In The Know: Feb 15, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org.

Today on In The Know, state Treasurer Ken Miller reports that Oklahoma tax revenues are improving but we still have a long way to go to recover to previous levels. The Tulsa Parent Child Center launched a new website aimed at protecting the Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) from budget cuts. Health Commissioner Terry Cline has said that 5 percent cuts to the Health Department would force him to eliminate OCAP, which OK Policy discussed here. With new calls to eliminate the state income tax to resemble Texas, the OK Policy Blog looks back at the last attempt to do this in the early 2000s.

House and Senate education committees approved a number of school changes. New bills would allow school districts to share a superintendent and to raise money by putting advertisements on school buses. See OK Policy’s examination of administrative costs in Oklahoma schools here.

These stories and others below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma tax collections continue to show improvement

Strong tax collections for January indicate Oklahoma’s economic recovery is taking hold, but it may be awhile before the state experiences a full recovery, officials said Monday. Monthly state revenue collections have topped previous year collections for almost an entire year, state Treasurer Ken Miller said. “In 10 of the past 12 months, collections have exceeded the prior year, topping it for nine consecutive months,” he said. “January marks the second month in a row of double-digit growth over the prior year.” But Miller said it will take time to see a full recovery.

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahomas-tax-collections-continue-to-show-improvement/article/3540921.

Tulsa Parent Child Center concerned about budget cuts

A Tulsa agency launched a new website Monday to keep its funding for child abuse prevention off the chopping block. “We really wanted to get the word out to the public about this particular issue,” Desiree Doherty. Desiree Doherty is the executive director of the Tulsa Parent Child Center, the organization behind a new commercial and a new website aimed at preventing cuts to the Oklahoma Office of Child Abuse Prevention, or OCAP. OCAP funds 21 programs, including the Tulsa Parent Child Center, that provide in-home help to prevent child abuse, before it starts. The head of the state department of health has proposed cutting OCAP to balance the budget.

See more from NewsOn6 at http://www.newson6.com/Global/story.asp?S=14024494.

See also: Pick your poison: Suffocating or amputating state services? from the OK Policy Blog

Back to Texas? Income tax proposal stirs up some old memories

“Imagine never having to file an Oklahoma income tax form again, and having no more state income tax withheld from your paycheck.” This is the scenario floated recently in a press release by David Dank, the Chair of the House Revenue and Taxation subcommittee. According to the release: “Dank said he would favor completely eliminating the state personal income tax and replacing that revenue with a higher state sales tax on merchandise other than groceries and prescription drugs.” … Rep. Dank’s call to reform Oklahoma’s tax system to look more like Texas, and particularly the endorsement of a complete elimination of the personal income tax, may have a vaguely familiar ring. In the early 2000′s, the state embarked on an extensive tax reform process guided, at least initially, by the goal of making Oklahoma’s tax system resemble that of Texas.  After a year of research, reports, task forces, hearings and recommendations, the final tax reform proposal that emerged from this process was much different than what was initially considered – and wound up going almost nowhere.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/back-to-texas-income-tax-proposal-stirs-up-some-old-memories/.

Senator Ford advances alternative Education Board reform

Oklahoma state Senate Education Chairman John Ford offered a second bill on Monday (February 14) to restructure the state Board of Education.  The measure, Senate Bill 435, was approved by the Education Committee by a vote of 9 to 5. “Up until 1971, the Board included the State Superintendent, the Governor, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State,” Ford explained.  “After that time the law was changed to make the Board of Education appointed by the Governor.  Senate Bill 435 would take the Board back to its original structure.” Ford also authored SB 718 which was approved by the same committee last week.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3830434.

See also: Oklahoma House panel backs bill allowing schools to share superintendent on NewsOK; Oklahoma Senate panel OKs bill to allow school bus ads on NewsOK; Notes from two education hearings today on Oklahoma Watchdog

Brittany Novotny: Just say no… to school buses?

This may be one of the most baffling editorials I’ve ever read from The Oklahoman.  Apparently the tentacles of big government are just getting too involved in our lives by offering something silly like transportation for Oklahoma’s children to get to and from school.  One cannot (seriously, anyway) simultaneously claim to care about the education of all children in Oklahoma, while calling on school districts to stop providing buses for their students. Here’s the ACTUAL argument made by The Oklahoman editorial board. “We’ve made the argument before — the Oklahoma Constitution requires the state to provide children an education, but says nothing about providing them transportation to and from school. Even so, this practice has continued for generations.”

