In The Know: Key lawmaker says tax cut still likely, though smaller than proposed

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.

The Chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee said he doubts an income tax cut will be as deep as originally proposed, but that “we will have a significant proposal regarding the income tax rate for our members to vote on this year.”  A letter to the editor of the Oklahoman warned lawmakers that residents do not want to shift to higher sales and property taxes in exchange for lower income taxes.  A Tulsa World op-ed reported on what is now a broad chorus of intense criticism from economic experts of an OCPA/ALME proposal to slash the state’s income tax.

A new three-day filing period for candidacy for federal, state, and legislative office will begin today in Oklahoma.  The families of three victims killed during a weekend shooting rampage in North Tulsa plan to pay their last respects.  The murders have shined a spotlight on race relations in Tulsa, a city with a legacy of violence and segregation.  A bill to end the state’s exclusive authority to regulate smoking in public spaces and allow cities more local control died in committee.

Oklahoma has fallen further behind in college completion in the last twenty years, with wide gaps in graduation rates between white students and students of color.  A recount will be held today in a special election for an Oklahoma House seat with returns showing the Democratic candidate winning by just three votes.  The Number of the Day is the amount of income foregone over a lifetime by a high school dropout in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained the critical role of SNAP, formerly food stamps, in helping millions feed their families during and after the Great Recession.

In The News

Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate will be cut next year, but not as deep as some bills have proposed, a key budget negotiator said Tuesday.

“In my opinion, it will not be as deep as was discussed at the beginning of session,” said Rep. Earl Sears, chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee. “But we will have a significant proposal regarding the income tax rate for our members to vote on this year.”  Sears, R-Bartlesville, said he and a group of House Republicans have reviewed five bills that propose to reduce the top personal income tax rate of 5.25 percent; the proposed cuts range from a quarter percent to 3 percent. Sears is beginning to meet with senators and plans to meet later with representatives of the governor, who has proposed reducing the top rate from 5.25 percent to 3.5 percent next year.

Read more from NewsOK at

Income tax cuts will lead to rise in property and sales taxes

The Republican Legislature is poised to reduce state income taxes. State support for higher education has been gutted, forcing tuition increases. Elementary school class sizes have been raised to 29. Census data from 2009 show that Oklahoma ranks 48th in public school teacher salaries. That’s below Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.  “Changes cut state funds, study finds” (Business, April 4) summarized a report by economists from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University showing that tax reductions and increases in nontaxed Internet sales over the past dozen years have cut state tax receipts by more than $1.5 billion annually.

Read more from NewsOK at

Anti-tax group’s flawed ‘research’

What is the difference between serious statistical research and statistical manipulation?  The foundation for all of the Oklahoma personal income tax proposals is one “study” done by the commercial and biased group of Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics (ALME). Its work was published by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and is titled “Eliminating the Income Tax in Oklahoma: An Economic Assessment.” The gist of this report is that if Oklahoma will phase out the personal income tax, the economy will soar.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

As Oklahoma filing period begins, many changes in Legislature are assured

Wednesday marks the start of Oklahoma’s three-day filing period for federal, state and legislative offices. What is always a busy time at the Capitol will be even more hectic this year.  The filing period used to be in mid-June, when the Capitol was quiet because the Legislature wasn’t in session. But the dates were pushed up to comply with a federal law that ensures military members stationed overseas and registered voters who live abroad can vote and return their ballots in time to be counted. The new calendar places our filing period in the middle of the legislative session.

Read more from NewsOK at

Tulsa Shooting Victim Had Turned Her Life Around

Kenneth Fields says he wants justice for his sister, but he doesn’t think the men who have confessed to killing her should be put to death.  “I don’t hate them. I don’t hate them. That ain’t what God put us down here for, to hate nobody,” he says.  His wife is not as forgiving. Kenneth Fields says he just wishes the two accused men had stopped to think for a few minutes before they started their shooting spree. He even wonders who will raise Jake England’s infant son.

Read more from NPR at

Tulsa Shootings Reopen Old Wounds

At a press conference in Tulsa, Okla., following the targeted shootings of five African-Americans last week, the optics were as important as the substance of the news.  The mayor and police chief pleaded for the public’s help in capturing the suspects, while behind those two white men stood a pair of Tulsa’s most influential black leaders — the lone African-American member of the City Council and the president of the local NAACP.

Read more from NPR at

Smoking law could have saved lives, Oklahoma Board of Health members say

The state Legislature missed an opportunity to save lives when a tobacco bill that expanded cities’ rights died in committee, the state Health Board president said Tuesday.  “This development will have the very unfortunate consequence of slowing down our fight against the efforts and the effects of tobacco on the people of Oklahoma,” Dr. Jenny Alexopulos said at the state Health Board’s meeting. “These include heart disease, lung disease, cancer, peripheral vascular disease, the list goes on. There will continue to be many lives lost as a result of this, on the order of approximately 6,000 Oklahomans per year.”

Read more from NewsOK at

The Graduation Gap: Many minority students attend, but don’t complete college

The share of Oklahomans with a college education has lagged behind the national average for decades and in the last twenty years we’ve fallen even further behind.  Partly to blame is our lackluster college completion record.  Oklahoma has one of the lowest college graduation rates in the nation, with less than half (44.1 percent) of our enrolled students completing a degree within six years.  College completion rates for students of color in the state are particularly low, despite the fact that in recent years enrollment in higher education across race/ethnicity has seen dramatic improvement.  With the exception of Hispanic students, enrollment in public and private colleges and universities across the state is reflective of Oklahoma’s demographics.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Recount set in election for Oklahoma House seat

A recount will be held in a special election for an Oklahoma House seat that unofficial returns show the Democratic candidate winning by three votes, officials said Tuesday.  Hand-counting of ballots is set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court and was requested by Republican candidate Katie Henke. Unofficial returns from the April 3 election showed Democrat Dan Arthrell beating Henke by three votes in the race for the seat from House District 71, which runs along the Arkansas River in central Tulsa.  Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell, who said he and other GOP observers will attend the recount, called Henke’s request prudent given the narrow vote margin. The unofficial returns showed Arthrell with a 1,418-1,415 advantage.

Read more from Real Clear Politics at

Quote of the Day

Ignoring the serious doubts and warnings expressed by so many economists and faculty in the state is irresponsible and unacceptable.

Lynne Shaw, on an OCPA/ALME proposal to slash Oklahoma’s income tax that has been widely debunked by state economic experts

Number of the Day


Amount of income foregone over a lifetime by a high school dropout in Oklahoma in 2011

Source: Alliance for Excellent Education

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

SNAP Reduces Poverty – and More

The Agriculture Department (USDA) reported this afternoon that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) lifted 3.4 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.  SNAP reduced poverty by 1.1 percentage points (cutting the poverty rate from 14.3 to 13.2 percent), according to USDA.  SNAP’s poverty-reducing effects were especially strong in 2009 due to temporary benefit increases that President Obama and Congress included in the Recovery Act that year.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

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