In The Know: July 12, 2011

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 on In The Know, the state will make a $219 million deposit into the rainy day fund due to revenues increasing above projections. The OK Policy Blog looks at the progress we’ve made and how far is left to go for recovering state revenues. Both sides are alleging ballot tampering in the disputed Cherokee principal chief election. The Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation said proposed federal cuts to transportation funds would have a devastating effect on Oklahoma’s road and bridge-building plans and delay the Crosstown Expressway.

Chesapeake Energy is creating a $1B venture capital fund to boost demand for natural gas in transportation. Oklahoma City and other metro-area communities are putting mandatory water rationing in place due to the continuing heat wave. Approval of an interim study on making pseudoephedrine prescription-only may signal legislative report for passing the bill next year. The non-profit Pets Helping People program is helping women gain job experience and move back into society after being incarcerated.

The OK Policy Blog highlights the trailer for Panic Nation, a documentary on Oklahoma’s 2007 immigration bill. In today’s Policy Note, Bruce Bartlett explains how we risk repeating the mistakes of 1937 that prolonged the Great Depression. The Number of the Day is the percentage points by which students of Nationally Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) outscored students of non-NBCTs on year-end tests.

More below the jump.

In The News

State rainy day fund to get $219 million deposit

The state will make a $219 million deposit into the “rainy day fund,” Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said Monday. The fund now contains $2.03. “It will be the largest deposit into our constitutional reserve fund since the end of the 2005 fiscal year,” Doerflinger said. “And while we will likely face a tight budget again next year, this enhances stabilization of Oklahoma’s overall revenue situation.” The rainy day fund reached a record $596.6 million before the recession but was tapped in recent years as state revenue fell.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Revenue collections finish strong year–but still face a steep upward climb

State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger yesterday announced that June General Revenue (GR) collections came in $78.1 million, or 15.7 percent, above last year and $66.2 million, or 13.0 percent, above the official certified estimate. The June collections brought to an end the 2011 fiscal year and confirmed the increasingly solid recovery of Oklahoma’s tax collections that has been apparent over the course of the year. For the full year, General Revenue increased by $487.1 million, or 10.5 percent, from the depths of FY ’10. However, revenue collections remain substantially below pre-downturn levels. This year’s GR came in 14.2 percent below FY ’08 and remains considerably below collections of five years ago, FY ’06.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Ballot tampering alleged in Cherokee chief election

Campaign positioning continued Monday with strong statements coming from both sides during a daylong break in the Cherokee Nation election’s Supreme Court appeal hearing. A count of ballots late into Sunday night by legal parties, candidates, election commissioners and justices showed “fatal flaws” in the hand recount, incumbent Chief Chad Smith said in a Monday morning press conference. “The long and short of it is that the only time all the votes were counted was in the first count,” Smith said. Meanwhile, Bill John Baker campaign officials released a statement Monday afternoon accusing a contractor hired to manage the election of tampering with election ballots.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Proposed cuts in federal highway funds would affect Crosstown Expressway project in Oklahoma City

Proposed deep cuts in federal highway spending over the next six years would have a devastating effect on Oklahoma’s eight-year road- and bridge-building plan and likely would delay key projects, the state’s transportation secretary said Monday. Gary Ridley said Oklahoma receives nearly $600 million in federal transportation funds a year. A cut of one-third would be about $200 million. Ridley said the cut would be so extreme his agency would be unable to protect the $670 million Crosstown Expressway project, the most expensive project in state history. The seven-year project to relocate Interstate 40 through downtown Oklahoma City is scheduled to be completed next year.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Chesapeake creating $1B fund to boost natural gas use in transportation

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and CEO Aubrey McClendon are creating a $1 billion venture capital fund to boost demand for natural gas in transportation. Newly created Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp. will make its first investments in Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and Sundrop Fuels Inc. Clean Energy Fuels, whose co-founder is Oklahoma-born billionaire T. Boone Pickens, will use Chesapeake’s $150 million investment to accelerate its construction of liquefied natural gas fueling stations for heavy-duty trucks. Sundrop is working to build a plant capable of producing more than 40 million gallons of “green gasoline” from natural gas and waste plant matter. Chesapeake will acquire a 50 percent stake in the Colorado-based company for $155 million.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma City, other cities, put mandatory water rationing in place as heat continues

Oklahoma City has ordered mandatory water rationing for the first time in a decade in response to a heat wave that has brought 13 straight days of triple-digit temperatures with no end in sight. Oklahoma City’s mandatory water rationing rules also apply to 13 communities that buy some or all of their water from Oklahoma City. The rationing also will be mandatory in 13 other metro-area communities that buy some or all their water from Oklahoma City including Moore, Edmond, Yukon and Norman. The rationing applies only to watering lawns. Residents and businesses with even-numbered addresses can water their grass on even-numbered days, and odd-numbered addresses on odd-numbered days. Hand watering with a hose is allowed every day.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

State panel looks at restricting pseudoephedrine

Legislative supporters of a proposal to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug think momentum is building to pass the bill next year. A bill to restrict access to the popular allergy medicine, which is an essential ingredient in methamphetamine labs, passed a House committee this year but never was considered by the full House. But last week Speaker of the House Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, who had been identified with those who stymied the bill, approved a House interim study of the proposal.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Pets project helps women out of prison get jobs

Before she became involved with Pets Helping People, LeaAnn Eastteam had forgotten what it felt like to truly control her destiny. “Not only do I have the felonies, but I haven’t had a work history for five years,” Eastteam said. “I was really worried about my future.” When a friend with her own legal troubles endorsed a dog-grooming training program intended to help women move back into society from correctional, transitional living and recovery programs, she saw it as an opportunity to make a permanent change. Thus began Eastteam’s participation in the nonprofit, recovery-based organization Pets Helping People.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Watch This: Panic Nation preview trailer

A few months ago, we blogged about a special screening of the feature-length documentary Panic Nation at the University of Tulsa, and the film did not disappoint. Filmaker George Adams was on hand to discuss the movie and the rise of state-sponsored immigration laws in the U.S. The film addresses Oklahoma’s HB 1804 in depth, which at the time it passed in 2007 was seen as the most restrictive state immigration law in the country. Panic Nation is available for sale online. If you’ve seen the film, share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you’re curious, check out this preview trailer.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

We’ve been in this heat wave for so long. The body begins to wear down. You get tired quicker.

Lara O’Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority

Number of the Day

7 to 15

Percentage points by which students of Nationally Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) outscored students of non-NBCTs on year-end tests, 2004

Source: The Urban Institute via the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bruce Bartlett: Are we about to repeat the mistakes of 1937?

Friday’s jobs report clearly indicates that the economy remains weak, yet the pressure to reverse stimulus and begin tightening fiscal and monetary policy has become overwhelming. The Federal Reserve has already ended its policy of quantitative easing, and many of its regional bank presidents are demanding higher interest rates to forestall inflation. Republicans and Democrats in Congress appear to agree that large spending cuts must accompany a rise in the debt limit, which will be hit on Aug. 2 if Congress doesn’t act. Some economists are getting very nervous. With the economy in a fragile state, it may not take much to bring on another recession. Even a small amount of fiscal or monetary tightening may be enough to do that. It is starting to look like 1937 all over again.

Read more from the Economix blog at

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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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