In The Know: Oklahoma gives up third of state budget to corporate subsidies and tax breaks

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.

Today you should know that a New York Times analysis found that Oklahoma give up an amount equal to about one-third of the state budget to corporate subsidies and tax breaks.  In the Times’ data, the sales tax exemption for sales to manufacturers makes up 85 percent of Oklahoma’s total spending on incentives.  See the breakdown for Oklahoma here. SandRidge CEO Tom Ward is receiving criticism from investors for receiving large payments and executive perks as the company’s stock price falls 80 percent. State employees are in their seventh year without a pay increase.

The OK Policy Blog examines how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could give more than 9,000 young Oklahoma immigrants a shot at the American Dream. Undocumented immigrant students at OU held a demonstration on campus to tell their stories and advocate for a chance at citizenship. 

Rep. Pam Peterson will serve as the first female majority floor leader in the Oklahoma House. Norman Rep. Scott Martin will chair the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. A wave local residents voiced skepticism about the latest proposal for the Oklahoma City Boulevard.

 The Number of the Day is the cost of the ongoing drought in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times finds that the tax burden for most Americans is lower than in the 1980s.

In The News

Oklahoma gives up amount equal to one-third of its budget to corporate subsidies and tax breaks

In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter. For years, mayors and governors anxious about local jobs had agreed to G.M.’s demands for cash rewards, free buildings, worker training and lucrative tax breaks. Yet at least 50 properties on the 2009 liquidation list were in towns and states that had awarded incentives, adding up to billions in taxpayer dollars. A New York Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. For many communities, the payouts add up to a substantial chunk of their overall spending, the analysis found. Oklahoma and West Virginia give up amounts equal to about one-third of their budgets, and Maine allocates nearly a fifth.

Read more from the New York Times.

See also: Oklahoma subsidy tracker from the New York Times

An oil baron’s pay rises, even as his stock falls

Tom Ward, chief executive of troubled oil and gas explorer SandRidge Energy, has set the bar even lower for the oil patch. The company’s annual general and administrative expenses have recently been equivalent to almost 8 percent of its market capitalization, against about 1 percent to 3 percent for peers. Only Chesapeake, an example to be avoided, comes close at 5 percent. TPG-Axon has set out its explanation for the flood of outgoings: an extraordinary series of executive perks. Ward himself has drawn $150 million in payments from the company in the five years since SandRidge’s 2007 initial public offering, despite an 80 percent fall in the stock price.

Read more from Reuters.

State workers go years without pay hikes

Should Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers be paid more? Of course they should. Starting pay for cadets is only $33,192, which increases to only $38,000 once the trooper graduates and gets on the road. According to Department of Public Safety and OHP officials, that’s well below the typical pay for other law enforcement agencies in the state. Not surprisingly, pay is a factor in attracting and retaining troopers. After all, why would a young person interested in law enforcement as a career pick one of the lowest-paying agencies, when an equally rewarding career with higher pay is available? As the state continues to face tough economic times, the OHP will be among a large throng of state employees who arguably are due pay hikes. State employees are in their seventh year without a pay increase.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Could 9,180 dreams come true?

Many of the immigrants known as DREAMers were brought to the US as children without correct documentation. Others crossed the border legally as children, but they now hold expired paperwork. They attended school here, and some even served in the US military. Most have never known another home, and in their hearts, they believe themselves to be U.S. citizens. After the 2011 DREAM act (S. 952 and H.R. 1751) failed to pass through Congress, the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to help these young immigrants. DACA grants a 2 year deferral from being deported, subject to renewal, to qualified immigrants lacking the legal paperwork required of lawful US residents. An estimated 1.4 million US immigrants meet the qualifications required under DACA.

Read more from the OK Policy blog.

OU, fight for the DREAM

Tuesday on the South Oval, your fellow students stood up and spoke about their undocumented status. Their stories are similar: As young children, their parents immigrated to the U.S. without permission. They have been raised as American citizens since — but are not citizens. Across the nation, young people share the same story. Many remember nothing of the country they were born in. Some didn’t even know about their undocumented status until it came time to apply for a job or college. Most hesitate to reveal their undocumented status. Whatever your feelings on the broader immigration debate, it’s clear that these young people — or DREAMers, as some call them, after the proposed law that would help them become citizens — are not to blame.

Read more from the OU Daily.

First female Oklahoma House majority floor leader named

The first black person to serve as House speaker has selected the first woman to serve as majority floor leader in the state’s 105-year history. House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, named Rep. Pam Peterson on Monday to serve as majority floor leader for the 54th Legislature. The two-year session begins Feb. 4. Peterson, R-Tulsa, will succeed Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, as majority floor leader. As floor leader, Peterson will be responsible for assigning bills to committees, scheduling bills for floor hearings and running business on the floor during session. A spokesman for the House said records kept by the House indicate Peterson is the first woman to serve as majority floor leader there.

Read more from NewsOK.

Norman lawmaker to chair House Budget Committee

State Rep. Scott Martin on Monday was named chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee for the 54th Legislature which begins in February. Incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon tapped Martin, R-Norman, on Monday during his first round of appointments to key leadership posts, according to a news release from Shannon’s office. Martin currently serves as the vice-chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee. He was first elected to the District 46 post in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Recommended Oklahoma City Boulevard design meets skepticism

Consultants on Monday touted a design recommendation for part of the Oklahoma City Boulevard as the best mix of friendliness to traffic and development, but a wave of local residents voiced skepticism that the plan will provide the grand, revitalizing parkway that many envisioned. Oklahoma City officials and officials from Stantec, a consulting firm, presented their recommended design for a complicated western section of the boulevard at a public meeting Monday at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center. But after the consultants presented a series of animations and drawings that focused primarily on the traffic impacts of the various designs, many of the roughly 400 people who attended the meeting voiced their reservations about the entire design process. Almost everyone who spoke during the question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting advocated for a slow, narrow roadway at ground level, integrated as much as possible into the existing grid.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

It’s really not creating new jobs. It’s motivated by politicians who want to claim they have brought new jobs into their state.

-Hallmark executive Donald J. Hall Jr., who says business subsidies are hurting his hometown, Kansas City, Mo., by diverting money from public education

Number of the Day


The costs to Oklahoma in 2012 of the ongoing drought, including crops and livestock losses, wildfire damage and municipal costs

Source: Oklahoma State University

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Tax burden for most Americans is lower than in the 1980s

Most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes — federal, state and local — than they would have paid 30 years ago. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes took a smaller share of their income than it took from households with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980. Households earning more than $200,000 benefited from the largest percentage declines in total taxation as a share of income. Middle-income households benefited, too. More than 85 percent of households with earnings above $25,000 paid less in total taxes than comparable households in 1980. Lower-income households, however, saved little or nothing.

Read more from the New York Times.

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.