In The Know: Governor to continue push for income tax cut

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

Today you should know that Gov. Mary Fallin isn’t giving up on her quest to cut the state’s top personal income tax rate. The Tulsa World examined the role that OK Policy played in stopping tax cuts this year, and Citizens for Tax Justice recapped the debate so far.

Texas will join the growing number of states that are collecting sales taxes on online purchases, but Oklahoma is still not among them. Julie Delcour examined the history of an earlier effort to get Oklahoma out of the bottom in school funding. Education reform and downtown Oklahoma City development hopes are being pinned on the success of the new downtown elementary school.

A State Chamber of Oklahoma-backed project to rate judges on how friendly they are to business is drawing criticism. NewsOK praised the work of resigning DHS Commissioner Steven Dow and wrote that the Ethic Commission reprimand of Dow undermines agency oversight. At the behest of its two largest investors, Chesapeake Energy will replace half of its board.

Okie Funk discussed the effects of global warming that are becoming obvious in Oklahoma. More halal meals are being served in Oklahoma prisons. Ryan Kiesel writes in NewsOK that Oklahoma should stop passing pointless legislation that spreads false stereotypes about Muslims.

The Number of the Day is the average credit score in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses how social spending promotes families.

In The News

Governor to continue push for income tax cut

Gov. Mary Fallin isn’t giving up on her quest to cut the state’s top personal income tax rate and isn’t taking it personally that lawmakers failed to pass one of her top priorities this year. She said she also will continue to push legislators to do something about the crumbling state Capitol, saying the yellow warning tape, barricades and a temporary covering to protect passers-by at the building’s main entrance is an embarrassment. Fallin, elected the state’s first female governor in 2010, championed both causes during this year’s session, but lawmakers failed to act on either proposal before they adjourned last month. “I’ve had many, many legislators come up and tell me they were disappointed, too, that we couldn’t find a final agreement between the House and Senate — and that’s where the problem was, in the House and Senate — but that they are willing to work with me this summer and fall to come up with some type of tax reduction plan and tax simplification plan.” Fallin said she will listen to residents and businesspeople as she travels the state between now and February, when next year’s session begins.

Read more from NewsOK.

The little think tank that could

Is everyone else as surprised as the members of the chattering classes that the Oklahoma Legislature didn’t adopt a tax-cut plan this year? While GOP leaders did manage to score some important victories this session, what’s most notable about the session is what they didn’t accomplish. So what happened? With supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, and Republicans in charge of all major offices, why couldn’t they push through something as wildly popular (according to them) as a tax cut? Theories abound, of course. One logical one is that now that the GOP has a firm grasp on power in the state, the party is suffering the growing pains of proliferating factions. Concerns over sluggish natural gas prices and the continuing impacts of years of budget cuts also came into play. But maybe those aren’t the only reasons the GOP couldn’t get together on a tax-cut proposal. Maybe, just maybe, the growing chorus of reasonable, dedicated, well-informed – dare we say progressive? – Oklahoma leaders, stakeholders and everyday citizens had something to do with it. And maybe one reason this fervent contingent of Oklahomans found their collective voice this session like never before had something to do with a scrappy little think tank that half-a-decade ago didn’t even exist.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Oklahomans reject Laffer plan, preserve the income tax from Citizens for Tax Justice

Oklahoma lacks deal to collect taxes from Amazon

While other states have resolved months of controversy with over the Internet retailing giant’s willingness to collect sales taxes, Oklahoma remains out in the cold. In April, Texas officials settled its ongoing dispute with the retailer. Amazon will bring 2,500 jobs, $200 million in capital investments to the state over four years and, starting July 1, will begin collecting Texas sales taxes on Amazon orders delivered to the Lone Star State. In return, Texas dropped a demand for $269 million in uncollected sales taxes for 2005-09. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that six other states have reached pacts for Amazon to collect taxes on sales there, and five more states were in talks for similar deals. Tony Mastin, administrator of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said there hasn’t been much progress in Oklahoma’s efforts to collect online sales taxes from Amazon or many other companies using the Internet to sell into the state. A University of Tennessee study concludes that $156.3 million in state and local taxes won’t be collected in Oklahoma in 2012 because of unreported online sales.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

