In The Know: Oil & gas tax break underestimated; $48 million hole in 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.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission revealed that a tax break for the oil and gas industry will cost more than originally planned, leaving Oklahoma with a $48 million hole in next year’s budget.  Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the state Supreme Court to decide the rights of two Oklahoma tribes to water in their territories.  There was an altercation between two lawmakers yesterday on the House floor.

An Oklahoma Senate committee defeated a proposal to restrict pseudoephedrine sales.  StateImpact OK details the past, present, and future of wind energy in Oklahoma.  Senator James Inhofe filed a joint resolution of disapproval against a new rule to limit mercury emissions and air toxins from power plants.

A group of family health clinics is expanding their telemedicine network for behavioral health to better serve rural Oklahomans.  Oklahoma tech schools and community colleges awarded the most certificates last year in the family, consumer, and health fields.  The Classen Schools of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City is asking parents to pitch in to repair ceiling tiles, light fixtures, sidewalks made of plywood, and a dirt parking lot.

High unemployment and poverty persist in the tiny historically black town of Boley.  Two events in March in Tulsa and Oklahoma City will explore the racial wealth gap in Oklahoma.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans employed in construction in 2011.  In today’s Policy Note, Economic Policy Institute reports that the unemployment rate for African Americans and Latinos in the United States is still devastatingly high and in double-digits in most states.

In The News

Oklahoma oil tax breaks double estimate

New figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission show a tax break for the oil and gas industry will cost more than originally planned, leaving Oklahoma with a $48 million hole in next year’s budget.  Oklahoma planned to repay $150 million in tax breaks over three years beginning July 1. Figures obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday show the state owes $294 million.  In 2010, facing a fiscal crisis, legislators authorized a two-year plan to boost oil and gas drilling. More wells were drilled than the state projected, so Oklahoma now owes producers more.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

AG asks Okla. high court to decide water case

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to decide the rights of two Oklahoma-based American Indian tribes to water in major streams in their historic territories in southeastern Oklahoma.  Pruitt filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, asking the court to assume original jurisdiction over a comprehensive stream adjudication of the water rights of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. The Supreme Court did not immediately schedule a hearing.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Okla. House resolution leads to heated exchange

A heated, nose-to-nose exchange between two legislators erupted on the Oklahoma House floor on Thursday after one lawmaker objected to comments being made over a simple resolution declaring March as “Music Therapy Month.”  Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Reynolds said he objected because two proponents of the resolution who were invited to address the House appeared to be lobbying for a separate bill, which is a violation of House rules.  The two proponents were guests of Weatherford Republican Rep. Harold Wright. The argument between Wright and Reynolds took place after Wright attempted to apologize to Reynolds for the women’s comments.

Read more from the Associated Press at|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

Oklahoma Senate committee defeats proposal to restrict pseudoephedrine

Efforts to restrict access to pseudoephedrine, the popular over-the-counter allergy medicine that is a key ingredient in most Oklahoma meth labs, lost a crucial Senate committee vote this week.  The 3-3 Senate Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee defeat of Sen. Kim David’s proposal to require a prescription to purchase the drug essentially ends consideration for Senate bills on the topic this year.  “I’m extremely disappointed,” David said Thursday. “I’m pretty passionate about it. I understand it’s an inconvenience to people but … we just can’t afford to continue the way we’re currently doing things.”  Meth addiction and meth labs are running up horrendous costs for police, prisons, foster care, health care and many other burdens, all of which are being borne by taxpayers, David said.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma, Where Wind and Jobs Sweep Down the Plains

Jessie Bean, a wind technology student, peers out of the top of a 13-story training tower in El Reno.  The amount of wind energy has increased dramatically over the last decade, along with the number of wind farms around the country and in Oklahoma.  The industry is building more turbines than it can maintain, officials say, and Oklahoma is working fast to fill the job gap.  Job perks: good pay, spinning blades, high voltage and a really, really long ladder. Oklahoma is responding to a shortage of wind turbine technicians.

