In The Know: Oil and gas downturn depresses May tax revenues

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

Three of the state’s major revenue streams – gross production taxes, sales taxes, and motor vehicle taxes – were lower than usual in May, resulting in gross receipts six percent lower than this time last year. Oklahoma City University economist Russell Evans told members of the Oklahoma City Economic Roundtable on Wednesday that state and local economies are growing despite a struggling oil and gas industry. Governor Fallin signed bills to extend the third-grade reading teams for three years and to share the circumstances of teachers’ firings or resignations with other school districts.

Policy Director Gene Perry explained in the Tulsa World and on the OK Policy Blog that we can’t build a stronger economy by slashing taxes. Executive Director David Blatt wrote in the Journal Record how bipartisan action in the Legislature resulted in criminal justice reform this year, including bills making it easier for some ex-offenders to obtain drivers licenses and find employment. These restrictions and others have kept many Oklahomans with felony records from rebuilding their lives after prison. Writing in her blog on The Frontier, Ziva Branstetter explained how Gov. Fallin’s lawyers are arguing that the state’s one-year delay before releasing records regarding the botched execution of Clayton Lockett does not constitute a denial and that her office has the authority to determine what constitutes “prompt and reasonable access” to public records.

The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board argued that primary elections in Oklahoma should be open to independent voters. Open primaries are just one way to boost electoral participation in the state. Project leaders working on the Oklahoma State Innovation Model are looking for business leaders to help build a plan to improve health outcomes for Oklahomans while lowering costs. Up to eight of Oklahoma City Public Schools’ 11 high schools may have new principals when students return in August.

Lawton officials have canceled a contract with a cloud-seeding firm following the city’s rainiest month on record. Following years of low crop yields due to drought, state wheat farmers say that recent heavy rains have wrecked the wheat crop in parts of the state, although officials say that damages in rainier parts of the state will be offset by gains elsewhere. The Number of the Day is 23.7% – the percentage of adults in Oklahoma who reported smoking in 2013, down from 26.1% in 2011. In today’s Policy Note, The Washington Post describes how imposing harsh sentences for drug offenses in the 1980s and 1990s now mean that prisons are home to thousands of elderly inmates who have been behind bars for decades.

In The News

Three of Oklahoma’s four major revenue streams show decline for May 2015

Three of the state’s four major revenue streams declined last month compared to May 2014 as the effects of lower oil and gas prices reverberated throughout the Oklahoma economy, the state treasurer said Wednesday in his monthly report. Gross production, sales tax, and motor vehicle tax all dropped.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma economy grows despite slowing oil industry

Despite a struggling oil and natural gas industry, the state and local economies continue to grow, reversing a pattern that has led the Oklahoma economy since before statehood. Oklahoma City University economist Russell Evans on Wednesday told members of the Oklahoma City Economic Roundtable that Oklahoma and Oklahoma City have lost oil and natural gas jobs since the first of the year, but that other industries have more than offset the energy declines.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs bills to extend third-grade reading teams, share information on circumstances of teachers’ firings with school districts

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Wednesday intended to protect students from teachers who get fired over serious accusations but are then able to gain employment at new school districts. Under Senate Bill 711, if a school district decides to fire a teacher for something that could form the basis of a criminal charge, the district will be required to notify the state Board of Education after the completion of due process procedures.

Read more from NewsOK.

Slashing taxes further is not the path to a strong economy

When any company leaves Oklahoma, it can mean hard times for the employees and their families. As a state and a community, we should offer support to those families and make sure workers have what they need to move on in their careers.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Slashing taxes further is not the path to a strong economy from the OK Policy Blog.

On common ground

The Oklahoma Legislature, like most lawmaking bodies in our democracy, is a partisan institution. It’s no surprise that Republican and Democratic leaders gave very different assessments of the recently concluded legislative session.

Read more from the Journal Record.

See also: Every sentence is a life sentence: 3 barriers to life after prison from the OK Policy Blog.

State says one-year wait for records not a denial

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office argues in legal filings that she, rather than a court, should determine what the Open Records Act means when it says public bodies must provide “prompt and reasonable access” to public records. And taking more than one year to supply records in a case that could impact executions in Oklahoma and several other states is apparently OK with Fallin.

Read more from The Tall Blog.

Primary election should be opened to independent voters

The Oklahoma Democratic Party state convention took no action last weekend on a proposal to allow independent voters to participate in the party’s primary elections. Running short on time, the convention agreed to resume consideration of that and other issues in a meeting later this summer. When the convention resumes, we urge them to open the doors on primary participation, and we hope the Republicans will follow suit.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy from OK Policy.

State health improvement plan under development

Oklahoma State Innovation Model project leaders said Tuesday they are looking for more business leaders to help frame their plan to improve health outcomes and quality of care in the state while also reducing costs. Addressing a health care forum at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, they spoke about the $2 million planning grant Oklahoma received at the end of last year to improve the health of residents.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma City school district experiences high number of turnover among high school principals

As many as eight of 11 high schools in the Oklahoma City district could have new principals when school starts in August, in what some are calling an unprecedented shake-up. The administrators are either resigning or retiring or could be reassigned, The Oklahoman has learned.

Read more from NewsOK.

After record rainfall, Lawton officials cancel cloud seeding contract

After the city saw its rainiest month on record, officials have canceled a contract with a Texas-based cloud seeding firm. The Lawton City Council voted last week to cancel the city’s contract with Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research, or SOAR, a contractor based in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma’s rain ravages, revives wheat crop

This year, Oklahoma wheat farmers were expecting a record crop, not a record rain. Caleb Fourkiller, grain elevator manager in Granfield, said heavy rain “has cut the harvest in half.” Granfield received 18 inches of rain during the growing season, leaving muddy fields and limp wheat stalks, said Fourkiller.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“Low market prices for crude oil and natural gas spilled over into the broader economy as energy companies curbed their spending during the month. On balance, gross receipts were more than six percent lower than this time last year. Though the news is not positive this month, our hope is that we’ll soon see improvement as prices rebound.”

– State Treasurer Ken Miller, discussing state tax collections for May (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of adults in Oklahoma who reported smoking in 2013, down from 26.1% in 2011

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Painful Price of Aging in Prison

Twenty-one years into his nearly 50-year sentence, the graying man steps inside his stark cell in the largest federal prison complex in America. He wears special medical boots because of a foot condition that makes walking feel as if he’s “stepping on a needle.” He has undergone tests for a suspected heart condition and sometimes experiences vertigo. “I get dizzy sometimes when I’m walking,” says the 63-year-old inmate, Bruce Harrison. “One time, I just couldn’t get up.” In 1994, Harrison and other members of the motorcycle group he belonged to were caught up in a drug sting by undercover federal agents, who asked them to move huge volumes of cocaine and marijuana

Read more from The Washington Post.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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