In The Know: Economists warn eliminating income tax has serious consequences

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

Today you should know that three university economists warned a legislative committee of serious consequences if they eliminate the state’s personal income tax.  This OK Policy issue brief explained why repealing or reducing the state’s income tax is ill-advised.  A Tulsa World editorial surveyed mounting criticism of a proposed rule to redact personal information from state court records.

The Economist explored how fracking is transforming the natural-gas industry in Oklahoma.  The Oklahoma Education Board rescinded emergency rules requiring school districts to provide supplemental online courses.  Senator Harry Coates filed legislation that would make failure to report child sexual abuse a felony.

The OK Policy Blog explained the new Census Supplemental Poverty Measure, which improves our understanding of the vital role of public programs in alleviating poverty.  In today’s Policy Note, the American Academy for an Energy-Efficient Economy released its state energy efficiency scorecard, ranking Oklahoma 47th among the states for its energy efficiency record in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors.  Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage of U.S. residents that moved from one state to another over the last decade.

In The News

Proposal to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate draws concerns

Oklahoma can repeal and modify the state’s personal income tax, which brings in about one-third of the money appropriated by legislators to pay for state services, but must raise others to replace state revenue losses, three university economists told a legislative committee Thursday.  For Alexander Holmes and Larkin Warner, it was the same conclusion they reached 10 years ago after working on a study that looked at eliminating the personal income tax and exempting groceries from the state sales tax.  “It’s willful ignorance of somebody to propose abolishing the personal income tax,” said Holmes, “If you did abolish the personal income tax, you would have enough money probably to … get the roads paved, you could educate kids throughout the sixth grade and that would be it.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Plan to restrict public-records data draws mounting opposition

Opposition to a proposal to remove certain personal data from court records is mounting and with good reason. Or good reasons, we should say.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court has proposed what’s known as Rule 31, which would lead to the removal of such information as dates of birth and addresses from court records. The court has sought public comment on the proposal, and it sure got an earful.  We in the news business have long opposed the move because it would make it more difficult for reporters and editors to verify identities and uncover background information on people in the news.   But now, members of law enforcement, district attorneys’ offices and the business community have come out against the proposal, for varying reasons.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

We will frack you: The rise of shale gas continues

A PRAIRIE wind whips the flags that fly from a Chesapeake Energy rig near Kingfisher, Oklahoma, but the noise of the drill drowns out the weather. A clutch of roughnecks, smudged with dirt and tattoos, are coring the earth, bringing up a little slice from the shale formation below. If the tests prove promising, the well will be hydraulically fractured or “fracked”.  That process is transforming the natural-gas industry. Ten years ago virtually all of America’s natural-gas production came from traditional gas or oil wells reached by vertical drills. But companies were learning how to drill horizontal wells and how to use high-pressure water to break up the shale formations to release the gas inside. Such techniques have become increasingly cost-effective as companies have got more practice.

Read more from The Economist at

Rules for online classes rescinded by Oklahoma state Board of Education

Following opposition from school administrators and concern from lawmakers, the Oklahoma Education Board rescinded emergency rules on Thursday that the board approved last month requiring school districts to provide online courses.  The rules were passed to come into compliance with a law that took affect in 2010. The law requires school districts to offer supplemental online courses, when requested by students or parents, for subjects that aren’t offered in the schools.  “They’re affecting the school district midstream and there were not financial plans for that,” Lakin said.  The board voted unanimously to rescind the emergency rules and instead wait for the formal rule-making process that begins with the legislative session in February. That process will include public input and multiple votes from the board.

Read more from NewsOK at

OK Sen. wants tougher laws after Penn State scandal

An Oklahoma lawmaker is stepping in to help ensure the sexual scandal that rocked Penn State doesn’t happen here at home. State Senator Harry Coates has filed legislation that would better protect young children from sexual abuse.  The goal of the bill, filed Wednesday at the statehouse, is pretty simple.  It would make failure to report sexual abuse of child a felony.  “I think this is the first step in putting teeth in the law that will compel adults to come forward if they see sexual abuse of a child,” Coates said.   Specifically, Coates filed a bill which reads, “Any person that witnesses sexual conduct… between an adult and a child under the age of 14 shall report the matter promptly to the county or municipal law enforcement.”  “I think what we want to do here is cause adults who witness abuse to have a backbone and to come forward,” Coates said.

Read more from KFOR at,0,396313.story

New measure provides insights into poverty and public programs

This year, the Census Bureau took a major step toward addressing some of the flaws with the official poverty measure by releasing the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Unlike the traditional poverty measure, the SPM determines poverty status by comparing a more expansive definition of family’s income with a more meaningful threshold designed to reflect the cost of meeting basic needs, like food, clothing, and shelter. The SPM counts tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Making Work Pay credit, and non-cash benefits, such as food assistance and housing vouchers, as income that help families afford basic needs. It also acknowledges the burden of work expenses, like child care, and out-of-pocket health expenses for many Americans. The Poverty and Policy blog provides a clear summary of the new measure’s assumptions and methodology.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

If you did abolish the personal income tax, you would have enough money probably to [..] educate kids throughout the sixth grade and that would be it.

Alexander Holmes, regents professor of economics and department chairman at the University of Oklahoma

Number of the Day

1.7 percent

Percentage of U.S. residents that moved from one state to another per year between 2001 and 2010; only about 30 percent of Americans change states over their entire lifetime.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities via Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

2011 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

In the fifth edition of ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, we present a comprehensive ranking of the states based on an array of metrics that capture best practices and recognize leadership in energy efficiency policy and program implementation. The Scorecard benchmarks progress and provides a roadmap for states to advance energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. A new, diverse set of states has followed a group of leading states by adopting significant energy efficiency policies, which will lead to innovative and effective programs. Nonetheless, the tremendous potential remaining for energy efficiency savings in all of the states should motivate decision-makers to advance energy efficiency. Cost-effective investment in energy efficiency now will be critical for the success of local, state, and national economies in the future.

Read more from the ACEEE at

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