In The Know: OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic cuts

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that lawmakers are building triggers for automatic cuts following revenue growth into bills to eliminate the income tax. See more about the tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page. Oklahoma City may pay $9 million of the estimated $80 million it will take to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The OK Policy Blog shares a report on how health care industries are weighing in on the Supreme Court hearing over the Affordable Care Act.

Salon explains why Oklahoma’s new Personhood ballot language is misleading, and why the measure would still effectively ban in vitro fertilization and common forms of birth control. A Senate panel passed a measure  that would require a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes medicine to induce an abortion. The panel also passed a bill to require drug-testing of TANF recipients, but they stripped out the requirement to drug test candidates for political office. OK Policy previously explained why this measure would waste money and harm children.

A House panel rejected a bill to reinstate $5,000 stipends for teachers receiving national board certification. A leading scientific society expressed concern over a bill that could insert manufactured controversies into Oklahoma science classes. Read the full letter here. State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says his office will investigate a conference held last year by a private foundation on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Oklahoma has shown modest improvements in college completion rates in the past two years. An Indian tribe based in Cushing is concerned that the Keystone XL pipeline might disrupt sacred sites and burial grounds.

The Number of the Day is the average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in Oklahoma. In today’s policy note, Planet Money gives an overview of the surprisingly entertaining history of the income tax.

In The News

OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic cuts

It likely will take longer than 10 years to eliminate the state’s personal income tax, the author of one of two measures proposing to dispose of the tax said Monday. Economic triggers will be added to two bills that call for reducing the top personal income tax rate next year and gradually phasing out the tax by 2022, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, House author of Senate Bill 1571. The triggers would require the state’s economy to increase by a certain percentage for additional cuts to take place in the tax. Opponents have said cutting the personal income tax would harm funding for essential state services. Personal income taxes bring in about 30 percent of the money legislators appropriate; that doesn’t count nearly $800 million of personal income tax revenue that goes to transportation, education and teacher retirement funds before the tax collections go into the general revenue fund.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Tax Reform Information from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma City may help pay for Indian cultural center

Oklahoma City will pay for $9 million of the estimated $80 million it will take to finish the funding-plagued American Indian Cultural Center and Museum if a measure at Tuesday’s city council meeting wins approval and the state makes a similar move. Construction at the $170 million museum began in 2006. It sits half-finished near the intersection of Interstates 35 and 40 downtown and has been beset by cost overruns. Work was halted last year when the state Legislature turned down a request for a bond issue to continue funding construction. A group led by people who helped secure funding to renovate the state Capitol dome for the 2007 centennial celebration is organizing efforts to find the money it will take to finish the museum. Supporters are looking for a mix of public and private funding.

Read more from NewsOK.

Health industries weigh in on Supreme Court case

Before the raucous legislative battle to pass the health law in 2010, there was a quieter but significant process that brought health industry players to the negotiating table. Insurers, hospitals and drug makers all cut deals to help shape what would become the Affordable Care Act. Now, as the Supreme Court awaits arguments in one of the most closely watched cases in years, the deals are threatened along with the law. And the industry groups are deploying different strategies as they seek to defend their interests before the High Court. Insurers have chosen not to defend the massive dividend for their industry that many believe makes the law most vulnerable. The “individual mandate” requires almost everybody to buy health insurance or pay a fine – a major concession the lobby got at the bargaining table. But insurers are not taking a stand on whether the mandate is unconstitutional. Hospitals, the law’s most energetic health-industry defender, urge the court to uphold the entire health overhaul act. Drug makers just want the legal case and resulting uncertainty to be over. The American Medical Association, the largest doctor lobby, supports the law and is working to influence rules for insurance exchanges and other components.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

New Oklahoma petition language misleads about impact of Personhood Amendment

A resounding rejection by Mississippi voters last year and two other defeats by Coloradans have not killed the Personhood movement. “We’re learning as we go, and we’re learning more and more about how to effectively take the Personhood amendments to the states,” said Dan Skerbitz, the Tulsa-based CPA who heads the local Personhood movement. That means trying to pre-empt the concerns that helped unite the opposition in conservative Mississippi — namely, the intended bans on forms of birth control and IVF. Much to the movement’s delight, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office has just rewritten the proposed ballot language. He acknowledged in an interview that Personhood wants to ban the IUD and emergency contraception, because they “potentially can fall into that category when they disrupt the implantation of an embryo.” Emphasis on “potentially” — hormonal contraception generally prevents fertilization in the first place, and many fertilized eggs don’t implant for indeterminate natural reasons. So when the new ballot language contains the following tautology: “The measure does not prohibit contraceptive methods that prevent the creation of a person as defined by this measure,” it’s implicitly defining the IUD and the morning-after pill not as contraception, but as allegedly abortifacient. The revised language also says that the amendment would “affect, but not prohibit” in vitro fertilization, with restrictions that infertility advocates say amount to the same thing.

Read more from Salon.

