In The Know: Leadership worried low natural gas prices could hit the state budget

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.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and State Treasurer Ken Miller voiced concerns that declining natural gas prices could leave less money in the state’s coffers than expected.  Tulsa parents have formed a grassroots group to advocate for increased funding for public schools.  The Oklahoma Gazette investigated how lowering the state personal income tax by scrapping the childcare tax credit would impact working parents and their children.

The OK Policy Blog examined the out-of-state advocates and national groups behind the effort to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax.  A ‘personhood’ bill to grant embryos the same rights as people failed in the Legislature without coming to a vote in the House of Representatives.  Opponents of an Oklahoma law restricting access to certain medications urged a judge to declare it unconstitutional, arguing that some women seeking abortions would be forced to undergo invasive surgery as a result.

The OU Daily reported on how efforts to slash the state income tax would gut higher education and extinguish the state’s budding film industry, both resulting in job losses.  In today’s Policy Note, The National Fair Housing Alliance announced the results of an undercover investigation into financial institutions’ discriminatory practices in the maintenance and marketing of Real Estate Owned (REO) properties.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma libraries reporting that they always have sufficient computers available to meet demand.

In The News

Low natural gas price could hurt Oklahoma’s 2013 state budget

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said Thursday that lawmakers could have less to spend in crafting a state budget as a result of declining natural gas prices.  “I’m a little concerned on the potential revenue shortfall with natural gas prices,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.  State Treasurer Ken Miller echoed those concerns.  Miller said if natural gas drops below a monthly average of $2.10 per 1,000 cubic feet, the gross production tax drops to 4 percent from 7 percent.  The State Board of Equalization in February used $3.64 cents per 1,000 cubic feet in determining how much lawmakers would have to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2013 budget.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Tulsa parents plan rally to restore school budget spending levels

A grassroots effort by Tulsa parents to get public school funding restored to pre-recession levels will culminate in a rally Thursday.  Oklahoma Kids First is challenging every school site in Tulsa to enlist at least 100 parents, students and teachers to attend the rally, which is set for 6:30 p.m. at the field house at Edison Preparatory School, 2906 E. 41st St.  Featured speakers will include Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard and Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Lynn Stockley, as well as parents, teachers and principals.  Tulsa-area legislators are being asked to attend.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Not child’s play: Moves to eliminate the state personal income tax include scrapping the childcare tax credit

It’s never hard to sell a tax cut, particularly around tax day.  Some public policy groups warn, however, that the income tax reform proposals making their way through the state Capitol could mean an increase in the tax burden for working parents.  Four bills to reduce the income tax this year — and possibly phase it out over the next decade — are still alive in the Legislature. Each measure strives to be revenue-neutral by offsetting tax rate reductions with the elimination of credits, exemptions and deductions.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette at

Who’s behind the assault on income tax?

The contrast raises an important question: who is behind the push to eliminate the income tax? It’s not coming from Oklahoma economists or the state’s business community. The state and major metro chambers’ reactions have ranged from ambivalence to outright opposition. It’s not coming from the grassroots. Multiple lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, have said they are not hearing from constituents that we should do away with the income tax.  So where is it coming from? Governor Fallin mentioned Laffer’s numbers in this year’s state of the state speech, though she cited them as coming from Americans for Prosperity, a national lobbying group founded by David and Charles Koch. Most recently, Governor Fallin wrote the introduction for a report by Laffer and others at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that ranks states based on how closely they follow ALEC’s economic policy agenda. It’s clear that these national groups have the governor’s ear.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma “personhood” bill fails in Legislature

A proposed ‘personhood’ law in Oklahoma that would grant embryos full rights as people from the moment of conception failed in the state’s Legislature without coming to a vote in the House of Representatives, lawmakers said on Thursday.  The bill, which backers hoped would provide a path to roll back the constitutional right to an abortion, had sailed through the Oklahoma Senate in February by a 34-8 vote. Many thought the Republican-dominated House would rubber-stamp the bill.  But Republican lawmaker Sally Kern said the measure failed before reaching the floor of the House.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune at,0,3810219.story

Judge hears arguments on Okla. abortion drug law

Opponents of an Oklahoma law that would restrict the use of certain abortion-inducing drugs urged a judge Thursday to declare it unconstitutional, arguing that many women seeking abortions would have no choice but to undergo invasive surgery.  The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive contends the law approved by the Legislature in 2011 violates the equal protection rights of patients and physicians. They argue is also is contrary to the state Constitution by delegating the Legislature’s authority to the federal government.

Read more from the Washington Examiner at

COLUMN: Save the Oklahoma film industry

As a broadcast and electronic media major, working in the film industry is an entirely probable and realistic choice for me.  Though Oklahoma is not traditionally thought of as a “movie” state, there have been several significant cinematic adventures filmed, at least partially, in Sooner land. “Rain Man,” “The Outsiders” and “Twister” were filmed here, as well as part of “The Killer Inside Me.”  In recent years, the film industry here has grown at quite a rapid pace. Opportunities for actors and actresses have become more readily available, and Oklahoma is a cost effective and creatively stimulating place to make movies. The state’s diverse terrain provides a wide variety of locations; scenes can be shot to look like anything from big cities to backwoods with ease.

Read more from the OU Daily at

Oklahoma income tax could be eliminated

State higher-education funding could be on the chopping block if lawmakers’ plans to eliminate the state income tax are passed.  Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said OU is a major employer in her district.  If eliminating the income tax is intended to attract jobs, it would make no sense to cut jobs in order to eliminate the tax, Virgin said.  A more educated state would be better for the Oklahoma job market than eliminating the income tax, Virgin said.  “I really don’t think higher [education] is a waste of money like some of my colleagues do,” Virgin said.

Read more from the OU Daily at

Quote of the Day

They have been continuing to decrease the percentage of the state’s overall budget for years and years while there has been a steady increase in student population and costs have increased.  What if your budget at home had stayed the same over the last five years?

Lynn Stockley, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President, on several rounds of cuts to the common education budget

Number of the Day

14 percent
Percentage of Oklahoma libraries reporting that they always have sufficient computers available to meet demand, compared to 23.8 percent of libraries nationally, 2008.
Source: American Library Association

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Banks Are Back, Our Neighborhoods Are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties

A detailed, undercover investigation unveiled last week by the National Fair Housing Alliance and several regional partners shows not only that banks too frequently fail to maintain foreclosed properties that they own, but that they tend to neglect their properties in communities of color at a much higher rate, with devastating consequences.  A large number of the neglected, bank-owned properties have broken or missing doors and windows, inviting vandalism and trespassers.  And many have safety hazards that endanger the public. Those and other defects are significantly more prevalent in bank-owned properties located in communities of color.

Read more from the National Fair Housing Alliance at

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