In The Know: Oklahoma FY 2019 budget bill revealed, praised, critiqued

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma FY 2019 budget bill revealed, praised, critiqued: The Oklahoma Legislature is expected to hear its FY 2019 budget bill in joint appropriations committees Tuesday, putting the body on track to pass next year’s state budget roughly four weeks ahead of deadline. SB 1600 (embedded below) was released early Monday evening, hours after images of a working budget document had begun circulating the Capitol. “For the FY 19 appropriations for the agencies, there will be no cuts in this budget,” House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) said [NonDoc].

Wind Taxes Poised to Come Before Oklahoma Legislature: While how they’ll do it is still up in the air, Oklahoma lawmakers will take up bills affecting the wind industry before the session is over. Negotiations continue on a possible gross production tax on wind energy. The stalemate is between House Democrats, who want assurances that will be the last tax change for the industry, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat, who does not want that put into law [Public Radio Tulsa].

Group trying for 7-percent tax on oil, gas abandons state question: Restore Oklahoma Now, the group that planned to put a gross production tax increase on the statewide ballot in November, has ended its campaign. Instead, the group’s leaders said they will focus on other legislative campaigns and fighting against another campaign to veto the tax increase that lawmakers adopted in March [NewsOK].

Young teens could get life without parole: A bill that was intended to decrease the state’s prison population has morphed into a measure that lowers the standard of evidence required to sentence minors to life without parole. Senate Bill 1221, like most of Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform bills, stemmed from a task force Gov. Mary Fallin organized. However, when it went to the House floor on Monday, it contained several very different provisions. House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright introduced a 15-page amendment that is not related to the Pardon and Parole Board. He did so Thursday at the request of the District Attorneys Council [Journal Record].

Oklahoma House green lights cap on speeding ticket costs: Legislation to curb the cost of speeding tickets rolled through the Oklahoma House of Representatives without dissent on Monday despite some concern about what it could cost state and local courts and law enforcement agencies. Senate Bill 1203 would cut the fine for speeding 1 to 10 mph above the limit in half, to $5, and limit additional fees and court costs to no more than $95. The fines and fees for such a ticket are now $224.50 [Tulsa World]. Fees have grown for every type of crime [OK Policy].

Will the history of SQ 640 repeat itself? For those who remember, history in some respects is poised to repeat itself. The events unfolding now bear a close resemblance to how Oklahoma became saddled with SQ 640. SQ 640 imposed the requirement of a 75 percent majority on the legislature for revenue measures and prevented the attachment of an emergency clause — available for all other measures — even when an emergency clearly exists [OK Policy].


GPT revenue lags behind drilling’s upswing: Oklahoma’s oil production has recovered since the commodity price downturn a few years ago. But revenue from gross production taxes hasn’t risen at the same pace. That’s due in part to shifting tax policy and to lower crude prices than in boom years. However, increasing international demand, more local production and changing tax incentives will likely boost the state’s gross production tax revenue in coming months, said policy analysts [Journal Record].

Federal funding won’t be restored for OU, OSU medical schools: The state’s medical schools and tuition reimbursement programs won’t be getting their recently stripped federal funding restored, the overseeing federal agency decided recently. The decision came after the state’s Health Care Authority had requested the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reconsider its December decision to cut off about $110 million a year in funding to doctor training programs [CNHI].

Election board denies challenge on Oklahoma attorney general’s residency: The Oklahoma Election Board has rejected a challenge to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s candidacy that was based on the fact that Hunter lived in Virginia for several years over the last decade. The board voted 3-0 on Monday to deny the petition filed by Hunter’s Republican opponent, Tulsa attorney Gentner Drummond [AP].

Dissatisfaction not seen in OK court races: The public’s frustration with the Legislature is evident in the large numbers of people who filed to run against House and Senate incumbents or pursue open seats. That dissatisfaction doesn’t translate to the men and women who administer Oklahoma’s justice system. There were 74 district judgeships in play this year. In 50 of those, incumbents drew no opponent. This list includes a judge whose name and face have been distributed worldwide since news broke of a stunning plea agreement he approved [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

GOP candidates for governor talk school funding, same-sex adoption and other issues at OKC forum: Republican gubernatorial candidate Mick Cornett said Monday he was glad Gov. Mary Fallin signed a $474 million tax package last month to provide a teacher pay raise, marking a huge break from the position of Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and most of his other GOP rivals. Responding to a question at a forum sponsored by The Oklahoman about whether he would have signed the revenue package, Cornett said, “I’m glad the governor signed it.” [NewsOK]

Oklahoma teachers head to Arkansas; salaries, schools are draw for educators to further careers: Hunter Alexander calls his decision to leave his teaching job in Oklahoma for one in Northwest Arkansas the toughest he’s had to make in his career. Alexander grew up in Oklahoma and, after graduating from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, moved back to his home state so he and his wife could be close to family. He worked for Union Public Schools in the Tulsa area as an art teacher and tennis coach for four years [Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette].

Oklahoma City district rejects charter school plan: Supporters of a proposed Oklahoma City charter school that would serve mostly Native American students plan to take their application to the state after a second rejection by a public school district. The Oklahoma City Public Schools board denied an application for the Sovereign Community School earlier this year and rejected its appeal earlier this month, The Oklahoman reported [AP].

Proposal to delete body cam video quicker is bad policy: A legislative proposal that would allow county sheriffs to destroy most body camera footage after 90 days presents a minefield of conflicts and delays of justice. Its passage would be bad policy and a strike against transparency in government and law enforcement. The current law requires law enforcement agencies to retain video for seven years, which is the same as other public records [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Bridenstine narrowly confirmed to lead NASA: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to lead NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, after a long and bruising partisan battle over the Oklahoma Republican’s qualifications to run the massive space bureaucracy and his controversial political stances as a congressman. Bridenstine was approved on a 50-49 party-line vote, the culmination of a confirmation process that lasted more than six months and was uncommonly contentious for a NASA administrator [Politico].

Quote of the Day

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’re not arguing about who we are cutting to balance the budget.”

–  Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston), Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget co-chair, on the FY 2019 budget proposal unveiled Monday. Wallace has served in the legislature since 2014 (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of District Attorney positions in Oklahoma where only one candidate filed in the 2018 election (19 out of 27 districts).

Source: Oklahoma State Election Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The States Where People Die Young: We’ve known for some time now that Americans are increasingly dying younger, but the scale and nature of the problem has been a little bit murky. There was speculation that the downturn in American life expectancy was all thanks to “deaths of despair,” but some experts have said that might not be the full story, and that obesity and tobacco are still major factors in American mortality. A new study out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association drills down into which states are showing increases in deaths among the young, and why. In doing so, it reveals a profound disparity among the states when it comes to both life expectancy and disability [Atlantic].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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