In The Know: Feb 4, 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.

CapitolBeatOK has a long interview with Rep. David Dank on Oklahoma tax issues. Dank calls for eliminating many tax incentives as well as replacing the state income tax with a consumption tax. You can find more on all aspects of our state’s taxes and budget in OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide. As we grapple with the current shortfall and plan Oklahoma’s tax structure over the long-term, we must be careful to preserve a revenue base for the core public services that make up at least 90 percent of the state’s budget.

A new report by the American Human Development Project shows where those services may be falling short. Oklahoma was ranked 46th among the states for life expectancy and quality of life. Oklahoma Mission of Mercy expects thousands to line up early in the cold for their free dental clinic in Oklahoma City. At a clinic last year, more than 1800 patients filled the Tulsa Convention Center, with many waiting in line all night long.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Rep. David Dank brings critical eye to bear on tax credits, incentives

State Rep. David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican, is leading a critical examination of tax credits, exemptions and other business incentives in the 2011 session of the State Legislature, which begins Monday, February 7. In his capacity as Chairman of the Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee, he answered a quartet of questions from CapitolBeatOK this week. The perspective he brings to the issue is, he says, nuanced: “There is a place for incentives and even tax credits when the jobs those incentives would create are substantial. New jobs return more revenue to the state through added payroll, and they especially help our economy grow. But too many tax credits enacted in the past failed to pass that test. Some were simply giveaways.”

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3817887.

Quality of life study is worth reviewing for Oklahoma policymakers

Albanians live longer than Oklahomans.That’s right. The residents of a Balkan state best known to Americans as staunch Soviet allies during the Cold War live longer than the average Oklahoman’s 75.6 years. Yet we spend at least 12 times more on health care than Albanians. We also live six years less than Hawaiians, who enjoy the longest life expectancy. … There is much to find worrisome in the study, “The Measure of America, 2010-2011,” which was recently released by the American Human Development Project.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at http://newsok.com/quality-of-life-study-is-worth-reviewing-for-oklahoma-policymakers/article/3537871

Initiatives looking at how to reduce OK’s high incarceration rates

Fifteen years ago, Oklahoma spent $180 million on corrections; today we spend $500 million. Our state has ranked #1 in the incarceration of women in 14 of the past 15 years. We run about 4th or 5th in the nation in the incarceration of men. Two-thirds of the women we incarcerate are nonviolent offenders; many of them are victims of child abuse, domestic violence and/or substance abuse. There are several very exciting initiatives underway including the Oklahoma SIS ProjectOklahoma Watch and Count the Costs to draw attention to ways to reduce the number of people Oklahoma incarcerates without endangering the public safety.

Read more from the Oklahoma Women’s Network blog at http://oklahomawomen.blogspot.com/2011/02/he-gene-rainbolt-suggests-ways-to.html.

Jerrod Shouse: Three issues to watch this legislative session

In December, I wrote about the five biggest issues I thought the Oklahoma legislature would tackle in 2011. I said then, and I still believe, that the budget, redistricting, education reform, tort and workers’ compensation reform, and agency consolidation will be the biggest issues tackled when the legislature begins on Feb. 7. But here are three other issues to watch this legislative session.

Read more from this Journal Record blog at http://journalrecord.com/2011/02/03/three-issues-to-watch-this-legislative-session/.

M. Scott Carter: Plenty of blame to go around for both the Board of Education and Barresi

With the very public clash between new state school Superintendent Janet Barresi and the state education board, Oklahomans have seen just how difficult public life can be. Barresi and a handful of her staff members locked horns with the state Board of Education in a very public and difficult way. The fact is that Barresi, newly elected, should be able to hire who she wants for her staff. That same consideration was given to her predecessor, Sandy Garrett, and it should be given to Barresi, too. But there’s a little more to this debate than just a big fight with the state school board.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at http://journalrecord.com/2011/02/03/fourth-reading-plenty-of-blame-to-be-shared-opinion/.

