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 email@example.com. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today on In The Know, Governor Fallin said that while she has no immediate plans to propose more income tax cuts, her long-term goal is to do away with the income tax. To cope with a budget shortfall, DHS is cutting child-care subsidies for low-income families. The program will increase co-pays by up to $60 more per month and lower the income limit for receiving subsidies. The OK Policy Blog has a quick take on the latest state revenue numbers. Oklahoma will launch a campaign to find out how many veterans live in the state to help maximize federal dollars for veteran’s services.
An Appeals Court reinstated part of the former state medical examiner’s wrongful firing suit. The court ruled that he can pursue a claim that his right to free speech was violated when he was fired after saying he would report wrongdoing by some subordinates. As more Oklahoma towns pass restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales to combat meth, some physicians say the ordinances are bad public health policy.
The Oklahoma Gazette reviews Sally Kern’s new book, in which she claims she was “verbally stoned” by critics after her 2008 statement that homosexuality is the biggest threat faced by the United States. The Delaware Nation unveiled a stimulus-funded project to install solar arrays at their complex north of Anadarko. State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft has dropped out of the special election for Senate District 43. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the Dallas Federal Reserve finds that the U.S. risks falling behind in the global race for talent if immigration laws are not reformed.
Read on for more.
In The News
Governor wants to do away with income tax
Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday her long-term goal is to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax and restructure the state’s tax system to find new ways to pay for essential public services. Fallin, speaking to reporters following a town hall meeting at Fort Sill, said she has no immediate plans to propose a new round of income tax cuts but that members of a tax reform committee she appointed are studying changes to the tax system including, elimination of the income tax. “It’s not something you can do next year,” Fallin said. “You have to have money to operate state services. We want to find the best way to fund essential services.”
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Okla-governor-wants-to-do-away-with-income-tax-1426204.php.
DHS Budget cuts could prove costly to Oklahoma parents, children
Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services has slashed its budget by $32 million. One of the most significant impacts from those cuts is an increase in co-pay for families receiving DHS subsidies for child care. “It will ultimately hurt the children,” Jamilah Drew said. Drew, the owner of Kid’s World Child Care Center in Tulsa, said a rise in co-pay will cripple the low-income and mostly single-parent families. “The parents are already having a tough time paying it as it is and I just don’t want to see the children left at home,” she said. The child care subsidies go to low-income parents who work or are in school. Parents will now have to pay $6 to $60 more a month based on their income to receive the DHS assistance. Another change is that parents applying for subsidies in the future have to make nearly $6,000 less to qualify. DHS will save more than $8 million with the measures.
Read more from this NewsOn6 article at http://www.newson6.com/story/14918427/dhs-budget.
See also: DHS cuts services, sets higher co-pays for child-care subsidies from The Tulsa World
Quick Take: Revenues rebounding but still way down from pre-downturn levels
This week, State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger announced General Revenue (GR) collections for May. For the month, GR was $36 million, or 9.5 percent, above May 2010 and $25.4 million, or 6.5 percent, above the certified estimate. May collections would have been even higher but for the Legislature’s decision to allocate $21.4 million in oil revenues as supplemental funds for common and higher education. For the eleven months of FY ’11, revenues are $409.1 million, or 9.9 percent, above last year and $153.2 million, or 3.5 percent, above the certified estimate. In this blog post, we go a little deeper into the numbers with a series of brief observations and charts.
Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/quick-take-revenues-rebounding-but-still-way-down-from-pre-downturn-levels/.
State wants to count how many veterans live here
Oklahoma will soon launch a campaign to determine how many veterans live in the state, said retired Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, Oklahoma’s secretary of military and veterans affairs. About 276,000 veterans in the state use Veterans Affairs medical services, education funding and loans, but officials don’t know the total of veterans living in Oklahoma, she said. But the state does not have a good figure for its total number of living veterans, something that would assist the state in maximizing the federal dollars it receives for services such as long-term care centers.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=504&articleid=20110616_16_A9_LWOkao1148.
Part of medical examiner’s wrongful firing suit reinstated
Dr. Collie Trant is getting another chance to try to prove that he was wrongfully fired as Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reinstated part of his lawsuit against state officials for firing him in February 2010 after nine months on the job without public explanation. The court said Trant is entitled to pursue his claim that the State Board of Medicolegal Investigations violated his right to free speech. The board fired him soon after he said he was going to report wrongdoing by some subordinates.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=14&articleid=20110616_19_A9_DENVER30646.