49th is not OK

In the late 1980s, before passage of the historic House Bill 1017, Oklahoma swam with the bottom-feeders nationally in per-pupil spending. Friends of public education – yes, it had some back then – looked at the ranking and raised hell, proclaiming that “46th is not OK.” They went to war on the political front to do something about it. In a bitter fight, Gov. Henry Bellmon, a Republican, risked his legacy to join with Democrats, led by Senate President Pro Tem Bob Cullison and House Speaker Steve Lewis, to get HB 1017 into law in early 1990. The reform package brought more funding to public schools, the number of students in classrooms dropped dramatically, teachers – paid the worst in the nation – started receiving more competitive salaries, the number of school districts statewide dropped by at least 70, more rigorous curricula were developed to improve student performance. In late 1991, when opponents tried to repeal HB 1017, voters rose up, knocked the repeal effort on its keister and proved that they supported public education and were willing to pay for improvements. Now, 22 years later, the powers that be don’t seem to lose much beauty rest fretting over public education’s problems or the fact that Oklahoma ranks 49th in per-pupil funding.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

First MAPS for Kids meeting for downtown OKC elementary school set for Tuesday

A great deal of education reform and downtown Oklahoma City development hopes are pinned on the success of the new downtown elementary school. The school’s first MAPS for Kids community meeting Tuesday is the public’s first chance to have a say in how the project will unfold. John W. Rex Elementary School, a charter school to be located at Sheridan and Walker avenues, is one of the final school projects in MAPS for Kids and is thought to be part of a groundbreaking arrangement. The Oklahoma City School District could be the first public school district in the country to operate its own charter school, and will do so with nonprofit group Oklahoma City Quality Schools. The first community meeting will feature architects unveiling the schematic design of the school, which is expected to be about 79,000 square feet, including a gymnasium, and cost about $14 million, said David Todd, who heads the city’s MAPS office.

Read more from NewsOK.

Plan to rate judges draws fire

A State Chamber of Oklahoma-backed project to rate some judges is drawing criticism. The State Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and businesses are backing the soon-to-be-launched Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, said State Chamber President and CEO Fred Morgan, who will serve as president of the council. The group will sponsor a zero-to-100 rating system for judges on the Court of Civil Appeals and Oklahoma Supreme Court, Morgan said. Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster said the ranking system is a way to bully the judiciary. “They have been using the money from their members, which are primarily wealthy business owners, to attempt to slant not only our Legislature, but the judiciary, in favor of big business and away from the common person to have a fair day in the courtroom,” Brewster said.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

NewsOK: Oklahoma Ethics Commission ruling undermines oversight

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s decision to reprimand Department of Human Services’ board member Steven Dow may dramatically undermine agency oversight without an offsetting benefit to good government. The commission criticized Dow, who resigned following the reprimand, because he works at a nonprofit agency offering services subsidized by DHS. Dow’s nonprofit position is unpaid, so it’s hard to see how he personally benefited from his actions as DHS commissioner. One of the major problems at DHS has been a lack of oversight, yet almost anyone with useful knowledge likely has at least a loose affiliation with an entity getting money from the agency, whose financial tentacles reach throughout the state. The practical effect of the Ethics Commission’s ruling is to make it unethical for most citizens with relevant knowledge to serve on a state governing board. Future board members may need to be as ignorant as possible to avoid reprimands. That’s hardly a recipe for competent agency oversight.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Oklahoma DHS Commissioner angered colleagues but served state well from NewsOK

Chesapeake to make changes to board

At the behest of its two largest investors, Chesapeake Energy Corp. is poised to overhaul its board of directors. The Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas producer announced Monday it will replace four members of its nine-member board. Three of Chesapeake’s new board members will be selected by Southeastern Asset Management Inc, a Memphis-based money manager that holds more than 13 percent of the company’s stock. The fourth will be activist investor Carl Icahn, who recently acquired about 7.6 percent of the company’s stock, or his designee. Four current Chesapeake board members, who were not identifed in Monday’s news release, will resign once their replacements are named. A fifth new board member will be appointed in place of retiring director Charles T. Maxwell. He will be replaced by a new independent chairman, who will take the place of embattled Chesapeake co-founder Aubrey McClendon.

