In The Know: Governor withdraws support of State Question 762

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Today you should know that Governor Fallin has withdrawn her support for State Question 762, which would take the governor out of the parole process for less serious, non-violent offenders. House Speaker Kris Steele and the measure’s Senate sponsor Sen. Josh Brecheen continue to support the state question. OK Policy previously examined the arguments surrounding SQ 762. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses this state question and others on the ballot in November. Find more information at our 2012 State Questions page.

An audit of the half-completed American Indian Cultural Center and Museum found that board members frequently selected the most expensive plans even as funding lagged, but there is no evidence of financial wrongdoing. A study conducted at Oklahoma City University estimated the total economic impact of Oklahoma’s 38 American Indian tribes on the state at $10.8 billion every year. State Auditor Gary Jones called for stricter review and safeguards on Oklahoma tax credits and incentives.

Chesapeake Energy has sold its stake in a proposed crude oil pipeline still being opposed by landowners in Major County due to concerns over its affects on the water supply. In a “State of the University” discussion, OU President David Boren urged Oklahomans to be concerned about continuing cuts to state appropriations for higher education.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, is proposing a plan to consolidate school administrative functions by county. The Oklahoma Gazette reports on continuing debate between districts and the state Department of Education over A-F grades for schools.

The Number of the Day is the number of children in gifted and talented education programs in Oklahoma’s public schools. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkbook shows who wins under Mitt Romney’s proposed tax plan, in one chart.

In The News

Governor withdraws support of State Question 762

Gov. Mary Fallin has withdrawn her support for a state question that would remove her from the parole process for nonviolent offenders. State Question 762 will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. Fallin said that though she is generally supportive of the concept, recent events led her to believe it is not the right time for her office to be removed from its oversight of the Pardon and Parole Board. “It appears State Question 762 would define nonviolent offenders only by their current offense and would not mandate the consideration of past violent behavior,” Fallin said in a recently released statement. “This was good policy when the governor signed it into law last year, and it remains so today,” Hous Speaker Kris Steele said in a statement. No other state requires the governor to review every nonviolent parole.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Previously: Is Oklahoma ready to be smart on crime? from the OK Policy Blog

Prosperity Policy: Ballot measures

When Oklahoma voters went to the polls two years ago, they weighed in on a whopping 11 ballot measures on hot-button issues like school funding, voter identification, English-only and Shariah law. This year, only six measures are on the ballot and they have generated considerably less controversy. However, the proposed constitutional amendments require voters to make tough choices on important matters. In this and my next two columns, I will cover what’s at stake on Nov. 6, starting with State Question 762 and SQ 765. State Question 762 would remove the governor from the parole process for less serious, nonviolent offences. Oklahoma remains the only state in the nation where the governor must approve every parole. This reform is a centerpiece of the Smart on Crime reform agenda passed by the Legislature the last two years to tackle the crisis of over-incarceration in Oklahoma.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Audit of American Indian Cultural Center shows board selected most expensive plan

Board members overseeing the half-completed American Indian Cultural Center and Museum frequently selected the most expensive plans even as funding lagged, but there is no evidence of financial wrongdoing, said the state auditor. The audit of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, released Wednesday, details how the costs of the still-unfinished museum have ballooned out of control since the state agency’s inception in 1994. “The project has existed in some form for eighteen years, during which time more than $97 million in state funding has been used for its purpose,” the audit found. The state has provided $71 million for the building and more than $26 million to the agency for operations and debt payment, according to the audit. Another $80 million is still needed to complete the project, said Blake Wade, executive director of the authority.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma tribes have $10.8 billion impact on state

A study released Tuesday estimated the total economic impact of Oklahoma’s 38 American Indian tribes on the state at $10.8 billion every year. Out of the $10.8 billion total, gaming businesses account for $7.6 billion, the study estimates. The study, conducted by Oklahoma City University’s Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute and paid for by several tribes and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, found that tribes support about 87,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in salaries, when tribal-supported incomes and nontribal jobs are factored in. Oklahoma had 1,598,400 jobs in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 87,000 jobs supported by the tribes, therefore, are about 5 percent of all the jobs in the state. According to the study, Oklahoma’s total economic impact is $148 billion, making the tribes’ economic impact 7 percent of the state’s total.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma auditor calls for stricter review of tax credits, incentives

All tax credits and economic incentive programs offered by Oklahoma should be audited to ensure no shenanigans take place at taxpayer expense, state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones told a House committee Wednesday. We need more safeguards, audit provisions, a stick to measure incentives by, and caps set on how long and how much an individual company can receive.” Rep. David Dank “You come up with these programs and people start looking at where’s the loophole,” Jones said. “You should audit them for compliance every year. You should audit them every so often for efficiency.” Jones said a preliminary audit by his office of the venture capital tax credit program focused on an Oklahoma bank and two of its subsidiaries. One subsidiary transferred $800 million to the other, potentially creating the opportunity for up to $160 million in tax credits. Jones did not identify the bank or subsidiaries by name, but records show the bank was Bank of Oklahoma and the subsidiaries were CVV Partnership and Cottonwood Valley Ventures Inc.