Doctors debate restricting sale of allergy drug
A proposal to restrict the availability of some allergy medicines used in the manufacture of methamphetamine is dividing a key interest group – physicians. McAlester’s City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance, making the city the fourth and largest Oklahoma community to restrict local pseudoephedrine sales. Holdenville, Wagoner and Chouteau have passed similar ordinances. Some physicians say the ordinances are bad public health policy and are being pushed through without enough consideration. Other doctors say that, on balance, the state’s meth problem is greater than the needs of allergy sufferers.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110616_16_A1_CUTLIN82798.
See also: More OK towns pass meth ordinances from KJRH
In forthcoming book, Sally Kern says she was ‘verbally stoned’ by bloggers, activists, and the media
Few people in Oklahoma politics are as polarizing as state Rep. Sally Kern. Beloved by some, reviled by others, the preacher’s wife, schoolteacher, grandmother and state representative has made national headlines more than once. Kern’s new book “The Stoning of Sally Kern: The Liberal Attack on Christian Conservatism — and Why We Must Take a Stand” is scheduled for release July 5 by FrontLine, an arm of Charisma Media. While the title of Kern’s upcoming book may seem hyperbolic, Kern wrote that she was verbally stoned by bloggers, activists, the media and those attempting to achieve their own political objectives. In a 2008 speech, which provoked backlash nationwide, Kern said, “Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than … a few decades,” and she called homosexuality “the biggest threat even that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” The majority of Kern’s book focused on the controversial 2008 statements — printed in their entirety — and the firestorm that followed.
Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-12054-%E2%80%98stoning%E2%80%99-sally.html.
Oklahoma tribe unveils solar energy project
An Anadarko-based American Indian tribe unveiled a solar energy project on Wednesday that tribal officials said would save it thousands of dollars and could lead to new jobs coming to southwestern Oklahoma. The construction of the 37.5-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Delaware Nation’s complex north of Anadarko will supply 30 percent of the complex’s electricity, tribal President Kerry Holton said. The solar array should be finished by next month and a sign already hangs outside the headquarters building that reads “These buildings are powered by the sun.” To pay for the project, the Delaware Nation received a $250,000 federal grant from stimulus funds and Holton said the tribe matched that amount. He said the tribe will recoup its costs within five to eight years. The tribe also has started manufacturing LED lights at a plant in Anadarko and could branch out into assembling modules for solar arrays in the near future, Holton said.
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Oklahoma-tribe-unveils-solar-energy-project-1424710.php.
State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft drops out of special election for Senate seat
The race to fill the last year remaining on a soon-to-be vacant Senate seat became wide open Wednesday when the perceived front-runner dropped out and three candidates filed for the post. Two Republicans and two Democrats will be on the Aug. 9 primary election ballot for the Senate District 43 post that covers southern Oklahoma County and northern Cleveland County. The winners will square off Oct. 11. State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, who was the first to file for the post, withdrew from the race Wednesday with less than two hours to go before the filing deadline. Wesselhoft, whose House district covers most of the existing Senate District 43, said running a primary and a general election campaign would deplete most of the $25,000 he had in existing campaign funds. Because he planned to run for another Senate seat next year, he said it would be difficult to raise money to wage a successful campaign in what is gearing up to be a competitive race and in a district where he is more conservative than many of the voters.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-state-rep.-paul-wesselhoft-drops-out-of-special-senate-seat-race/article/3577516.
Quote of the Day
This money is not being wasted. It’s being profoundly monitored. It’s being highly regulated. When it finally hits the ground and it finally goes to work, it creates entirely new worlds. Energy connects hearts and communities and dreams. It’s magic.
–Patricia St. Germain, a project officer with the U.S. Department of Energy, speaking about a federal stimulus project to build a solar array for the Delaware Nation’s complex north of Anadarko.
Number of the Day
Number of Oklahoma residents who were born in another country, 2009; compared to 131,747 foreign-born residents in 2000.
Source: American Community Survey,
From Brawn to Brains: How immigration works for America
Future U.S. prosperity depends on having a skilled workforce. This requires educating the native-born population and continuing to attract the world’s best and brightest to the U.S. For decades, the nation has been the world leader in attracting skilled immigrants who, until recently, had few good alternatives. Today, other destination countries increasingly recognize the economic benefits of these workers and are designing policies to attract them, even as the immigrants’ nations of origin seek ways to entice them to return home. The U.S. immigration system, meanwhile, has not kept up.
Read more from the Dallas Federal Reserve at http://www.dallasfed.org/fed/annual/2010/ar10b.pdf.
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