In The Know: House panel votes down measure to review tax credits

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  a House panel rejected a bill that would have required the legislature to review 32 corporate tax credits. Rep. Dank, the bill’s sponsor, said its defeat also cripples efforts to significantly reduce the state’s personal income tax rate. A new Tax Foundation Report finds that Oklahoma still has the 5th highest combined state and local sales tax rates in the US. A bill that would abolish a program to electronically link medical records was narrowly defeated in a Senate committee. 

Seven bills filed by Oklahoma legislators this year would make it more difficult to divorce. The OK Policy Blog discusses how Oklahoma’s wealth gap perpetuates itself due to disparities in health, education, and access to transportation. Rep. Lewis Moore, the chair of the House States’ Rights Committee, has asked the state attorney general for an opinion on whether Oklahoma can disobey federal law. An attorney general opinion ruled that cities cannot ban smoking in outdoor areas that they own or operate due to the local preemption law. 

A Senate panel passed a bill to transfer OETA’s assets to the state regents if the agency ceased to exist. Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake said he’d like additional funding to move up implementation of reforms to Oklahoma’s child welfare system. Voters in two rural Oklahoma communities will decide today whether to consolidate their school districts. The ongoing SandRidge shareholder revolt could have significant effects on both the energy company and Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank for early childhood education enrollment. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports that a sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit by hundreds of billions.

In The News

House panel votes down measure to review tax credits

A legislative panel rang the death knell Monday on a lawmaker’s seven-year crusade to scrutinize business tax credits by rejecting a bill that targeted 32 credits to pass legislative muster to continue. “The lobbyists win,” state Rep. David Dank said after the House of Representatives Subcommittee on revenue and taxation voted 10-3 to not advance House Bill 1371. “They continue to win. “The legislators do not have the will to look at the multimillions of dollars that are being given away in tax credits and determine which ones are benefiting the state and which ones aren’t,” he said. Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said his bill’s defeat also cripples efforts to significantly reduce the state’s personal income tax rate.

Read more from NewsOK.

Report: Oklahoma 5th highest in U.S. in sales tax rates

If you buy something in Oklahoma, the government is going to take a bigger bite than just about anywhere else in the nation, according to a Monday report from the Tax Foundation. The average combined state and local sales tax rate in Oklahoma is the fifth highest in the nation. Oklahoma’s 4.5 percent state sales tax is lower than that of any of the surrounding states. Texas, which has no state income tax, has a 6.25 percent state sales tax. But the relatively high local sales tax rates in the Oklahoma — averaging 4.17 percent — push the state into the top combined levels. Only four states — Louisiana, Colorado, New York and Alabama — have higher average local sales tax rates than Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Senate panel kills bill to abolish electronic medical records trust

A bill supported by conservative grassroots groups that would abolish a program to electronically link medical records has been narrowly defeated in a Senate committee. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday voted 4-4 for the bill by freshman Sen. Nathan Dahm, effectively killing the measure. The bill would have abolished the “Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust,” which was created in 2010 to promote and develop the electronic exchange of health information between medical providers.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma bill would restrict divorces

Promoting strong marriages is an “obvious” way to improve the health, education, public safety and economy in Oklahoma, Rep. Mark McCullough said Monday. McCullough is the author of House Bill 1548, which would not allow married couples to divorce on the grounds of incompatibility if there are minor children living in the home, if they have been married longer than 10 years or if either party objects. The bill is one of seven filed by legislators this year that would make it more difficult to divorce.

Read more from NewsOK.

Foundations of the wealth gap

Some core assets are best described as foundational: health, education, and transportation are critical to our ability to achieve and maintain financial security throughout our lifetime. Health, education, and transportation position us to obtain employment, generate enough income to make ends meet, and save for emergencies or long-term goals. This post is the second in a running series based on our recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, which assesses the racial wealth gap and proposes solutions for closing that gap through asset-building. Our first post focused on historical roots of the wealth gap in Oklahoma. Now we’ll consider wealth and assets in terms of their earliest and most foundational effect on Oklahomans’ lives and ability to build wealth.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Lawmaker asks for AG opinion on whether Oklahoma has to obey federal law

A member of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives has asked the state’s attorney general for legal guidance on whether the state legislature can block the Affordable Care Act and other federal laws it considers unconstitutional. Republican Lewis Moore, the chair of the House States’ Rights Committee, announced on Friday that he had asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt for a legal opinion on the legislature’s ability to nullify the implementation of the federal laws. A spokeswoman for Pruitt, who has filed his own lawsuit challenging the federal government’s ability to implement federal health insurance exchanges, said the office was in the process of reviewing correspondence from Moore.

