In The Know: Lawmakers file lawsuit in budget fight; March state revenue down, more losses projected; and more

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Oklahoma’s working families need a tax cut. Here’s why: Today is the traditional deadline to file and pay federal and state income taxes. Many of us will take advantage of the three-month delay granted as part of COVID-19 relief. The filing delay until July 15, however, does nothing to help those who need it most: low-income Oklahomans. Contrary to talking points from state boosters, Oklahoma is not a low tax state for all Oklahomans. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Cash is a pressing need right now — economic recovery payments will help many, but not all: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March by Congress, will help to meet the need with $1,200 economic impact payments for many individuals. These payments are needed and will be helpful to the individuals and families that receive them. We must also remain aware of those who will not be helped by this bill and continue finding ways to meet their needs as well. [Courtney Cullison / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Lawmakers sue to get revenue failure declared in budget fight with Gov. Stitt: Legislative leaders on Tuesday filed suit against the Oklahoma Board of Equalization stemming from a budget dispute with Gov. Kevin Stitt. The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court to force the Oklahoma Board of Equalization, chaired by the governor, to declare a revenue failure for fiscal year 2020 and allow the state to tap its Rainy Day Fund. [Tulsa World] Absent a revenue failure, agency budgets would be cut to make up the budget shortfall. [Public Radio Tulsa] The lawsuit comes as the latest development in a dispute between the Republican-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt over how to handle a revenue failure for the final months of Fiscal Year 2020. [NonDoc]

March general revenue collections down nearly $14.3 million since 2019 as state economy begins ‘to feel the pain’ of COVID-19 impact: General Revenue Fund collections in March were $494.6 million, down 2.8% from March 2019. [Tulsa World] Revenue collections were just 3.6% below projections last month, but state finance officials warned Tuesday that the biggest hit is expected over the next three months. [AP News] Oklahoma is experiencing the “worst-case scenario” projected by tax officials, according to the director of the state’s tax commission. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: The state budget is at risk, but how much risk and for how long?

The virus is vaporizing tax revenues, putting states in a bind: Some of the most drastic tax revenue losses have occurred in states like Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana, which rely heavily on taxing oil and gas. Oklahoma based its initial budget projections on $55-a-barrel oil; lately, the price has been less than half that. [New York Times]

State reports 9 more deaths, including one in Tulsa County; 2,184 cases reported across Oklahoma: The deaths of nine more people from COVID-19 were reported Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The OSDH said it had 2,184 confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus on record as of Tuesday morning. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Deaths, hospitalizations tracking lower than predicted a week before peak: A week before Oklahoma is expected to hit the peak of new hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, some numbers are tracking well below predictions. The daily death toll has been less than modeled almost every day since early April, and the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized is also below projections in the state’s model. [The Oklahoman]

Officials: State COVID-19 death toll could be higher: Medical experts say Oklahoma’s 100-plus death toll from COVID-19 could be higher than the official tally if the state isn’t conducting autopsies on people found dead in their homes. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

63 people at Grove nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19: An April 14 report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows 63 people at Grove Nursing Center have tested positive for COVID-19, which includes 44 residents and 19 staff members. [NewsOn6]

With COVID-19 infections expected to peak, Tulsa-area officials say getting back to normal will take time: Local officials on Tuesday urged residents to continue sheltering in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and cautioned that the disease could re-emerge in the fall. [Tulsa World]

Rural hospitals battling furloughs and budget shortages during COVID-19 pandemic: COVID-19 isn’t just crippling larger hospitals in Oklahoma but jeopardizing rural hospitals across the state as they deal with major revenue losses. [KTUL]

Abortion providers seek further release from restrictions: Abortion providers in Oklahoma are asking a federal judge to further release them from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s ban on elective surgeries and minor medical procedures during the coronavirus crisis. The judge already has ruled in their favor once in Oklahoma City federal court. [The Oklahoman]

State’s first COVID-19 patient donates ‘convalescent plasma’ to Tulsa patient, who shows rapid improvement: On March 6 a Tulsa man became the unnamed first COVID-19 patient whose positive test result was announced in Oklahoma, while he was self-isolated in his master bedroom. He’s since tallied another unforgettable first — the initial recovered patient in Tulsa to donate his antibody-rich blood to the American Red Cross for use in a critical patient. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: Bill Gates lays out a road map for preparing for the next pandemic: In a recent interview, Bill Gates said the world has several phases to go through before things will return to normal and that if those processes aren’t handled correctly, there could be significant setbacks. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

State Government News

Oklahoma child care owners ask DHS for funding to stay afloat through the pandemic: Tuesday night, daycare operators from across the state joined into a Zoom conference call with legislators to get answers. Lawmakers on the call said they will be talking to DHS to get that funding moving. [KTUL] Despite pleas from the state to stay open, 747 of Oklahoma’s 3,000 childcare centers have shuttered because of coronavirus fears. They have capacity for almost 40,000 children. [KOSU] OK Policy and ten other state organizations have developed emergency relief and policy changes that are urgently needed for Oklahoma’s child care providers. 

