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Today you should know that increased oil production is giving a boost to state revenues, but state leaders say the overall budget is expected to remain flat, which matches OK Policy’s assessment. The legislative panel studying health care reform adjourned without making any decisions about how to establish an insurance exchange. Sen. Tom Coburn urged the committee leaders to move forward with a state-based exchange, but it may already be too late.
A federal judge ruled that a class-action lawsuit over abuses in Oklahoma’s child welfare system can proceed. A legislative panel is considering a fee on businesses to cover a portion of the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s costs for collecting sales taxes from them. The entire leadership of the Tulsa Public Schools athletics department was placed on disciplinary suspension for accessing a secretary’s personal e-mail.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren asked campus budget managers to anticipate 2 to 5 percent in potential cuts. The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-2 to add protections for sexual orientation to the city’s employment nondiscrimination policy. The OU Staff Senate will explore how the university can extend Family Medical Leave Act benefits to same-sex couples.
The OK Policy Blog features an abridged transcript of Rep. David Dank’s comments on principles for tax credit reform. Also on the OK Policy Blog is a column presenting our own recommendations on tax breaks that was previously featured on Oklahoma Watch. The Number of the Day is the percentage of 8th grade students in Oklahoma with computer access in their classrooms. In today’s Policy Note, a new study shows the portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, as a growing share of families live in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent. Over the last decade, Oklahoma City experienced one of the nation’s biggest increases in income segregation.
In The News
Oil boom boosts Oklahoma revenues, but overall budget remains flat
Increased production in Oklahoma’s oil patch has given the state an unexpected boost in income, state officials announced on Tuesday. Total collections for the state’s general revenue fund for October totaled $408 million, which was 6.3 percent more than in October 2010 and 2.3 percent more than the official estimate prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. But state leaders also offered a word of caution, noting they used a series of one-time sources of revenue to minimize cuts to the state budget last session, including a $100 million transportation bond issue, money from a cash reserve fund and leftover federal stimulus funds. Even with the increased collections, Doerflinger projected next year’s budget likely will remain “relatively flat.” “We’re still feeling the effects of the recession,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Revenue continues to be below 2008 pre-recession levels, and one-time funding sources that previously have been used to balance the budget are no longer available.”
Previously: Budget Trends and Highlights [pdf] from Oklahoma Policy Institute
State health care committee remains undecided on exchange
The legislative panel studying the state’s response to the new federal health-care law adjourned Tuesday without making a decision about the most contentious issue facing it – whether the state should build a health insurance exchange that complies with the federal law. The Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law was created last year after legislative leaders tried and failed three times to create an exchange. During that turmoil Gov. Mary Fallin returned a $54 million federal grant that would have funded construction of a exchange. Fallin had previously accepted the grant. Committee members will take two weeks to respond to a questionnaire on a variety of issues raised by the study, including the exchange issue, said Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, co-chairman of the panel. About two weeks after that process ends – perhaps in mid-December – recommendations to legislative leaders and the governor should be finished, he said.
See also: Sen. Coburn urges Oklahoma legislators to comply with national health care law from NewsOK
Previously: Clock ticks down on state-run insurance exchange from the OK Policy Blog
Class-action lawsuit against DHS proceeds
After a two-day hearing in Tulsa’s U.S. Northern District Court, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell ruled to maintain class-action status on a lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights about alleged abuses in Oklahoma’s child-welfare system. The lawsuit was filed by nine foster children in February 2008 and was certified as a class in May 2009. Frizzell’s order points to allegations of the oversight commission’s lack of monitoring efforts. Commissioners testified they meet for two to three hours a month and do not set the agenda, but consider information “selected and provided” by Director Howard Hendrick and senior DHS managers. Hendrick testified no commissioners in recent history have asked him for a report on anything related to child welfare and none approached him about any data “troubling to them,” it states.
