In The Know: Every state but Oklahoma will have Libertarians on Presidential ballot

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 Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson will be on the ballot in every state except Oklahoma. Officials say state agencies that have switched to issuing tax refunds as debit cards instead of paper checks are saving Oklahoma millions of dollars a year, but House Minority Leader Scott Inman questioned if costs are being shifted onto Oklahomans as fees. The Oklahoma County jail has partially gained accreditation, four years after the U.S. Department of Justice said poor conditions in the jail violated the constitutional rights of the detainees.

The Chickasha Express-Star reported on OK Policy’s county rankings for Grady County. See our new factsheets for all 77 Oklahoma counties here. Find even more metrics in our county-level database. The OK Policy Blog discusses how State Question 766 would create a giant tax loophole for large corporations, while depriving schools, fire and police protection, and other local services of vital resources and potentially raising taxes on homeowners. Find more on all this year’s ballot issues at our 2012 State Questions page.

Fox Business reports that Oklahoma is among the worst states for lack of both health and auto insurance. Former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds wrote in NewsOK that Oklahoma should join other states in better enforcing collection of sales tax on online purchases. OK Policy previously discussed what other states are doing.

U.S. News and World Report’s latest ranking of colleges and universities showed mixed results for Oklahoma schools. Chesapeake announced $6.9 billion in asset sales to help overcome a budget shortfall estimated to be as high as $22 billion. Lawmakers toured a state-run facility for the developmentally disabled in Enid, two weeks before a decision on whether to close it.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of minority workers in low-wage jobs in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Economix shows that American teachers work more hours for less pay than in most other developed countries.

In The News

Every state but Oklahoma has Libertarians on the ballot

The Oklahoma Supreme Court might rebuff a Tulsa lawyer’s request for a temporary restraining order intended to regain a ballot line for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. Chief Justice Steven Taylor and his colleagues might be right, legally, if they turn that cold shoulder. But such a result will renew concern over our restrictive political process. In arguments to Supreme Court Referee Barbara Swimley, Attorney James Linger last week hoped to reverse the Election Board’s spike of the Americans Elect party’s line for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running-mate James P. Gray. Johnson and Gray are on the ballot in 49 states and the District of Columbia – either as Libertarians or independents.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK.

Switching from paper to plastic is saving Oklahoma millions of dollars a year, legislators told

State agencies that have switched to issuing debit cards instead of paper checks to clients and taxpayers are saving Oklahoma millions of dollars a year, officials told a legislative committee Tuesday. But those same officials couldn’t come up with an estimate whether the switch is costing clients and taxpayers extra fees by having to use debit cards instead of paper checks. “Right now there is a cloud of secrecy,” House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, told members of the House Government Modernization Committee. “The taxpayers are being told we’re saving money on the agency side, but in reality what it looks like is we’ve just shifted costs,” he said afterward.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma County Jail gains accreditation

Sheriff John Whetsel said the county jail has gained valued accreditation four years after it was criticized by U.S. Department of Justice for multiple deficiencies. In 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation of jail conditions. In July 2008, it released a scathing report which found that “certain conditions at the Jail violate the constitutional rights of the detainees confined there.” The county jail houses inmates who are awaiting trial but have not been convicted on charges filed against them. The federal agency noted a disturbing number of incidents involving inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive use of force by detention officers. It also cited inadequate access to medical care. Tuesday afternoon, speaking to reporters, Whetsel announced the jail is accredited by the American Correctional Association for its operations. He emphasized that the status is not for its bricks and mortar.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

State survey finds Grady County good economically, poor in health

A report detailing the socioeconomic state of every county in Oklahoma was released this week by the Oklahoma Policy Institute and has Grady County ranked high in education, median income and employment. With median personal income of $45,260, Grady County ranks 14 out of the 77 counties in Oklahoma. Despite this, both Cleveland and McClain counties rank higher on the lists with MPIs of $52,688 and $53,708 respectively. The United States MPI sits at $40,584 according to the 2010 survey. The work force in Grady County is dominated by manufacturing with 15 percent of employed citizens working in this sector. Healthcare, retail and education comprise a combined 40 percent of the workforce here, but command the most presence in surrounding counties.

Read more from the Chickasha Express-Star.

See also: County-Level Factsheets from Oklahoma Policy Institute; County-Level Database from Oklahoma Policy Institute

State Question 766: Intangible property ballot measure would have tangible consequences

One of the six ballot measures facing voters this November is State Question 766, which asks Oklahomans whether the state should have the authority to tax intangible personal property. While seemingly a simple question, SQ 766 has widespread implications that could drain tens of millions of dollars from schools, fire and police protection, and other vital services, while potentially boosting homeowners’ property taxes. The state question was placed on the ballot in response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision in a case, Southwestern Bell Tel. Co. v. Okla. State Bd. of Equalization, that challenged the state’s method of determining property taxes. Like most states, Oklahoma determines ad valorem taxation of certain entities, including public service companies, railroads, and airlines, at the state level instead of the local level. To determine the value of these centrally-assessed companies, the Oklahoma Board of Equalization looks at the value of the entire company as a unit, subtracts certain non-taxable items, then determines Oklahoma’s portion of that value before applying tax rates.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: 2012 State Questions from the Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma among states with highest number of uninsured for health and auto

Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico and Oklahoma have the discomfiting distinction of having some of the highest uninsured rates for both health and auto coverage, according to the latest figures. A recent Gallup poll shows that more than a fifth of people living in those states do not have health insurance. The numbers are about the same in Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico and Oklahoma when it comes to car insurance, according to a separate report from the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Here are the uninsured rates for each state, with medical listed first and followed by auto: Arkansas : 22.8 percent and 16 percent; Oklahoma: 21.7 percent and 24 percent; New Mexico: 21.5 percent and 26 percent; Florida: 21.3 percent and 24 percent.

Read more from Fox Business.

For local businesses, level playing field needed with online retailers

The Internet has revolutionized business and how people shop. It will continue to inspire innovation and competition while providing Americans with boundless opportunities. It also brings new challenges, including how to ensure tax parity between Main Street businesses and online retailers. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a state can’t require companies to collect state sales taxes unless the companies have a physical presence in that state. Importantly, consumers still owe the state sales taxes for online purchases. But unlike a local store, the online retailer doesn’t have to collect the tax and remit it to the state. Instead, the consumer is legally bound to pay the taxes directly to the state — a difficult requirement for the state to enforce. This year, Oklahoma will likely lose more than $200 million in uncollected taxes from online purchases. More important, the jobs of more than 170,000 individuals (more than 10 percent of Oklahoma’s workforce) who work in local retail stores are at risk. Oklahoma has lost as many as 16,000 jobs due to the loss of state sales tax revenue.

Read more from NewsOK.

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

Oklahoma universities get mixed reviews in national rankings

A national ranking of colleges and universities showed mixed results for institutions of higher learning in Oklahoma. U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 Best Colleges report was released Wednesday. The report ranks schools nationwide based on a number of criteria, including selectivity, graduation rates and average freshman retention rates. All of Oklahoma’s three national universities remained the same or moved down in this year’s rankings. The University of Oklahoma was ranked at 101st out of 281 universities, the same ranking the university received in 2012. Both Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa moved down in rank — OSU from 132nd in 2012 to 139th in 2013, and TU from 75th in 2012 to 83rd in 2013.

Read more from NewsOK.

Chesapeake selling $6.9 billion in assets

Chesapeake Energy Corp. moved closer to its 2012 fundraising goal on Wednesday as it announced asset sales totaling about $6.9 billion. The Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company has been looking to shed some assets to help overcome a budget shortfall estimated to be as high as $22 billion. CEO Aubrey McClendon said the deals announced Wednesday put Chesapeake close to its goal of raising $13 billion to $14 billion this year. “These transactions are significant steps in the transformation of our company’s asset base to a more balanced portfolio among oil, natural gas liquids and natural gas resources and production by focusing on developing and harvesting the value embedded in the 10 core plays in which Chesapeake has built a No. 1 or No. 2 position,” he said in a news release. Chesapeake will use a portion of the proceeds from the asset sales to pay off a $4 billion loan it took out in May.

Read more from Power Play.

State, local officials take tour of NORCE facility

State leaders and members of Oklahoma Commission for Human Services took a tour Tuesday of Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, two weeks before the fate of the center may be decided. On the tour were incoming House Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, as well as OCHS members Brad Yarborough, Mike Peck and Linda English Weeks. State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said the tour was good and accomplished what it was supposed to. “I think we had a very successful tour in showing many people who had never been to the facility what goes on,” he said. “I think we really gave the commissioners an idea of the fact there are literally hundreds of individuals who are served in Enid for their mental and physical disability issues.” OCHS is expected to vote Sept. 25 on the future of NORCE and Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley, the two state-run facilities for the developmentally disabled.

Read more from the Enid News and Eagle.

Quote of the Day

If Congress fails to act, we invite Oklahoma policymakers to join other states in challenging online retailers to create a fair playing field for local businesses. Fairness and sound tax policy aren’t just for the real world — they should apply in the virtual world as well.

Former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, writing in NewsOK about poorly enforced taxation of online purchases that is putting local retailers at a disadvantage.

Number of the Day

31.4 percent

Percentage of minority workers in low-wage jobs in Oklahoma, compared to 20.3 percent of non-Hispanic White workers, 2010

Source: Working Poor Families Project

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Does it pay to become a teacher?

Fortuitously, in the midst of the contentious Chicago teachers union strike, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has released its annual report on the state of education and investment in education around the developed world. It might help provide some context for what Chicago teachers are fighting over. Here’s one particularly striking figure from the report, showing the ratio of teacher salaries to the earnings of other workers who went to college. … In most rich countries, teachers earn less, on average, than other workers who have college degrees. But the gap is much wider in the United States than in most of the rest of the developed world.

Read more from Economix.

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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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