Legislative limbo: Many ‘good bills’ will have to wait until next session: The coronavirus pandemic has likely put to an end any further consideration this year of numerous bills that had been progressing in the Oklahoma Legislature prior to mid-March. [The Journal Record]

State health agencies no longer need approval before hiring additional employees: The state’s health agencies no longer need approval before hiring additional employees after Gov. Kevin Stitt updated his executive order again on Monday in an effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Paycheck Protection Program ‘solves a problem’ for now: Some business owners’ fears have been temporarily mitigated by the Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the $2 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress last month. [NonDoc]

U.S. Treasury Department to intercept stimulus checks of Oklahomans who owe past due child support: Up to 130,000 Oklahomans with past due child support may not receive the new stimulus checks being issued over the coming weeks and days under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, due to another federal law, the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996. [Oklahoma Department of Human Services / Muskogee Phoenix]

Supreme Court to rule on tribal justice remotely via telephone: A tribal sovereignty issue that has been wending its way through the courts for two decades may be finally heading toward a final decision before a home-bound U.S. Supreme Court. [Gaylord News / KGOU]

Economic Opportunity

Lankford, state employment official hold telephone town hall to answer coronavirus relief questions: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s executive director, Robin Roberson, hosted a telephone town hall on Tuesday to answer constituent questions regarding relief programs to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.  [Public Radio Tulsa] Tulsa World’s `Let’s Talk’ virtual town hall highlights economic recovery efforts [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oil industry woes to continue, despite deal: Although the oil price war has ended, Oklahoma’s largest industry is not out of the woods as it faces the brunt of demand reduction caused by the coronavirus, economists say. In a pact tentatively reached Thursday and finalized during the weekend, OPEC+ countries agreed to cut production almost 10%, 9.7 million barrels a day, in May and June. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma airports to get $42.2 million as part of CARES Act relief: the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration will award $42,202,730 to 100 airports in Oklahoma as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — or CARES — Act. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Beer Alliance calls for extension of order temporarily removing alcohol delivery restrictions: The Oklahoma Beer Alliance is calling upon the Oklahoma ABLE Commission to maintain lifted restrictions on alcohol delivery as the order nears its end date. [KFOR]

‘When can business resume?’ OKC council asked: Oklahoma City’s economy is going to suffer losses possibly worse than what was experienced during the Great Depression, and it’s going to take about a year-and-a-half to recover from the economic damage inflicted by COVID-19, an economist told members of the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

Education News

New health clinic opens at Ellen Ochoa Elementary, offers COVID-19 testing in addition to other specialized services: Preventing the spread of COVID-19 wasn’t the original purpose of a health clinic that opened at Ellen Ochoa Elementary School this week, but now organizers see it as the first line of defense. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of Tulsa expects to come up $2.7M shortfall this fiscal year amid sudden COVID-19 downturn [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKC parks will be mowed once every three weeks over summer due to budget, staff issues [FOX25]
  • First OKC firefighter tests positive [The Oklahoman]
  • Cleveland County cases rise to 277; nine additional deaths statewide [OU Daily]
  • Norman bond could include business relief funds, city discourages evictions [Norman Transcript]
  • Wagoner County woman one of latest COVID-19 deaths [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Payne County officials hopeful as COVID-19 peak nears [Stillwater News Press]
  • Bixby extends shelter-in-place order through April 30 [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The two things that we needed to look at as worst-case scenarios was if the coronavirus spread beyond China … or if there became a price war with oil and gas. Unfortunately for the state, both of those things have now happened.”

-Jay Doyle, Oklahoma Tax Commission director, speaking about state revenues [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Amount by which the likelihood of a rural hospital closing decreases if that hospital is in a Medicaid expansion state

[Source: Chartis Center for Rural Health]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Health coverage for unemployed harder to come by in some states: In some states, most notably the 14 states including Oklahoma that have declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, many people are struggling to get coverage at a time of a spreading lethal virus. [Pew Trusts]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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