In The Know: Incentive program diverts income tax payments to private businesses

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.

A state incentive program diverts income tax payments from the Oklahoma employees of 17 large firms, including Goodyear and Hitachi, to help pay for $89 million worth of plant expansions and equipment expenses, according to an investigation by Oklahoma Watch. Speaking to The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board, Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton outlined concerns with overcrowding and understaffing in the state’s prisons. KJRH suggested that increasing incidents of inmate escapes could be tied to understaffing, but the state says no such connection exists. The Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing was on lockdown last night following a riot that led to 12 inmates being treated for injuries at a nearby hospital.

A pending Supreme Court case could effectively end health insurance coverage for millions of Americans and thousands of Oklahomans by stopping the subsidies used to pay for insurance purchased on Four in five Oklahomans who purchased health insurance on received such a subsidy to help pay for it. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wondered what it will take for Oklahomans to demand the quality public education our children deserve.

Oklahoma ranked in the top 10 among all states for economic growth in 2014 , according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. The full report is available here. Governor Fallin is seeking federal assistance for an additional 15 counties affected by storms and flooding in May. Twenty-five counties have already been approved for assistance. An animal rights group has filed a complaint against OSU regarding violations of veterinary standards in the university’s training program. An Oklahoma Corporation Commission judge has recommended that the Commission reject a proposed Oklahoma Gas & Electric rate hike of nearly 20 percent over 5 years. The Number of the Day is 78.7% – the average salary of Oklahoma public school teachers as a percentage of the national average, 2013-2014. In today’s Policy Note, The Nation shows how Governor Brownback’s refusal to expand health coverage to low-income Kansans leaves thousands of people without access to needed healthcare.

In The News

State Program Diverting Workers’ Tax Payments to Businesses

Oklahoma employees of Goodyear, Hitachi and 15 other firms are contributing part of their paychecks to help pay for plant expansions and equipment purchases costing more than $89 million, an Oklahoma Watch investigation shows. In many cases, they probably don’t even know it. It’s all perfectly legal, and it doesn’t wind up costing employees anything.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Oklahoma corrections chief says prisons face major challenges

The state Department of Corrections will use a $14 million budget hike to hire more staff, add more beds for a growing inmate population, make repairs and pay for expected increases in utility bills, DOC Director Robert Patton said Tuesday. Speaking to The Oklahoman’s editorial board, he praised the Legislature for its attention to the problems of his department, but said the DOC will continue to face huge challenges.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

State: Oklahoma prison staff shortages aren’t causing escapes

Along with the massive manhunt in the Northeast, Oklahoma authorities are looking for an escaped prisoner who’s considered armed and dangerous. Robert Thomas is just the latest in a string of escapees this year. It’s not just the escapes. The state department of corrections is also dealing with severe staff shortages, but officials claim they don’t believe the problems are connected.

Read more from KJRH.

Injuries Reported Following Riot At Cimarron Correctional Facility

Several people were being treated for injuries after a riot at the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Wednesday evening. Multiple units from the Payne County Sheriff’s office and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) were called in to help get the situation under control. The rioting began sometime after 5 p.m. News 9 is told that everything was under control by 6 p.m.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Key ruling looms on president’s health care law

With a critical Supreme Court decision looming, President Barack Obama defended his signature health care law Tuesday, saying it had provided millions of people with insurance they would not have been able to afford otherwise. Speaking at the Catholic Health Association conference here, Obama said critics of the Affordable Care Act — often referred to as Obamacare — had created a mythology that didn’t square with reality.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The Data Is In: Oklahomans are actively using Affordable Care Act from the OK Policy Blog.

No more waiting till next year

At a meeting of the Tulsa Regional Chamber after the legislative session ended, Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley said this about raising pay for Oklahoma teachers: “It is past time. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I want to get it done before I leave.” In other words: Wait until next year. For seven straight years, the Legislature has failed to give teachers a raise.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Oklahoma’s economic growth ranks high

Oklahoma’s energy industry, which was much more robust a year ago, helped make the state’s economy one of the strongest in the nation in 2014. Oklahoma ranked No. 10 among all states in economic growth in 2014, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Read more from NewsOK.

Read the report here.

Fallin Seeks Federal Assistance For 15 More Storm-Battered Counties

Gov. Mary Fallin and state emergency management officials are seeking federal assistance for 15 additional counties affected by recent storms and flooding. Fallin announced Wednesday she is requesting public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist with reimbursing local cities and counties for debris removal, infrastructure repairs and other storm-related expenses.

Read more from KGOU.

Animal Rights Group Files Formal Complaint Against OSU

An animal rights watchdog group has filed a formal complaint against Oklahoma State University after a federal report outlined several violations of veterinary standards as part of the university’s training program. In a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michael Budkie of the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now asked the agency to take the “most severe action allowable” under federal law against OSU.

Read more from KGOU.

Regulators Should Reject OG&E Rate Hike, Judge Recommends

An Oklahoma Corporation Commission Administrative Law Judge recommended state regulators reject several “major portions” of Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s proposal to recover environmental compliance costs. Judge Ben Jackson on Monday recommended Oklahoma’s three-member Corporation Commission reject the utility’s request to raise rates as much as 19 percent in five years.

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“Could ACLU come in tomorrow and file a suit and suddenly we are in some kind of monitoring? Yes, that’s the business we are in.”

– Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton, speaking to The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board regarding overcrowding and low staff levels in the state’s prisons (Source)

Number of the Day


Average salary of Oklahoma public school teachers as a percentage of the national average, 2013-2014.

Source: National Education Association.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Life and Death in Red America

RaDonna Kuekelhan and her sister, Cathy O’Mara, have spent their whole lives in and around southeast Kansas, a largely rural area wedged up against Oklahoma and Missouri. Long pastoral stretches separate the region’s smattering of ghostly quiet small towns, the depopulated remains of a thriving industrial past. Cathy left the area briefly as a young woman, following a man to Florida, a decision she still regrets. “I said, ‘God, if you let me get back to Kansas, I will never leave again,'” she recalls, laughing at herself but not really joking. She had missed the closeness of community in Kansas, the way it eases life’s challenges.

Read more from The Nation.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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