Why education reform is not like musical chairs

High on this year’s agenda for Governor Fallin and education reform groups is to put more money into Oklahoma classrooms by reducing administrative costs. Two bills filed for the upcoming session seek to accomplish this by mandate — HB 1493 by Rep. Brumbaugh and HB 1746 by Rep. Nelson would respectively require 70 percent and 65 percent of education funds to go towards direct instruction by 2014. Critics often point to the large number of Oklahoma school districts. Oklahoma has nearly half as many school districts as Texas with only about 15 percent of the population. District consolidation is a perennial controversy in Oklahoma, especially for rural areas that depend on their local school as a community center.  While the drawbacks are clear, consolidation could still be worthwhile if it freed up resources for the classroom. But would it?  While sending more money to classrooms is a laudable goal, it’s unlikely that this can be accomplished solely by taking from administrative costs. To understand why, we can compare how education spending is divided up in Oklahoma, the region, and nationally.

Read more from the OK Policy blog at https://okpolicy.org/why-education-reform-is-not-like-musical-chairs/.

Free dental care offered in Oklahoma City

Thousands of Oklahomans who have cavities or other dental problems can get free dental care today and Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Mission of Mercy will provide cleanings, fillings, extractions and anterior root canals to Oklahomans, regardless of a family’s income. People are expected to line up early for the clinic, despite the frigid weather.

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/free-care-for-dental-problems-offered/article/3537951.

Blood emergency declared across Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s blood supply has slipped to critical levels, prompting an urgent plea for blood donations. The Oklahoma Blood Institute is down to a one-day supply of blood, said institute President and chief executive John Armitage. It normally has a two- to three-day supply. “We anticipate we need donations from about 2,000 folks over this stretch through Sunday. That would put us back on level keel,” he said. Severe weather has kept donors away and caused a nationwide shortage.

Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/blood-emergency-declared/article/3538036.

Earthquakes 101: Why all the activity of late in-state?

Six hundred earthquakes rocked Oklahoma County last year. If you think that’s a lot, you’d be right: That marks an increase from 37 felt earthquakes reported in 2008 and 2009, and only seven from 1987 to 2007. Seismologists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) say the huge jump in numbers is partly due to the increase in instruments used to measure the earthquakes. According to the OGS, it only started monitoring earthquakes 50 years ago, so it’s highly likely such activity has happened before.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-10719-earthquakes-101.html.

CapitolBeatOK announces new affiliation with the Franklin Center

CapitolBeatOK, an independent news service based at the Oklahoma state Capitol in Oklahoma City, today (Thursday, February 3) announced a new relationship with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a national nonprofit journalism organization. As part of the Franklin Center, CapitolBeatOK will continue to provide regular coverage of the Legislature, executive branch, agencies, and the judiciary branches in the state capitol of Oklahoma.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at http://capitolbeatok.com/_webapp_3817437/CapitolBeatOK_announces_new_affiliation_with_the_Franklin_Center.

Quote of the Day

It’s also comforting to know that people are praying for you who don’t always agree with you. Tom Coburn, for example, is here. He is not only a dear friend but also a brother in Christ. We came into the Senate at the same time. Even though we are on opposite sides of a whole bunch of issues, part of what has bound us together is a shared faith, a recognition that we pray to and serve the same God. And I keep praying that God will show him the light and he will vote with me once in a while. It’s going to happen, Tom. A ray of light is going to beam down.

President Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington

Number of the Day

214 percent

Growth in pre-tax income of the richest 1 percent of Americans from 1979 to 2007

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous numbers of the day here.

Policy Note

For public sector workers, a wage penalty

Workers in the state and local public sector earn less on average than their private-sector counterparts, in terms of both wages and total compensation. The Figure from EPI’s 2010 paper, Debunking the Myth of the Overcompensated Public Employee, shows that public sector workers in state and local government earn, on average, $6,061 per year less in annual wages than their private-sector counterparts. When measuring total compensation that includes non-cash compensation such as health and insurance benefits, the gap narrows, but the average public employees still earns $2,001 less per year.

Read more from the Economic Policy Institute at http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/for_public_sector_workers_a_wage_penalty/.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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