Read more from Reuters.

AG rules cities cannot mandate smoke-free parks

Drive to a local city park in Oklahoma, and you might see a sign letting you know you’re banned from smoking in that park. These signs are apparently irrelevant, as are the ordinances they help enforce. An Oklahoma attorney general opinion released Feb. 5 ruled that cities cannot ban smoking in outdoor areas that they own or operate. The ruling was based on the fact that Oklahoma’s state law bans cities from passing smoking laws that are stricter than state law.

Read more from NewsOK.

Senate panel approves measure to transfer OETA assets to state regents

If the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority were to cease to exist, its assets would be transferred to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education under a measure passed by a Senate panel Monday. Another committee passed a bill that would require the OETA to make legislative proceedings available online or on television should resources become available. The OETA has come under fire from some lawmakers who question whether it is a core function of state government. The entity receives some legislative appropriations. Both measures were written by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma DHS needs to push forward, director says

Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake, speaking Monday at a lecture on the future of DHS at the Oklahoma History Center, said he’d like the Legislature to move forward on some of the budget expenses called for in the agency’s Pinnacle Plan. The Pinnacle Plan, DHS’ child-welfare improvement plan, was developed in response to a federal class-action lawsuit settlement reached last year. Lake approached the legislative budget subcommittee in January to request additional funding. He said Monday that additional hiring now would help address some of the actions the Pinnacle Plan calls for later.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

School merger vote today

The identities of two rural communities should remain intact if voters agree to consolidate the Dustin and Graham school districts, leaders of those districts say. Under the plan, Dustin would host prekindergarten through fourth-grade students, and Graham would have the fifth- through 12th-graders. “That’s what we want to do is keep both campuses open,” said Dustin Superintendent Joe Cummings. Voters in the districts will decide Tuesday. Consolidating schools would also increase funding, and teachers would no longer have two grades to a classroom.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

SandRidge shareholder vote could have broader implications for Oklahoma City

The ongoing SandRidge shareholder vote could have significant effects on both the energy company and Oklahoma City, according to local industry observers. Tulsa money manager Jake Dollarhide said the effort is driven by out-of-state investors focused only on the stock price. New York-based TPG-Axon has asked SandRidge shareholders to replace the company’s directors with a slate of its choosing. The shareholder claims that CEO Tom Ward and the SandRidge directors have destroyed shareholder value by allowing the stock price to tumble 80 percent from its initial public offering in 2007. “The destruction of stockholder value has been caused by poor and erratic strategic decisions, reckless spending, and a culture of cronyism and waste that has drained value from the company,” the shareholder said in December.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Any member of the legislature who seeks to promote this raises questions about his ability to honor his oath, which is to uphold the Constitution.

Rick Tepker, a professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Law, on attempts by Oklahoma legislators to nullify federal law.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for early childhood education enrollment; 51.6 percent of the state’s 3-4 year olds are enrolled in Head Start or pre-K, compared to 28.2 percent nationally in 2011

Source: CFED

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Slower growth of health costs eases U.S. deficit

A sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit, leaving budget experts trying to figure out whether the trend will last and how much the slower growth could help alleviate the country’s long-term fiscal problems. In figures released last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it had erased hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid. The budget office now projects that spending on those two programs in 2020 will be about $200 billion, or 15 percent, less than it projected three years ago. New data also show overall health care spending growth continuing at the lowest rate in decades for a fourth consecutive year.

Read more from the New York Times.

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: House panel votes down measure to review tax credits

  1. Whenever Oklahoma leads in an educational statistic (see Number of the Day – Oklahoma’s rank for early childhood education enrollment), you gotta ask “why”?

    Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s “leadership” in this statistic is not a reflection of outstanding school programs for 3 and 4 year olds, but instead by the dwindling funding of our public schools. Since schools are allocated state funds based on attendance, it follows that schools will expand programs that increase their head counts.

    Three and four year olds are called “pre-school” for a reason – they are not emotionally and mentally developed like their bigger brothers and sisters and should not be treated the same as the bigger kids. Public school treatment of this age group is very lax as compared to the structure and limited class sizes required of DHS regulated pre-school facilities.

    So, Oklahoma still has to prove that our pre-schoolers are better off in pubic “day care” than at home or in regulated programs.

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