In The Know: On taxes and teacher pay, it’s the Oklahoma Senate’s turn

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

On taxes and teacher pay, it’s the Oklahoma Senate’s turn: The Oklahoma Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a $474 million tax package and pay raises for teachers, school support staff and state employees. It’s not guaranteed to pass, though, and it could be amended. The measures were presented to the House on Monday without coordination with Senate leaders [NewsOK].

Statement: Revenues bill is a good start and lawmakers can do more: Oklahoma Policy Institute released a statement on the House passage of HB 1010xx to fund a teacher raise and other serious public needs: The revenues approved in HB1010xx are a great start to keeping our best teachers in the classroom and undoing the damage caused by years of budget cuts. With these revenues, Oklahoma will finally be able to provide significant raises for teachers and state workers and reverse some of our deep cuts to general school funding [OK Policy]. Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout [OK Policy].

Union is unsure if teachers strike will last beyond one day: No matter what happens this week in the state Legislature, Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said teachers would walk out of schools and be at the state Capitol on April 2. However, Priest wasn’t sure what would happen on April 3, especially if a teacher pay raise bill approved by the House makes it to the governor’s desk [NewsOK]. Lawmakers discuss ‘credibility issue’ with OEA position [NonDoc].

Oklahoma lawmakers scramble to avert teacher walkout: Pressure mounted Tuesday on the Republican-led Oklahoma Legislature to broker a deal on taxes to pay for hundreds of millions in new education spending and avert a threatened strike of teachers next week. The leader of the state’s largest teacher’s union said Monday’s planned walkout over low pay and funding for schools could end up being more of a one-day celebration if lawmakers can approve a deal this week [AP]. Oklahoma Energy Industry Rallies Against Tax Increase Proposal [KOSU].

Oklahoma’s hotel tax rate could be among highest in nation: A proposed $5 per night fee for hotel rooms in Oklahoma as part of House Bill 1010 would place Oklahoma City and Tulsa among the highest-taxed hotels in the nation. However, even with this tax hike, overall rates likely will remain below national averages [NewsOK].

Judge Dismisses Disability Funding Lawsuit in Oklahoma: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed last year that aimed to stop Oklahoma agencies from cutting funding for two programs that help residents with mental and physical disabilities remain in their homes. The Oklahoma Department of Human Service alerted more than 20,000 Medicaid ADvantage Waiver and Medicaid In-Home Supports Waiver program participants that funding might end December 2017 due to budget issues [AP].

Without funding, prison bills will go unpaid, director warns: The Oklahoma Board of Corrections voted Tuesday to ask legislators for nearly $9 million to get through the next three months. Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told the board the department has been in the red all year and has a $5.2 million deficit in payroll alone, mainly because of overtime costs [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Advocates concerned about lack of action for criminal justice reform: Advocates say voters have been assured that criminal justice reform would be a priority this legislative session, but say they have not seen any progress so far. Now, they are taking to the Capitol for those who cannot. Representatives from “Smart Justice – Oklahoma” and the ACLU carried signs reading “People, Not Prisons,” and calling for legislative action [KFOR].

Criminal justice reform advocates call on Oklahoma employers to hire more ex-prisoners: It has taken more than a year to move from a jail cell to an office desk, but for Brandi Davis, a recovering opioid addict who faced a lengthy prison term, time has proven to be an effective teacher. No longer wanting to rush through her recovery program, and content to build a new life one step at a time, Davis is at peace with the process [NewsOK].

Legislators could rewrite medical marijuana law before Oklahomans vote on SQ 788: On the spectrum of state medical marijuana laws, SQ 788 falls on the more permissive end, with relatively few restrictions on how marijuana is grown and distributed and who qualifies to use the drug. While some changes to the law are advisable, especially to create a devoted regulatory body and give the state more time to implement SQ 788, one bill – SB 1120 – would make the measure unrecognizable before voters even have a chance to express their opinion on the matter [OK Policy].

New study: Drug deaths ‘significantly higher’ in Oklahoma than most of the country: While there has been much talk about the opioid crisis in recent months, a new study shows that several states are more heavily impacted by drugs than others. The number of drug-related deaths in the United States has spiked over the past couple of decades, but some areas of the country are more affected than others [KFOR].

ICE agents arrest 3 people in Tulsa during Oklahoma-Texas operation: Federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested three people in Tulsa who were illegally in the United States. The arrests were the result of a three-day operation in Oklahoma and north Texas ending Thursday. It resulted in the detention of 89 people by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Team, according to a news release from the ICE Central Region office in Dallas [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners recommend fee hikes to help support the agency’s operations: Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners voted Tuesday to recommend a variety of proposed new and increased fees to the Legislature and governor. Before voting, commissioners said they unanimously support seeking the additional millions of dollars in proposed revenue included in the recommendation to support the agency’s ongoing operations [NewsOK].

Oklahoma representative questioned about spanking comment during education funding debate: An Oklahoma state representative is getting some heat about his argument during a debate regarding the state’s education and budget crisis. On Monday, members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives debated a bill that would fund a teacher pay raise through several revenue-raising measures [KFOR].

Oklahoma political leaders respond to James Gallogly’s appointment as OU’s 14th president: Oklahoma political leaders expressed support for James Gallogly after he was named OU’s 14th president March 26. Congressman Tom Cole said in a March 26 statement that he supports the choice of Gallogly [OU Daily].

Quote of the Day

“I think the main thing is all members of the Legislature pay attention to what’s going on in their districts. I think that more than anything is what broke the logjam.”

– Mickey Thompson, leader of an initiative petition to raise oil and gas production taxes, giving credit to constituent activism for motivating House members to approve tax increases to fund a teacher pay raise on Monday (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of days Oklahoma could run on only Rainy Day Funds. The national average is 19.8

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Economic Security and Health Insurance Programs Reduce Poverty and Provide Access to Needed Care: Today’s economic security programs lift tens of millions of Americans above the poverty line, provide health care to tens of millions of Americans, and have positive longer-term effects on children, many studies find, helping them do better (and go farther) in school and lift their earning power as adults. Still, poverty remains high and many families face serious hardship [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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