In The Know: Lawmakers eye performance pay for state workers

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 lawmakers are eyeing raises tied to performance reviews and private-sector wages for state workers who haven’t seen a pay increase since 2006. okeducationtruths discussed concerns with the education budget request, which will be finalized by the State Board of Education this Thursday.

OK Policy released a new report that calls for the elimination of tax breaks for the oil and gas industry that are growing exponentially and do little to encourage drilling. StateImpact Oklahoma and This Land Press discussed the report’s findings. An oil and gas industry lobbying group put out a statement in response.

The director of a non-profit that secures community jobs for Oklahomans with disabilities said the affirmative action ban could endanger this program. The OK Gazette examined the split between leading Republicans over the parole state question, and Urban Tulsa Weekly discussed the politics behind Gov. Fallin’s reversal on the state question. Stateline reported on an Oklahoma program working to keep mentally ill ex-offenders from going back to prison.

Woodward News recommended going to our website to learn more about the state questions. See our summary and analysis of all the state questions here. Oklahoma is seeking to allow the state Agriculture Department to take over the EPA’s role in permitting concentrated animal feeding operations. Clean water advocates are rallying supporters to oppose the change.

The Number of the Day is the amount awarded in October by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for maintenance and improvements of highways, interstates, and roads in 24 counties. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why safety net programs are not a major cause of the nation’s long-term budget problems.

In The News

Lawmakers eye performance pay for state workers

State workers in Oklahoma, who haven’t seen a pay increase since 2006, shouldn’t expect an across-the-board salary boost anytime soon, but several state leaders said Tuesday they support the idea of raises tied to performance reviews and private-sector wages. The chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee and the secretary of finance both said that while they oppose the idea of set pay increases for all state workers, they are willing to support a performance-pay system. Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, one of the governor’s top budget negotiators, stopped short of saying it would be included in Gov. Mary Fallin’s next budget proposal, but he added: “It’s something we’re talking about.”

Read more from CBS News.

And now, budgeting

In addition to finally approving the A-F Report Cards (with few discernible changes) Thursday, the State Board of Education will also be asked to take action on the budget request brought forward a few weeks ago. I addressed the budget then, but now I’d like to focus on three specific concerns. The request for additional funds doesn’t go far enough. The proposed budget would restore weighted per pupil funding to 2010 levels, given projections for next school year’s enrollment. Unfortunately, nine of the ten years prior to 2010 had higher weighted per pupil allocations. That’s not even adjusting for inflation and the cost of living.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Unnecessary and unaffordable: The case for curbing Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks

Oklahoma should eliminate tax breaks for the oil and gas industry that are no longer needed and are threatening the state’s fiscal stability by squeezing out resources for schools, roads, public safety, and other keys to long-term economic growth, according to a new issue brief from Oklahoma Policy Institute. Policymakers created the tax exemptions to encourage what were at the time novel, expensive, and risky methods of drilling, but these techniques now are standard practice, making the exemptions unnecessary and counterproductive.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: An argument against state tax breaks for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry from StateImpact Oklahoma; Give them a break: Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax incentives from This Land Press; Oil and gas tax provision necessary from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association

Affirmative action ban could affect community jobs for people with disabilities

State Question 759 would add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution, if approved by the people, and would ban government affirmative action programs in the state, with some exceptions. “In relation to the Oklahoma Production Center and State Question 759, one of the areas targeted is contracts, and the Oklahoma Production Center contracts with the state in several areas to perform services and/or product contracts and receives a preference, as long as it meets fair market value,” said OPC Programs and Services Director Steve Clay. “Without this preference, many people with or without disabilities would be without a job.”

Read more from Tahlequah News Press.

Parole division

Gov. Mary Fallin will not support State Question 762, which would take the state’s chief executive officer out of the loop in connection with parole cases involving nonviolent offenders. The governor initially endorsed the measure, but withdrew her support after a controversy erupted between the state Pardon and Parole Board and the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association (ODAA). Fallin is at odds on the issue with Speaker of the House Kris Steele, a fellow Republican. Steele has been passionate in his support of SQ 762, claiming that its passage would create a more effective criminal justice system.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

See also: Politics trumps good public policy again from Urban Tulsa Weekly

Oklahoma looks for ways to keep mentally ill ex-offenders out of prison

Shawna Gordon isn’t alone in worrying what will happen on that day in the future when she ventures beyond the familiar barbed wire that circumscribes her existence now. “To think, one day they’re going to come in and say, ‘Pack your stuff,’ I don’t know how I’m going to react,” says Gordon. A heavily tattooed 42-year-old woman with bristly red hair and self-inflicted cuts up and down her arms, she is one of the participants in a unique release program in Oklahoma for inmates with a history of mental illness.

Read more from Kaiser Health News.

Remember to vote

On November 6, 2012, Oklahoma voters will not only vote for a presidential candidate, but we will also decide six state questions to possibly amend the State Constitution. Amending the State Constitution should not be taken lightly and I urge you to know and understand each question before you go vote. The Oklahoma Policy Institute,, is a great place to go and gather good information on all six state questions. OK Policy is a non-profit organization that provides information, analysis and ideas on state policy issues. I have found it to be a very good unbiased organization that provides good information to help explain the issues and their impact to the public.

Read more from Woodward News.

See also: 2012 State Questions – Summary and Analysis from Oklahoma Policy Institute

EPA hearing focuses on whether state Ag Department should have regulatory role

A public hearing is set for Thursday as part of the state Agriculture Department’s efforts to assume the EPA’s role in permitting concentrated animal feeding operations and other agricultural activities. Oklahoma would be the only state in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 and possibly in the nation to have an agricultural agency – the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry – take over the regulatory role if its application to administer a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program is approved. Gov. Mary Fallin is seeking approval of a state Agricultural Pollutant Discharge Elimination System under the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Animal waste water foes boil over from the Muskogee Phoenix

Quote of the Day

The new front-line mental health workers are law enforcement officers and the new psychiatric hospitals are the prisons and the jails. It’s wrong, it’s just plain wrong.

Robert Powitsky, chief mental officer of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Number of the Day

$79 million

Amount awarded in October by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for maintenance and improvements of highways, interstates, and roads in 24 counties

Source: Oklahoma Department of Transportation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The myth of the exploding safety net

A new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report shows that federal spending on low-income programs has risen significantly in recent years. Does this mean that safety net programs are growing out of control and are a major cause of the nation’s long-term budget problems, as some have suggested? No. As we explained in May, virtually all of the recent growth in spending for means-tested programs is due to the recession and rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for private-sector care at least as much as for Medicaid and other government health programs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that federal spending on means-tested programs other than health care will fall substantially as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as the economy recovers — and fall below its 1972-2011 average.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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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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