Read more from Power Play.

Okie Funk: Oklahoma breaks hottest record

I’ve find it somewhat appropriate that the effects of global warming are becoming obvious in Oklahoma, a state that has repeatedly elected a U.S. Senator who claims climate-change science is a vast, conspiratorial hoax. The temperatures keep going up here, the state is even in the national spotlight about it and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s fight against science and rationality seems punier than ever. Recently, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), determined through a recalculation that Oklahoma, not Texas, actually had the hottest summer ever recorded last year with an average temperature of 86.9 degrees. The month of July, 2011 was the hottest month ever recorded at 89.3 degrees. An Associated Press article about the recent warm winter throughout the country put it this way: The magnitude of how unusual the year has been in the U.S. has alarmed some meteorologists who have warned about global warming. One climate scientist said it is the weather equivalent of a baseball player on steroids, with old records obliterated.

Read more from Okie Funk.

More halal meals being served in Oklahoma prisons

While the rest of her staff prepares mass bologna sandwiches for lunch, Doris Vance washes oranges, wraps them in plastic and puts them in brown bags. Preparing special meals for the Muslim inmates at John Lilley Correctional Center is not a hassle, but it definitely takes her away from some of her other responsibilities as the facility’s food services manager, Vance said. State prison officials said the number of alternative meals served to Oklahoma’s Muslim inmate population statewide has increased since a federal court settlement forced the adoption of more formal guidelines this year. Muslim meals, or halal meals, served at Oklahoma Department of Corrections facilities increased from 7,424 in January to 11,502 in April. They made up more than 38,000 of the 6.5 million total prison meals served during the first four months of 2012, said department spokesman Jerry Massie. Just over 600 Oklahoma inmates attended Muslim religious services in May, Massie said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Ryan Kiesel: Let’s stop the pointless legislation at the Oklahoma legislature

Last week, the state Senate passed yet another measure that appears to target Oklahoma’s Muslim community. Senators approved a last-minute amendment to a bill originally dealing with the state medical examiner’s office. The amendment would prohibit state courts from enforcing or using foreign law if “doing so would permit a means of mitigating punishment or provide a defense or justification for the commission of a misdemeanor or felony.” The proposed law is likely rooted in one of the dubious claims repeatedly made by anti-Muslim groups, that “Sharia law” is somehow infiltrating our courts and being used, among other ways, to absolve Muslims of criminal responsibility. But there is simply no evidence of an epidemic of courts letting accused criminals off the hook because of Sharia or any other religious beliefs. Indeed, the sponsors of the amendment can’t point to a single case in Oklahoma in which a court mitigated a defendant’s punishment because of his religious beliefs. Not only are measures like this unnecessary, they’re harmful. They further marginalize Muslims and spread false stereotypes about the Muslim faith.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

The practical effect of the Ethics Commission’s ruling is to make it unethical for most citizens with relevant knowledge to serve on a state governing board. Future board members may need to be as ignorant as possible to avoid reprimands. That’s hardly a recipe for competent agency oversight.
The Oklahoman editorial board

Number of the Day


The average credit score in Oklahoma, 44th lowest among the states

Source: Experian via Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The unfunded liabilities you love

Most social spending provides support and social insurance for commitments once made by families alone: education, health care and support in old age. Conservatives like Charles Murray often assert that public provision crowds out family provision, contributing to family breakdown. But both the historical record and current comparisons suggest a different causality: The growth of individual wage employment weakened the family as an economic unit and left those with many dependents especially vulnerable. Working people fought for public programs based on an intergenerational contract that reduces the cost and risk of commitments to children and the elderly. Lack of public support for family work has contributed to below-replacement levels of fertility in countries like Japan, South Korea, Italy and Spain. The transition to extreme capitalism — with little public social spending — in Russia has led to a huge demographic deterioration and depopulation. In all the advanced capitalist countries, children remain dependent on their parents much longer than they once did, largely because they require many more years of education to succeed in the labor market. Elderly parents are more likely to survive into old age than they once were, and partly as a result, are more likely to suffer from expensive chronic health problems like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These trends toward increased dependency are a cause — not a result — of increased public spending.

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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