In The Know: Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate won’t be cut this year

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.

House and Senate Republicans deadlocked on cutting the personal income tax and Gov. Fallin said she wouldn’t call a special session to reach a resolution.  The legislature approved a $6.8 billion budget bill to pay for state government to operate in the upcoming fiscal year.  Superintendent Janet Barresi announced she would hold back a third of schools’ textbook money to plug holes in the Education Department’s budget.

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education said that flat funding for higher education likely means tuition increases.  The Tulsa World Editorial writers surveyed the cumulative damage from years of reduced or standstill public education budgets.  The Board of Education voted to automatically grant high school diplomas to students who have been admitted to a college or university with a criteria-based admissions process, but failed high-stakes graduation tests.

The Senate approved a ballot measure that will ask voters to abolish the Commission for Human Services, which oversees OKDHS.  The House defeated a bond issue for repairs to the Capitol building; the Senate rejected a bond issue to complete the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center, and approved a $20 million bond proposal for a popular culture museum.  The Oklahoma Senate approved legislation to prohibit the use of foreign law in state courts.

In today’s Policy Note, Economic Policy Institute investigates whether the declining labor force participation rate is more influenced by unemployment in the aftermath of the Great Recession, or is a result of long-run trends.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of vehicle crashes in Oklahoma that occurred during inclement weather.

In The News

Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate won’t be cut this year

Gov. Fallin says she won’t call a special session. House and Senate Republican legislative leaders are deadlocked.  There won’t be a cut in the state’s personal income tax rate this year.  Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday she won’t call lawmakers back into a special session to work out a reduction in the personal income tax.  House and Senate Republican leaders remained at an impasse on reaching an agreement on cutting the personal income tax. Lawmakers are required to get their work done by 5 p.m. Friday.  “In the past few days it has become clear to me that the House and the Senate were not able to come to an agreement on a tax reduction plan,” Fallin said. “They’re deadlocked.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Budget bill wins approval in Oklahoma House

Five Republican House members switched their votes and another GOP member who had been absent for the first vote voted for an Oklahoma budget bill during the second vote. The budget bill, which won Senate approval on Tuesday, now heads to the governor.  Four hours after voting it down, the Oklahoma House reversed itself Thursday and approved the $6.8 billion budget bill to pay for state government to operate in the upcoming fiscal year.

Read more from NewsOK at

A third of Oklahoma schools’ textbook money ($11.5 million) to be used for Education Department

State Superintendent Janet Barresi will apparently use $11.5 million of the $33 million that school districts were expecting for textbooks to cover a shortage in the Education Department’s budget.  Barresi said she did not ask for discretion over the textbook funds as part of her budget request to state lawmakers. For 2010-11 and 2011-12, school districts were granted the flexibility to spend their textbook funds from the state on other instructional expenditures, if need be. The Legislature recently extended that flexibility by another two years.  “I literally (just) found out about it. I had no idea those were coming in until they arrived,” Barresi said of gaining access to the textbook funds. “And we were looking at the budget we were presented and how we were going to spend $7 million for $18 million in requirements.”

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma Regents chairwoman: Flat higher education funding could spell tuition increases

Flat funding for higher education could spell tuition increases, the chairwoman of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education said during a Thursday meeting of the regents.  Board Chairwoman Julie Carson said a budget bill that doesn’t offset rising mandatory expenses means colleges and universities will likely have to shift those costs to students in the form of tuition increases.  The budget bill includes a $955.26 million allocation for higher education — essentially the same amount the system received during the current fiscal year. That includes $10 million the system received as supplemental funding during fiscal year 2011, but was then included as a part of the annual base appropriation.

Read more from NewsOK at

The legacy of cuts: ‘Failing the children of Oklahoma’

In Oklahoma public education, few administrators could carry the books of Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard, Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman or Sapulpa Superintendent Mary Webb, who represent three of the area’s largest school districts.  This time next year they all will be gone, heading off to retirement and away from the seemingly endless battle to secure adequate support for common education.  These educators recognize the cumulative damage done by reduced or standstill budgets over the last several years. That is the shameful, not to mention callous, message the Legislature has sent to common education.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Automatic waiver approved for end-of-instruction exams

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to grant an automatic waiver to students who have been admitted to a selective college or university but who have been denied a high school diploma under a high-stakes testing law.  “If based on grades and class ranking, a student is admitted to a university, that presents an extenuating circumstance,” state Superintendent Janet Barresi said.  A selective college or university refers to institutions that have a criteria-based admissions process.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Oklahoma DHS faces vote in November election

Voters in November will be asked if the board governing the Department of Human Services should be abolished.  The Senate on Thursday passed House Joint Resolution 1092. The measure does not need Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature, said Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, the Senate author.  He said the measure would give the legislature greater oversight of the Department of Human Services, which has come under scrutiny for how it has handled children placed in the care of the state.  Currently, the governor appoints each of the nine members to the commission for staggered nine-year terms. The Commission for Human Services hires the director of the Department of Human Services.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

House kills bond issue for Okla. Capitol repairs

A plan to issue $200 million in bonds to repair the nearly century-old state Capitol and several nearby state buildings was overwhelmingly defeated Wednesday by the Oklahoma House.  Meanwhile, the state Senate narrowly rejected a plan to issue another $40 million in bonds to complete the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City but approved a $20 million bond proposal for a popular culture museum in downtown Tulsa.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Oklahoma Senate approves foreign law court ban

The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation to prohibit the use of foreign law in state courts.  Senators voted 40-3 for the measure Thursday and sent it to the House.  The measure prohibits state courts from using foreign law if the law provides a defense for a crime.  Sen. Dan Newberry of Tulsa says state laws reflect the values and ideals of its people and the bill he authored ensures state law will not be compromised by a judge who is influenced by foreign law.

Read more from NewsOK at

Quote of the Day

I think it is great news for Oklahoma that we are not going to reduce our revenue stream at a time when we are already doing a terrible job of funding public education.  I do regret we spent probably half to three quarters of the session discussing ill-conceived tax cut bills, but I am happy none made it across the finish line.

Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage

Number of the Day

40.5 percent

Percentage of vehicle crashes in Oklahoma that occurred during inclement weather, 2010

Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Labor force participation: Cyclical versus structural changes since the start of the Great Recession

The labor force participation rate (the share of working-age people who either have a job or are jobless but actively seeking work) dropped by two percentage points between the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007 and the end of 2011, and declined even further in the first four months of 2012. A debate has recently arisen over whether this decline is a direct result of the lack of job opportunities in the Great Recession and its aftermath (these changes are generally labeled cyclical)—or is instead a result of long-run trends, such as baby boomers beginning to retire (changes that are generally labeled structural).

Read more from Economic Policy Institute at

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