Read more from StateImpact at

US Senator seeks to halt EPA mercury rule, NMA files suit

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to limit mercury emissions and air toxics from power plants nationwide attracted a push back Thursday from Capitol Hill and industry, which fears the mandate will drive up operating costs and compromise reliability.  The National Mining Association filed suit against EPA over its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit only hours after the rule was published in the Federal Register, initiating a 60-day period for opponents to file litigation and administrative petitions for reconsideration with the agency regarding concerns about the rule. The rule takes effect April 16.  Meanwhile, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma filed a joint resolution of disapproval, S.J. Res. 37, under the Congressional Review Act, in an effort to stop the rule.

Read more from Platts at

Clinics use new tool to reach rural Okla. clients

The Oklahoma City-based Variety Care group of family health clinics is expanding mental health care to rural areas well beyond the nonprofit’s physical presence.  Normally access to emotional or psychological resources is limited in places such as Fort Cobb, Tipton and Grandfield, said David Howlett, director of behavioral health and special projects. Even if networks have the mental health professionals necessary to offer treatment, it’s often simply impossible to get them across the state to where they’re needed.  Howlett said Variety Care’s telepsychology services are secure and confidential, piggybacking on an encrypted network through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The Variety Care system is the first community health program of its kind to be certified through the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.  The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has the largest telemedicine network in the nation in behavioral health, department spokeswoman Pam McKeown said. As of January, the department had 161 telepsychiatry sites statewide.

Read more from the Associated Press at|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

OK Students are Certifiable, Mostly in Family and Consumer Sciences

Education has a major impact on employment, but the benefits aren’t limited to college diplomas.  Certificate programs are short, specialized and affordable. And thanks to the recession, they’re more popular than ever.  Oklahoma tech schools and community colleges awarded 586 certificates last year, state data show. Almost three-quarters of those certificates were in family, consumer and health fields.

Read more from StateImpact OK at

Parents asked to pay for public school’s parking lot

Classen School of Advanced Studies is one of Oklahoma City’s premiere schools.  Hundreds of students are turned away each year. But some parents complain the learning environment is far from perfect.  But this concerned parent claimed, “Unfortunately, we’ve run out of money and there’s a lot that needs to be finished for this school.”  Recent photos taken inside Classen SAS reveal missing ceiling tiles, dangling light fixtures and exposed wires.   Sidewalks used to get from building to building are made of plywood.  Parents are even being asked to pony up $50,000 to pave this mud hole of a student parking lot.

Read more from from KFOR at,0,2241646.story

Hard Times a Familiar Feeling in Okfuskee County

Joan Matthews stands outside the town hall in Boley, where she’s been mayor for more than a decade.  Okfuskee County is home to what was once the largest all-black community in the country and legendary Dust Bowl-era folk singer Woody Guthrie. It also has the highest poverty rate in Oklahoma.  Decades after Guthrie recorded his songs about the struggles of the workingman, hard times continue in Okfuskee County.  That’s especially true for tiny Boley, a historic, mostly black town that’s among the poorest in the area.

Read more from StateImpact OK at

Upcoming Event: Closing the Gap: Race, Wealth, and Homeownership in Oklahoma, March 14th & 15th

Recovering from economic turmoil in the face of major demographic changes requires a new growth model that will bring Oklahoma closer to the ideal of American prosperity.  These lectures will begin a conversation among public and private sector leaders about investments that allow all Oklahomans to maximize their potential.  Recent research points to higher concentrations of subprime lending and foreclosures among communities of color, persistent discriminatory lending practices, and deeply entrenched gaps in wealth, income, and employment between white and nonwhite Oklahomans.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

“He began pressing his face against my face, flattening my nose and raising his voice.”

Rep. Mike Reynolds, on an altercation on the House floor with Rep. Harold Wright

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans employed in construction in July 2011, up 6 percent from the previous year.

Source: Associated General Contractors

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

No relief in 2012 from high unemployment for African Americans and Latinos

Even though the U.S. recession officially ended in June 2009, the country’s unemployment rate remains devastatingly high. The situation is particularly dire for many African Americans and Latinos—and is not predicted to improve any time soon.  Among the states with sufficient data for reliable estimates, African American unemployment rates exceeded 10 percent in 24 states and the District of Columbia in the third quarter of 2011, while unemployment rates for Latinos exceeded this symbolic threshold in 14 states. If our political leaders fail to quickly enact bold measures to spur a faster economic recovery, the status quo of high unemployment rates for African Americans and Latinos is likely to persist throughout 2012.

Read more from Economic Policy Institute at

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