In The Know: Group of prominent business leaders oppose automatic tax-cut triggers

In 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.

Thirty Oklahoma business and community leaders submitted a joint letter to state officials opposing adoption of “tax trigger mechanisms” to lower income tax rates.  Rep. Sears, chair of the House Budget Committee, says he expects announcements on an income tax-cut sometime today.  The Oklahoman editorial writers say Senate tax reforms eliminate benefits primarily for low-income Oklahomans, not special interests.  The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), targeted for elimination by Oklahoma lawmakers, has a strong record of support from prominent conservatives, including President Ronald Reagan.

Bodies at the state medical examiner’s office were moved to refrigeration trucks after their 42-year old cooler broke down.  Chesapeake Energy Corp. investors filed a petition in district court to delay the annual shareholders meeting to gain additional disclosure on the company’s indebtedness to third parties and CEO compensation.  OK Policy Director David Blatt wrote in the Journal Record that proposed tax reforms were based on the false promise of a free lunch.

Under a new law, the state will be required to screen adult applicants for poverty assistance for illegal drugs.  The state Supreme Court ruled that the legislature has the authority to develop a uniform tax collection system that supersedes city charters.  A former detention officer at the Muskogee County Jail pleaded guilty to assaulting an inmate.

Senator Al McAffrey accused members of quashing a vote on Fallin-appointee Jim Roth because they did not want to go on record voting for a gay person in an election year.  In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress reflects on the challenges facing single mothers living in poverty—and how to create greater economic opportunity for these and all families.  The Number of the Day is the number of counties in Oklahoma where the percentage of the population that is employed is lower now than it was in 2006.

In The News

Group of 30 state leaders oppose “tax trigger mechanisms”

Thirty Oklahoma business executives and community leaders/activists recently submitted to state officials a joint letter opposing adoption of “tax trigger mechanisms” to lower income tax rates as the state economy grows, CapitolBeatOK has learned. The open letter to Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele of Shawnee and Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman was dated May 8. The letter was received in the governor’s office May 9, according to a time stamp on the document.  A copy of the letter was provided to CapitolBeatOK in response to an information request submitted to Fallin’s communications director.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK at

Oklahoma personal income tax-cut announcement expected Thursday

The governor and legislative leaders met through Wednesday evening on ways to lower the personal income tax rate. A key negotiator says to expect an announcement Thursday, but wouldn’t say if a deal is close.  Closed-door negotiations to lower the state’s personal income tax rate continued Wednesday evening between legislative leaders and the governor’s staff.  Several sessions were held throughout the day; talks broke off shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday.  “We’re in very intense negotiations,” Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee said Wednesday. “After numerous discussions, we will be visiting our caucuses tomorrow to continue the dialogue in developing a personal income tax cut.  “There should be announcements made sometime tomorrow,” Sears said.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma budget writers shouldn’t worry about winning sound-bite war

Senate GOPers announced a plan to cut Oklahoma’s income tax a half-point over two years, lowering the rate to 5 percent and then to 4.75 percent. They would offset the cuts with changes to tax credits and incentives.  The average Oklahoman might not notice the cuts because changes to the personal exemption and other breaks may largely offset the initial lower rate. Furthermore, the plan actually predicts increased tax collections for the first two years.

Read more from NewsOK at

The conservative anti-poverty program

In all of the major income tax proposals this year (including the plan announced yesterday by Senate Republicans), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been targeted for elimination. That’s strange, because lawmakers have made no clear argument for why we should lose this credit. They’ve spoken about the need to end handouts to “corporate special-interests,”  but the EITC goes to low-income working families.  It’s also strange because the EITC has a long history of support from conservative leaders.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Cooler breaks down at state medical examiner’s office in Oklahoma City

Bodies at the state medical examiner’s office were moved to refrigeration trucks Wednesday afternoon after the office’s decades-old cooler broke down.  The cooler broke down Wednesday at the medical examiner’s office, forcing officials to move 28 bodies to refrigerated trucks.  “The cooler is almost 42 years old, so we’re hoping they can find a part,” spokeswoman Amy Elliott said. “Until such time as they find one, we’re moving all the decedents to refrigerated trucks provided by the Department of Health.”  Twenty-eight bodies were at the office Wednesday morning when an employee noticed the cooling system was not working properly. Those bodies and five more that arrived at the office Wednesday are being stored on two trucks, which can hold up to 20 bodies each, she said. The Health Department keeps the trucks on hand for mass disasters.

