In The Know: Legislature nears budget agreement, uncertain about tax cuts

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.

Depressed natural gas prices have dampened tax cut fervor among state officials trying to negotiate a budget agreement; Americans for Prosperity is robocalling Oklahomans and urging them to tell lawmakers to eliminate the income tax.  OK Policy previously discussed the central role of out-of-state lobbying groups on the tax debate.  The Legislature voted to reauthorize the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) for two more years.

School districts have reported significant delays in reimbursement of federal funds from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.  Gov. Fallin and lawmakers disagreed over rules to implement the new A-through-F grading system for the state’s public schools.  Supporters of income tax cuts have been touting a recent poll, but after accounting for margin of error, the poll does not show a conclusive majority of voters in favor of cutting the top tax rate.

The U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast for April and the unemployment rate declined as more workers left the labor force.  The House approved a bill to limit purchases of cold and allergy medication containing a key methamphetamine ingredient.  David Blatt wrote in The Journal Record about the state’s common goals and how best to use our resources to achieve them.

The EPA is slated to remove eleven Oklahoma streams from the impaired waters list.  The first domestic violence shelter in the state for adult victims of sex trafficking in Oklahoma earned certification and plans to expand.  Lawmakers look to phase-out and eventually shut down a quasi-state agency tasked with investing millions of taxpayer dollars in start-up ventures.

In today’s Policy Note, the Russell Sage Foundation released a report documenting a decade of trends in American homeownership.  The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the percentage of its residents who report engaging in no leisure-time physical activity.

In The News

Oklahoma legislature nears budget agreement; officials agree tax cut will have to be paid for with spending cuts or savings

Concerns about the low cost of natural gas are playing a role in decisions about how big of an income tax cut will be agreed upon, Schulz said. The state’s top rate is currently 5.25 percent.  “There has been some uncertainty created in the last couple of weeks centered around natural gas that wasn’t there two months ago,” Schulz said.  Efforts to eliminate tax credits, exemptions and deductions appear to have gained little traction. Those elements are needed to help pay for a reduction in the state’s income tax rate.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Extension of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority wins final legislative approval

A bill extending the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority for two years will now go to Gov. Mary Fallin after winning final legislative approval. The station is Oklahoma’s Public Broadcasting System affiliate.  Oklahoma’s public television system won final legislative approval Thursday to continue to exist for the next two years.  Supporters of House Bill 2236 said the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority is the only source of local programming that nearly all Oklahomans can receive for free and is a terrific learning aid for children.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma schools see significant delays in reimbursement of federal funds

School districts across the state are reporting significant delays in the reimbursement of federal funds by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.  Officials in the Tulsa, Bartlesville, Mustang and Oklahoma City districts told the Tulsa World that payments of their claims are months behind or – in the case of Title I funds for Tulsa’s service of economically disadvantaged students – nonexistent.  “We need the cash on hand by June 30 or we could face financial default,” said Trish Williams, chief financial officer for Tulsa Public Schools. “We don’t have the cash reserves to cover.”

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Fallin approves rules for new Okla school grading

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday approved an Oklahoma Department of Education plan to set up an A-through-F grading system for the state’s public schools, even as the proposal faces growing resistance from school officials and legislators.   While Fallin was signing the rules, however, a House committee voted 9-1 to disapprove them, setting up a possible showdown between the Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature. The resolution disapproving of the new rules heads to the full House for a vote. If it passes the House and Senate, the rules Fallin signed would be scuttled.

Read more from the Associated Press at–school-grading?instance=popular

Poll dancing: Advocates exaggerate public support for tax cuts

Supporters of income tax cuts have been touting a recent poll that purports to show strong support for tax cuts in Oklahoma.  A telephone survey of 500 registered voters were asked four questions about tax cuts, tax credits, and the size of government.  The discerning consumer of public opinion research should be skeptical about this poll’s conclusions for two reasons.  First, the survey is delicately phrased to elicit attitudes about tax cuts ‘in a vacuum’ and leaves too many influential factors out of the questions entirely.  Second, the pollster’s report relies heavily on results within sub-samples (e.g. party, income) – with margins of error that reach double-digits for some groups.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

U.S. economy adds 115,000 jobs in April; unemployment rate dips to 8.1%

Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern the world’s largest economy may be losing speed.  Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 rise in March that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 160,000 advance. The jobless rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent and earnings stagnated.

