In The Know: Governor, GOP leadership reach budget deal

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 lawmakers reached a deal on the state budget, which includes an increase for education, but not enough of an increase to offset several years of budget cuts and growth in student enrollment.  State and school leaders approved of the increase, but reiterated their calls for full funding of common education.  OK Policy previously published a fact sheet on critical funding shortfalls, showing Oklahoma with the deepest cuts to funding for local schools of any state in the country over the last five years.

The budget deal does not include a pay raise for state workers, who haven’t seen a wage increase since 2006.  The OK Policy Blog responded to legislators‘ criticism of a recent lecture on racial disparities in access to opportunity given by one of our policy analysts.  Health officials are warning about the Hantavirus, a rare and deadly virus that has shown up in Oklahoma in recent weeks.

The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans who walk or use public transit to get to work.  In today’s Policy Note, Pew Charitable Trusts reports on how the mortgage interest deduction, widely viewed as a broad tax benefit for the middle-class, benefits the residents of some states far more than others.

In The News

Added $74M To Oklahoma Education Budget Still Not Enough, Advocates Say
State lawmakers reached a deal on the budget Thursday, and it includes new money for education, but not enough to offset cuts from the last several years. The deal adds money to education overall, but not enough to keep pace with growth in enrollment and not enough to offset the still uncertain impact of a business tax cut–the one voters approved last year in a state question. Governor Mary Fallin and key leaders of the legislature said their new deal shows a commitment to education, with $74 million more next year.

Read more from NewsOn6

State leaders react to new education budget deal
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard and House Majority Leader Fred Jordan were among the local leaders who reacted to the state’s new budget deal at a Thursday afternoon event. Hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the afternoon forum about education funding just happened to occur a couple of hours after news of the agreement broke. “We would have liked to have had more money, and we believe we should have had more because more money is available, but we understand it is a process,” Ballard said.

Read more from Tulsa World

Severe education funding cuts threaten Oklahoma’s economic future
Oklahoma has made some of the deepest cuts to funding for local schools of any state in the country. Over the last five years, the state has cut per-pupil education aid for primary and secondary schools by 20 percent, or $706 per student, after adjusting for inflation. Only Arizona and Alabama have cut funding more deeply over that time frame. These funding cuts have serious consequences for educational quality and for economic growth.

Read more from OKPolicy Blog

Oklahoma budget deal: No pay raise for state workers
According to a budget work sheet, public schools will receive $74 million in new money for the 2014 fiscal year, which starts July 1, according to a work sheet of the budget. Common education will receive $2.4 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. House Democrats have said public schools need at least $118 million in additional funds to pay for unfunded mandates and increased costs to break even in the upcoming fiscal year. In addition, public schools will receive a $17 million supplemental appropriation for this fiscal year. The state Corrections Department is to receive $463.7 million in the 2014 fiscal year, the same amount as this year.

Read more from NewsOK

Opportunity gap is a central, not ‘marginal’, concern for Oklahoma
Last week, State Representative Jason Nelson (R- Oklahoma City) expressed concern about a presentation given by Kate Richey, a policy analyst for Oklahoma Policy Institute, as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Human Series. The apparent cause of Rep. Nelson’s concern, and that of at least one legislator who urged DHS to cancel the lecture, was that the talk addressed issues of racial disparities in Oklahoma. These issues, while uncomfortable to some, are a valid subject of public debate and should be an urgent matter of legislative attention.

Read more from OKPolicy Blog

Health officials warning about Hantavirus in Okla.
As many Oklahomans start cleaning out cabins, attics, storage units and other areas not used in the winter months, the State Health Department is warning about a deadly virus that may be lurking. The Oklahoma State Health Department is reporting the first Hantavirus death in 12 years. Rodents sometimes get in unused areas to nest, sometimes leaving behind the Hantavirus. When these vermin become infected, the virus is emitted in their droppings, urine and saliva. Officials said one in three people who become infected die from the virus.

Read more from

Quote of the Day

“A flat budget is basically a budget cut. It’s hard to get that through some legislators’ heads. Not only do we add more students to our rolls, but it costs more to fuel our buses, to turn the lights on, to pay our teachers. We need more money just to break even.”

Rep. Fred Jordan (R-Jenks), on convincing legislators to allocate enough money to operate public schools

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who walk or use public transit to get to work – 81 percent of them earn less than $35,000 a year

Source: Alliance for Biking and Walking, 2009

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Mortgage Deduction Rates Vary Widely Among States
The mortgage interest deduction, widely viewed as a tax break for a broad slice of middle-class America, benefits the residents of some states far more than others, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The number of filers who take the deduction, and the amounts they claim, vary widely. The percentage of tax filers deducting mortgage interest in 2010 ranged from a high of nearly 37 percent in Maryland to a low of 15 percent in West Virginia and North Dakota, according to Pew’s report, The Geographic Distribution of the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

Read more from Pew Charitable Trusts

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