Read more from NewsOK.

Chesapeake sells stake in oil pipeline opposed by Major County landowners

Chesapeake Energy has sold its stake in a proposed crude oil pipeline still being opposed by landowners in Major County. SemGroup Corp., Gavilon LLC and Chesapeake together formed Glass Mountain Pipeline LLC in May, with plans to build a 210-mile pipeline to carry crude from Arnett and Alva to Cushing. The initial formation of Glass Mountain Pipeline consisted of 50 percent ownership by Chesapeake, with the remainder split evenly between SemGroup and Gavilon. SemGroup and Gavilon announced Wednesday they each had purchased an additional 25 percent share of the company, buying Chesapeake out of the construction and operation of the pipeline. A number of Major County landowners are resisting signing right-of-way contracts for the pipeline, citing concerns over the pipeline’s route atop the Cimarron River Aquifer, the major source of water for Major, Garfield and Kingfisher counties.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

Boren focuses “State of the University” discussion on higher education funding

OU President David Boren urged Oklahoma citizens to be concerned about continuing to shrink state appropriations to higher education during an hour-long discussion on Wednesday. “It’s what is critical for the future of our state that we need to wake up the public,” Boren said. “We need a Paul Revere’s ride around the state of Oklahoma to wake up the people to what is going on.” In a chart provided by the university, for the fiscal year 2013 budget OU receives 17.5 percent of its funding through state appropriations, 29 percent in tuitions and fees, 16.9 percent in grants and contracts, 27.5 percent in auxiliary funds, 8.7 percent in other Educational & General budget, and 0.5 percent in one-time funding. “At what point do we really still think we have a public university, and at what point, with regards to funding, does it become a private university supported by tuition fees and gifts?” Boren asked.

Read more from the OU Daily.

Tulsa senator proposes plan for school districts to share administrative functions

Sharing administrative services has the potential to save Oklahoma school districts up to $45 million a year without closing a single school, legislators were told Wednesday. Robert Buswell, executive director of the Office of Accountability, told an interim study by the Senate Education Committee that consolidating administrative services by county would produce school cost savings in 55 counties. Buswell said his analysis looked at combining administrative services for schools in 73 of the state’s counties. Oklahoma, Tulsa, Comanche and Cleveland Counties were excluded from the analysis because they have very large school districts that would complicate the analysis. The study looked at three different potential savings scenarios. At the high end, there is a capacity for saving $45 million if there isn’t a requirement that every school site have a resident administrator, he said. Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators, told the panel he is skeptical of the amount of savings potential in administrative efficiencies. School superintendents around the state are constantly clawing out any savings available – because their jobs depend on it, he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Degrading the grade

The controversy over Oklahoma’s new A-F grading system for public schools is brewing stronger than a witch’s potion on Halloween. The State Department of Education on Oct. 8 delayed a vote to issue a public release of the school grades, but told district superintendents they could release the grades voluntarily. Most districts have opted not to release the grades until the State Board of Education certifies them at its Oct. 25 meeting. Board members voted last week to halt its issuance so agency officials could review the evaluation system, which many district superintendents claim is flawed. The one exception in the metro, Putnam City Schools, publicly released grades for its 27 schools three days before the agency’s embargo was lifted. Most PC schools received a B or C. One received a D; none earned an A or F. Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said the formula for determining the grades would likely be confusing to teachers and parents. “We want something that’s easy to understand,” Hampton said.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Quote of the Day

This was good policy when the governor signed it into law last year, and it remains so today.

House Speaker Kris Steele, responding to Governor Fallin’s statement withdrawing her support for State Question 762. The state question would remove Governor Fallin from the parole process for less serious, non-violent offenders.

Number of the Day


Number of children in gifted and talented education programs in Oklahoma’s public schools, 15.4 percent of students in 2012

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Who wins under Romney’s cap plan, in one chart

Despite its vagueness, Mitt Romney’s proposal to cap itemized deductions is prompting some insightful analyses from reputable think tanks. On Tuesday, Third Way released a report estimating that a $25,000 cap on deductions – the number Romney floated in that night’s presidential debate — would bring in only $730 billion over 10 years, a far cry from the $4.6 trillion needed for Romney’s tax cut plan to add up. On Wednesday, the Tax Policy Center released numbers estimating that the cap would bring in $1.286 trillion in revenue over 10 years (more than Third Way’s estimate, but still not nearly enough to counterbalance Romney’s proposed tax cuts). The center also found that a $25,000 cap on deductions, combined with Romney’s rate cuts, would winding up lowering the tax bill for every income level. That right there should tell you the plan doesn’t add up. It’s impossible to cut taxes for every single person and make up for it by simply capping deductions. The numbers also show that such a plan would mainly benefit top earners.

Read more from Wonkbook.

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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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