Legislative Panel studies tax collection fee
Businesses should pay a portion of the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s costs for collecting sales taxes from them, a panel was told Tuesday. The task force on the Administration, Collection and Enforcement of Municipal Sales Tax held its final meeting Tuesday and is expected to issue a report. Terry Simonson, former chief of staff to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, said retailers who must collect the tax should be assessed a fee to offset the costs cities pay to the Oklahoma Tax Commission for the service. Faced with declining revenues, cities have looked to the Oklahoma Tax Commission to improve sales tax collections, which are remitted to them. Several task force members suggested ensuring that the Oklahoma Tax Commission had the necessary resources to hire staff members for efficient and timely collections.
TPS athletic department leadership suspended
The entire leadership of the Tulsa Public Schools athletics department was placed on disciplinary suspension Tuesday. In late July, the TPS Campus Police Department reported a possible violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act after the three athletics department employees reportedly disclosed that they had accessed the personal email account – not the business email – of a secretary whose termination was being sought. Athletic Director Stephanie Spring and assistant directors Latricia Pruitt and Jon Wheeler were suspended “pending further decisions on each individual’s employment status,” Superintendent Keith Ballard said in a written statement. Ballard has until Nov. 28 to reach a settlement with the employees, seek their dismissal or return them to duty.
Unsure of state funding priorities, OU President Boren plans budget cuts
Citing uncertainty in state funding priorities, University of Oklahoma President David Boren has asked campus budget managers to anticipate 2 to 5 percent in potential cuts, The Oklahoma Daily reports: These cuts would come in the form of reallocations, which is when the university moves money from the central budget to help pay for fixed-cost increases, said Chris Kuwitzky, associate vice president and chief financial officer. The university is facing an estimated $9 million increase of fixed costs. Among the fixed costs is a 3 percent raise most full-time OU faculty and staff received in FY 2012, Boren said in a Nov. 10 letter sent to faculty and staff. The raises, along with “other limited, prudent and necessary investments” must also be funded in FY 2013, Boren wrote.
Oklahoma City Council adds sexual orientation to nondiscrimination policy
The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to add sexual orientation to the city’s employment nondiscrimination policy after a debate that lasted more than half of the council meeting. Gay and bisexual Oklahoma City employees and job applicants now have explicit protection against discrimination in city offices. They already had de facto protection before the vote, city officials said. The measure was sponsored by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid. Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee and Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly cast the dissenting votes. About 100 people packed the council chamber well in advance of the 8:30 a.m. meeting. Usually only one or two dozen people come to watch or speak at the meetings, and those who come typically are concerned about an item on the agenda that affects their property.
See also: OU Staff Senate to explore extending benefits to same-sex couples from the OU Daily
Rep. David Dank: On tax credits, the time for change is now
Rep. David Dank is co-chair of the Tax Credit Task Force. This is his 0pening statement to the Task Force’s meeting of November 9th: The very first question we need to ask today is who we are representing here. I think the only valid answer is, The Taxpayers. Not the special interests who have benefited from many of these tax credits… and certainly not the few who have manipulated this system for personal gain. I think we should also make a second thing clear today. We are not against business. We don’t oppose growth. We believe that government policy can help create jobs. We don’t think all credits or incentives are bad. What I think most of us believe after all we have heard here is that far too many tax credits and other incentives enacted in the past were created for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way.
See also: Keeping tabs on tax breaks from OK Policy Blog
Quote of the Day
I think we continue to be skeptical about the state’s seriousness in actually planning and implementing an exchange. This is a process that requires a lot of time and a lot of resources, and we have essentially done nothing for the last eight months.
–Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt
Number of the Day
Percentage of 8th grade students in Oklahoma with computer access in their classrooms in 2007; just 50 percent of 8th grade students nationally had computer access.
Source: Alliance for Excellent Education
Middle class areas shrink as income gap grows, new report finds
The portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, according to a new study, as rising income inequality left a growing share of families in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent. The study, conducted by Stanford University and scheduled for release on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University, uses census data to examine family income at the neighborhood level in the country’s 117 biggest metropolitan areas. The findings show a changed map of prosperity in the United States over the past four decades, with larger patches of affluence and poverty and a shrinking middle. Detroit; Oklahoma City; Toledo, Ohio; and Greensboro, N.C., experienced the biggest rises in income segregation in the decade.
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