Senate panel passes measure requiring doctor to be physically present when woman takes RU-486 pill

A Senate committee passed a measure Monday that would require a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes medicine to induce an abortion. House Bill 2381 by Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, now heads to the Senate floor after securing approval from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The measure would apply to RU-486, also called Mifepristone, or any other drug or chemical used for abortion. Under the terms of the bill, a doctor would not be able to watch a woman take the pill via videoconference, David said. The measure would preserve the relationship between the physician and the woman, she said. Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, said the bill implies that “women aren’t smart enough to take a pill.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Panel passes drug-testing for TANF recipients, strips out requirement for candidates

In other action, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a measure that would require drug testing for people receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. A House amendment that would have required people seeking state or local office to be tested for drugs was stripped from the version passed by the Senate committee. Brinkley said that under the bill’s requirements, anyone approved for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families would have to pay for and undergo a drug test within three months. The estimated cost is $30, he said. Kate Richey, a policy analyst for the liberal Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the measure would draw a court challenge “because the court universally strikes down suspicionless drug testing.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Previously: 5 reasons not to drug test welfare recipients from the OK Policy Blog

House panel rejects bill to reinstate bonuses for board-certified teachers

Legislation that would fund $5,000 stipends to Oklahoma public school teachers who are certified by a national board was defeated Monday by members of a state House panel who expressed concern about replacing the current certification process with a performance-pay system. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education defeated the Senate-passed bill 9-2, but its author, Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, said she plans to find another way to pay for bonuses for certified teachers that were withheld last year due to cuts in the education budget. Last year’s bonuses were restored in a $92.5 million supplemental funding bill that Gov. Fallin signed into law last month that included $14.8 million for teacher bonuses. State Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi supports any measure that rewards the state’s teachers for their hard work, spokesman Damon Gardenhire said. “I think the teachers see a lot of value,” Gardenhire said. He said Barresi requested that money for the stipends be restored to her budget and recognizes it is a large budget item.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Science groups warn about damage to education from Oklahoma bill

The following information was released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) expressed concern over proposed Oklahoma legislation that would encourage the states public school teachers to question the well-established science behind evolution and global climate change. AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner reaffirmed that there is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution. The Oklahoma bill HB1551 asserts scientific controversy where none exists, he writes, and will only serve to confuse students, not enlighten them. Among the bills aims are to teach critical thinking skills in areas including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. Leshner, who is also the publisher of the journal Science, notes that such thinking is already inherent in the way science is taught.

Read more from Power Engineering.

See also: The full letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

State Auditor to review 2011 education conference

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says his office will investigate a conference held last year by a private foundation on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Jones said Monday he plans to launch the investigative audit at the request of state Superintendent Janet Barresi. Details of an investigative audit released earlier this month showed former Department of Education officials under the previous administration used secret bank accounts during a 10-year period that the audit described as a “slush fund.” It was learned during the investigation that a similar account used under Barresi’s administration was used to finance a conference in 2011.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma shows modest improvement in college completion rates

Oklahoma has shown modest improvements in college completion rates in the past two years, according to a new report, but the state must ramp up its degree attainment numbers if it hopes to keep pace with demand for skilled workers. If the state continues at its current pace, 37 percent of its residents will hold postsecondary credentials by the target date, up from 31.7 percent in 2010. The state’s two largest metropolitan areas beat the overall state percentage: 35.19 percent of Oklahoma City residents and 35.55 percent of Tulsans held at least an associate degree in 2010. That places both cities roughly in the middle of the largest 100 metropolitan areas in the country. Washington, D.C., topped the list with 54.37 percent, while McAllen, Texas, came in last with 20.78 percent. If the nation is to boost its college completion rates, Merisotes said, states must increase their capacity to serve more students at the lowest-possible cost. They should particularly look at underserved groups, such as underemployed adults, returning veterans, low-income students and ethnic minorities.

Read more from NewsOK.

Indian tribe worries pipeline will disturb graves

As President Barack Obama pushes to fast-track an oil pipeline from Oklahoma south to the Gulf Coast, an American Indian tribe that calls the oil hub home worries the route might disrupt sacred sites holding the unmarked graves of their ancestors. Sac and Fox Nation Chief George Thurman plans to voice his concerns this week in Washington. He said he fears workers placing the 485-mile Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Cushing to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast could disturb holy ground without consideration of the tribe. He and another tribe member say the pipeline’s route travels through areas where unmarked graves are likely buried. “We’ve been here 171 years,” said Sandra Massey, the Sac and Fox Nation’s historic preservation officer. “We’ve been living and dying here. We are all over.”

Read more from the Associated Press.

Quote of the Day

Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.
-Alan Leshner, publisher of the journal Science, writing about an Oklahoma bill that would encourage schools to teach about “controversies” related to climate change and evolution

Number of the Day


Average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in Oklahoma in 2011, 37 percent of the median income for the state’s single mothers

Source: National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The surprisingly entertaining history of the income tax

The U.S. has a really conflicted history with the income tax. For most of American history, there was no income tax at all. At one point it was ruled unconstitutional. Today, income tax is the federal government’s main source of revenue. That raises a question: How did something that was once so strange to us become so central? The answer includes a few wars, a Supreme Court justice on his deathbed, and Donald Duck.

Read more and listen to the podcast from Planet Money.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.