Read more from Brittany Novotny’s blog at http://brittanynovotny.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/just-say-no-to-school-buses/.

The pros and cons of consolidation

Gov. Mary Fallin is quickly learning what others previously learned: Consolidation of state functions isn’t an easy sell. It’s also not necessarily a better way of running government, some would say. But let’s go ahead and have the debate – again – and see if the Fallin administration can make the case that some consolidations are worth the effort. … Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor believes these proposals would allow agencies to continue operating effectively and more efficiently while also producing cost savings. But others have a different view. Some say the consolidations wouldn’t help much because the same amount of work would have to be done, and because of recent cutbacks, some state employees already are doing the work of three or four people.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20110215_11_A13_GovMar797423.

New film wrestles with state immigration laws

The multi-award winning documentary, “Panic Nation,” is an intense look at how state sponsored immigration laws have taken a foothold in America. The film is scheduled for an Oklahoma City premiere this week. With national and state reports indicating a new wave of legislation aimed against illegal immigration, the film is likely to provoke discussion. As the film continues a successful festival run, acclaimed producer/director George Adams (an Oklahoma resident) brings the film home for an Oklahoma City premiere on Thursday February 17th, 6:30 p.m. at the IAO Gallery Downtown, 706 West Sheridan. Appearing in the film is state Representative Randy Terrill of Oklahoma City, currently embroiled in allegations of bribery, who defends the need for immigration laws such as House Bill 1804, the measure he authored for Oklahoma.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3830406.

Committee to investigate Rep. Randy Terrill named

A special House investigatory committee was named Monday to look into allegations that led to Rep. Randy Terrill being charged with a felony bribery count. The attorney for Terrill, R-Moore, said he is disappointed the process will be closed to the public. “What the rules imposed on the committee by the leadership create is a period of closed-door investigation in which neither Mr. Terrill nor his counsel are present,” said Terrill’s attorney, Stephen Jones, in a statement. “This closed-door secrecy cannot be justified. The committee is not a grand jury.” … The group, made up of four Republicans and four Democrats, is charged with gathering evidence and ultimately making a recommendation to the full House if the committee finds sufficient evidence exists that Terrill “has engaged in conduct which impairs the ability of the member to perform the duties of his or her office, or substantially impairs public confidence in the Legislature.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-state-rep.-randy-terrill-investigatory-committee-named/article/3540924.

See also: House forms committee to investigate Rep. Randy Terrill from The Tulsa World.

Former Oklahoma House member John Bryant dead at 53

Former Oklahoma House member and longtime lobbyist John Bryant has died. Bryant was 53. Melanie Morriss, the legislative assistant for Bryant’s successor in House District 70, says Bryant died of a heart attack Saturday at his home in Tulsa. Bryant was a Republican elected in 1988 and served 12 years in the Tulsa district. He was a former real estate broker and had previously worked as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles and U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards. Bryant was a registered lobbyist at the state Capitol and represented several clients, including the Charter Schools Association and the Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Read more from NewsOK at http://newsok.com/former-oklahoma-house-member-john-bryant-dead-at-53/article/3540791.

See also: John Bryant: Tribute to a friend on CapitolBeatOK

Quote of the Day

“If we do that, we are going to spend many times more in state dollars down the road taking care of the consequences. To say nothing of the harm that’s caused to children in the meantime.”

Desiree Doherty, executive director of the Tulsa Parent Child Center, warning about the repercussions of eliminating the Office of Child Abuse Prevention to cope with budget cuts.

Number of the Day

39, 279

Number of Oklahoma grandparents who are primary caregivers to at least one grandchild under 18.

US Census Bureau: Selected Social Characteristics, 2000

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Public pension shortfalls misrepresented in budget-crisis debate

With many state governments facing budget shortfalls this year along with dwindling federal assistance, some policy-makers have begun to call for drastic reductions of public sector pensions as a way to ease state budget woes. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research puts this issue into better perspective, clearing up many common misconceptions about these funds. The report, “The Origins and Severity of the Public Pension Crisis,” shows that the main reason public pension shortfalls exist at all is the downturn in the stock market following the housing crash in 2007-2009, not inadequate contributions. The paper demonstrates that if pension funds had just earned returns equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today.

Read more from the Center for Economic and Policy Research at http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/pension-shortfalls-misrepresented-in-budget-debate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Perry joined OK Policy in January 2011. 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. Gene also serves on the board of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, is a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and has chaired the communications advisory committee for the State Priorities Partnership, a nationwide network of state fiscal policy think tanks. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Kara Joy McKee, who is a Tulsa City Councilor.

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