s task force to study the “havoc” caused by tribes gaining more power to prosecute crimes on their reservations. Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said he disagrees with the premise of the new task force, as well as its makeup — only two of its 13 seats are reserved for the 38 tribal nations based in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Tribes step in to feed kids as Gov. Kevin Stitt declines federal funding for Summer EBT: Three Oklahoma tribes will continues to provide Summer EBT food program funding for low-income children on their reservations, while Gov. Kevin Stitt opted the state out of the program for 2024. [Tulsa World]

Program to aid Cherokee Nation in affordable housing, workforce development: The Cherokee Nation is leveraging a federal program designed to yield benefits in areas deemed critical to the future of communities in eastern Oklahoma: affordable housing and workforce development. [Journal Record]

Osage singer-songwriter’s new album seeks to inspire two-spirit resilience: The Osage singer-songwriter Marx Cassity released their new album, “2Sacred,” on Nov. 5 as a response to a 3-year-old statistic of 33% of Native queer youth attempting suicide. Cassity goes by the name of Marca as a therapist specializing in trauma but added the “X” in their stage name, Marx, to represent the gender diversity of their own two-spirit identity. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Greer Center accused of shredding evidence, judge issues temporary restraining order: An Oklahoma County District Judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the Robert M. Greer Center and it’s staff following new allegations of destroying evidence. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma attorney general eyes legal action over alleged insulin price gouging: Oklahoma’s attorney general is exploring legal action against drug manufacturers, alleging wrongful conduct that resulted in artificially increased prices for insulin. [KGOU]

New incentives announced for providers serving Oklahomans with disabilities: Oklahoma Human Services is launching a joint initiative on Feb. 1 to recruit and retain direct support professionals amid what the agency says is a statewide shortage. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Lawmakers File Open Records Lawsuit Against District Attorney: Two Oklahoma lawmakers are suing District 6 District Attorney Jason Hicks for copies of communications sent before, during and after death row inmate Richard Glossip’s clemency hearing last April. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma agency pulls authority from tribal police in a move drawing safety concerns: An Oklahoma state law enforcement agency says it will no longer allow tribal police officers to act on its behalf, a move that comes weeks after a dispute over jurisdiction in Okmulgee County. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County helps 400 clear outstanding warrants at event: Organizers of Oklahoma County’s latest warrant clearance event already are looking forward to the next one in February. County prosecutors, public defenders and court officers from the city of Oklahoma City served nearly 400 people, nearly doubling the number of those they helped during a similar October event. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Pardon and Parole Board’s latest proposals hurt progress made so far: Oklahoma, once notorious for having the world’s highest incarceration rate, has made strides in criminal justice reform over the last five years. One of the more significant changes has been an increase in the number of commutations granted to men and women serving excessive prison sentences. However, recent proposed rule changes for commutations put forth by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board would hamper the progress made. The proposed rule changes would eliminate the possibility of commutation for thousands of Oklahomans who are incarcerated. [Morgan Hale / Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Catholic Charities investing $6.5M in Stockyards neighborhood: Catholic Charities is set to invest more than $6.5 million in the Stockyards neighborhood as it seeks to expand services to women needing safe shelter. [The Oklahoman]

City of Tulsa on track to secure operator for low-barrier homeless shelter: After receiving just one response to its request for proposals to operate a low-barrier shelter for homeless people, the city issued a modified version of the RFP late last year in the hope of attracting more interest in the project. This time around, two organizations responded: City Lights Foundation of Oklahoma and [Tulsa World]

Education News

What are ‘information literacy standards’ and why does Ryan Walters want to change them?: When state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters declared last month he is seeking to change what he called Oklahoma’s “woke” information literacy standards, more than a few people wondered what exactly information literacy standards are and how they are developed. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa’s Indian Education Program marks 50 years helping Indigenous students share, connect with their cultures: The 2023-24 school year marks 50 years since Tulsa Public Schools launched its Indian Education Program. Funded exclusively by federal and tribal dollars, it serves about 3,000 Indigenous students across all grades representing more than 50 tribes through culturally based programming and academic resources. [Tulsa World]

The road ahead for TPS: five months into Walters’ mandated improvement plan: No district in Oklahoma is under the State Board of Education’s microscope quite like Tulsa Public Schools. StateImpact’s Beth Wallis and KWGS’ Max Bryan have this update on how TPS’ state-mandated improvement plan is going so far and the work that lies ahead. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma education updates on Arthur, Epic, Curry, Koons: As a new year begins, a number of stories from across the world of Oklahoma education that have been ongoing for months or years have seen recent developments. Below, find an Oklahoma education roundup featuring updates on court cases, State Department of Education programs and bills filed for the 2024 legislative session. [NonDoc]

Opinion, OSU President Dr. Kayse Shrum: OSU Polytech bridges gap between high-tech skills and economic growth: Oklahoma is facing a shortage of high-tech workers, hindering its economic growth potential. Oklahoma State University has launched OSU Polytech to address this issue, which aims to provide high-tech education to students at all academic levels. [Kayse Shrum / Tulsa World

General News

Deep Greenwood series returns: Harmful legacy of urban renewal: Victor Luckerson, author and journalist of the critically acclaimed Black Wall Street book “Built From The Fire,” will continue his Deep Greenwood series with a discussion on the ways urban renewal negatively impacted the community. Luckerson will join nationally recognized local photographer Don Thompson to discuss the harm caused by urban renewal in the ’60s and ’70s, February 1, 2024 at 7 p.m. inside the OSU-Tulsa auditorium. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion, Project 2025 is the radical conservatives’ machination: There is a dangerous political storm brewing in America. Radical conservatives are attempting to change our democracy to an authoritarian-type government for the benefit of the elite. Their strategy is a classical approach to bringing down a great nation from within. It is based on redefining the truth, controlling future generations of Americans’ thinking, establishing a new political philosophy and controlling the nation’s identity of nationalism. [Richard C. “Dick” Hall  / The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“They say we are taking in too much money, more than we need to spend on core services, that our surpluses are too high, that we are overtaxing our citizenry. The thing is, we have heard these arguments before, and they put our state into economic peril.”

-Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn, writing in an op-ed warning about the latest calls from some state government leaders to cut taxes. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


A majority of Americans (65%) say that tax rates on large businesses and corporations should be raised a lot (39%) or a little (26%). [Pew Research]

Policy Note

2023 Oklahoma Business Leaders Poll: The 2023 edition of the Oklahoma Business Leaders Poll provides critical insight into the sentiments, concerns, and outlook of the Oklahoma business community, from the C-suite to the corner store. The survey highlighted important areas in need of improvement for Oklahoma’s economic growth, including workforce and education remaining the top concern for business leaders. Nearly half (44%) chose those as the top issue facing business in the state. Workforce and education beat out the next closest public policy priority — taxes and incentives — by a nearly 4 to 1 margin (44% to 12%). [State Chamber Research Foundation]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.