Read more from the L.A. Times at,0,1813897.story

Bill Limiting Purchase Of Cold, Allergy Medicines Heads To Governor Fallin

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved a bill that would limit how much non-prescription cold and allergy medication containing a key methamphetamine ingredient a consumer could purchase.  House members voted 89-1 Wednesday to approve Senate amendments to House Bill 2941, which now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin for her consideration.  The measure by Rep. David Derby of Owasso would decrease the monthly purchase amount from 9 grams to 7.2 grams and cut the annual purchase amount from 108 grams to 60 grams. The Tulsa World reports that a 10-tablet package of Sudafed, for example, has 2.4 grams of pseudoephedrine.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Prosperity Policy: In this together

Some insist that cutting taxes should be our priority, to give some Oklahomans more money to buy gas, school supplies and household goods. But will children be better off with more school supplies if there are 35 kids in their class and fewer courses to choose from? Do commuters benefit from more money to buy gas if our roads and bridges remain in disrepair? Will Oklahoma’s economy benefit if people are buying more goods but our investments in higher education, workforce training, and scientific research continue to erode?

Read more from The Journal Record at

11 Oklahoma streams set for removal from Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired list

Oklahoma conservation officials say 11 state streams are being removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired waters list.  Conservation officials say the water quality success is the result of voluntary, locally led conservation work supported by the EPA’s Clean Water Initiatives, state conservation funds and federal conservation programs that allow farmers, ranchers and other landowners to address non-point source pollution throughout Oklahoma.  They say the outcomes show the efforts are paying huge dividends in the form of cleaner water and a healthier environment.

Read more from the Associated Press at–Oklahoma-Streams-EPA/

Victims of sex trafficking will have help in Tulsa area agency’s new wing

DaySpring Villa is stepping up its efforts to provide support to the victims of sexual trafficking.  The agency announced it has become the first domestic violence shelter in the state to earn certification for accommodating adult victims of sex trafficking.  The certification ensures that trafficking victims receive services that comply with Oklahoma Statue Title 75, Chapter 30: Standards and Criteria for Adult Victims of Sex Trafficking Programs.  “In Oklahoma, it’s my understanding that this is a growing, major issue, especially because we have such a center stage. With Interstates 44, 40 and 35 it makes it easier for victims to be transported,” said Wilma Lively, executive director.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune at,0,4868820.story

Oklahoma venture capital board headed out, must make good on $20 million

A quasi-state agency tasked with investing millions of taxpayer dollars in high-growth, high-risk startup companies has run its course and is headed out of business.  The Oklahoma Capital Investment Board was created by legislation roughly 20 years ago in an effort to stimulate the state’s economy following the energy bust. The state gave the board $100 million in tax credits.  To date, the board has had to sell a little more than $30 million in tax credits to make good on loans where the investment didn’t pan out. Sauzek said that was because of the economic downturn in 2008.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

We are in a very hostile environment.  We’re not going to deny the elephant in the room. People are angry.

Ginger Tinney, Executive Director of the Professional Oklahoma Educators, on the atmosphere since Superintendent Janet Barresi took office in 2010

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the percentage of its residents who report engaging in no leisure-time physical activity at all, 31 percent of adults in 2010

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Home Ownership’s Wild Ride, 2001-2011

Home ownership is a cornerstone of the American Dream for the economic and social benefi­ts it conveys, but the past decade was a nightmare of foreclosures and inaccessibility for some groups. By 2011, the ownership gaps between black and white households, poor and rich households, less-educated and more-educated households widened considerably compared to the situation a decade earlier. In addition, America’s younger generations have had greater ­financial obstacles to homeownership than did previous generations at the same stage in life: a fate unlikely to change soon.

Read more from the Russell Sage Foundation at

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