Read more from NewsOK at

Business briefs: Chesapeake investors go to court over CEO

A group of Chesapeake Energy Corp. investors is seeking to delay the company’s annual shareholders meeting to gain additional disclosure of CEO Aubrey McClendon’s compensation.  In papers filed Wednesday with a U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, the stockholders said they want details of McClendon’s indebtedness to third parties said to have financed his investment in company oil wells, arguing it may have created a conflict of interest.

Read more from Bloomberg News at

Prosperity Policy: No free lunch

When Gov. Mary Fallin presented what she called her bold plan for an immediate tax cut and the gradual elimination of the personal income tax, many thought its passage would be a slam-dunk. After all, tax cuts are always presumed to be popular and Republicans have solid control of the Legislature and the governorship. Yet as the legislative session nears its end, large tax cuts are off the table and there is a strong chance that no tax cut at all will emerge. What happened?  The best explanation is that the governor’s plan was based on the false promise of a free lunch, and Oklahomans know there’s no such thing.

Read more from the Journal Record at

Starting Nov. 1 all Oklahoma applicants for assistance must have drug screening

Starting Nov. 1, the state will screen all adult applicants for an assistance program for needy families for illegal drugs under a law Gov. Mary Fallin signed Wednesday.  The drug-screening law will ensure that welfare checks will not be used to buy drugs, Fallin said.  “Hard-working taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize drug abuse, and this bill will help to ensure they are not,” Fallin said.  The bill is substantially less stringent than a version passed by the state House earlier this year. That measure would have mandated drug testing for all applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Let Oklahoma collect taxes

The state Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling said the legislature has the authority to develop a uniform tax collection system and that the legislature’s authority supersedes the city charter. It seems logical that using private parties to collect sales taxes opens up a box of problems for cities and towns. The state should continue to be the depository. Cities and towns should focus their efforts on clamping down on the retailers who collect but don’t remit the taxes.

Read more from The Norman Transcript at

Former Oklahoma Detention Officer Pleads Guilty to Assault

The Department of Justice announced that Jerrod Porter Lane, 26, a former detention officer at the Muskogee, Okla., County Jail (MCJ), pleaded guilty today in federal court to charges related to his assault of an inmate at MCJ and his subsequent attempts to cover up the assault.   Lane pleaded guilty to use of excessive force, violating the civil rights of an inmate, falsifying records and making false statements to the FBI.  According to court documents, on Oct. 1, 2011, Lane, while working in his capacity as a jailer, sprayed the victim, an inmate at MCJ, with jail-issued Oleoresin Capsicum spray (OC or pepper spray) while the victim was restrained in a restraint chair and not a physical threat to anyone.    Lane deployed the OC spray to punish the victim for bothering Lane, even though he knew it was wrong both to spray a restrained inmate and to use force as a means to punish.

Read more from the Department of Justice at

Senator: Fear axed vote on gay man

A state senator said Wednesday that the Senate was afraid to take an up or down vote during an election year on a gay man whom the governor nominated to the state Election Board.  The Senate Rules Committee refused to give a hearing to Jim Roth, an Oklahoma City attorney whom Gov. Mary Fallin nominated to the Election Board.  Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, maintains that Roth, a Democrat who is gay, was not given a hearing because he had served on the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma County Commission.  But Sen. Al McAffrey and Oklahoma City Democrat who also is gay, said: “Senators do not want during election time to vote on a gay person. That is what it comes down to.”  He said some senators are facing difficult re-election campaigns and do not want to vote for a gay person because they are afraid to be labeled a liberal.

Read more from The Tulsa World at

Quote of the Day

The cooler is almost 42 years old, so we’re hoping they can find a part.  Until such time as they find one, we’re moving all the decedents to refrigerated trucks provided by the Department of Health.

Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office

Number of the Day


Number of counties in Oklahoma where the percentage of the population that is employed is lower now than it was in 2006, including the state’s most populated counties – Tulsa and Oklahoma.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

5 Things to Know About Single Mothers in Poverty

Single-mother families are nearly five times as likely to be poor than married-couple families. But when single mothers have a full-time, year-round job, the poverty rate for these families falls from 40.7 percent to 14 percent. (see graph) With two or more full-time, year-round workers in the household, the rate drops even further, to 4 percent. Stable employment and the contributions of another earner can play an important role in bringing down poverty rates among single-mother households. Nearly two-thirds of single-mothers also work outside the home.

Read more from the Center for American Progress at

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