In The Know: Over teacher objections, Fallin signs hotel tax repeal

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

Over teacher objections, Fallin signs hotel tax repeal: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed the repeal of a hotel/motel tax, rejecting one of the demands made by teachers who have spent more than a week marching on the Oklahoma Capitol. Teachers asked the governor to veto the bill, which amends an earlier revenue measure adopted by lawmakers and signed by Fallin. Conservative members of the Senate agreed to support a new 5 percent tax rate on oil and gas production if Republican leadership promised to advance this measure [NewsOK]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Key revenue measures hit roadblocks in Oklahoma: As teachers pinned their walkout hopes on the repeal of a controversial capital gains deduction, the measure’s author said Tuesday that it should not advance. “I have no desire to run the bill or vote for the bill,” said state Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. Also on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin approved the repeal of a $5 per night hotel/motel occupancy tax [CNHI]. The real cost of the capital gains deduction could be much more than $100 million, but we have good options for reform [OK Policy].

Moody’s says tax increase does not solve Oklahoma’s ‘structural deficit’: A report by Moody’s Investors Service said Tuesday that recent million tax increases expected to raise more than $500 million are “a credit positive” for Oklahoma but do not completely solve the state’s “structural deficit.” “The matching of new expenditures with new revenues demonstrates fiscal responsibility, but a moderate structural deficit persists,” the report says [Tulsa World].

They marched 7 days. Now Tulsa teachers are ready to confront lawmakers: Many teachers go the extra mile for students. Tulsa teachers just walked 110 miles for theirs. For the past week, they marched with agonizing blisters and slept on gymnasium floors on their way to confront lawmakers. Their journey culminated Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol, where they say they will demand more school funding and higher raises [CNN].

Abandoned ideas resurface in revenue hunt: As Oklahoma’s education walkout continues, the Legislature is eyeing revenue options that members seemed to abandon earlier this year. For the past three years, when trying to find ways to save money, state lawmakers have focused on tax credits benefiting the wind energy industry. They moved to eradicate the zero-emissions tax credit for all new wind production and ended the industry’s access to several other breaks in ad valorem and sales taxes [Journal Record]. Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout [OK Policy].

Oklahoma makes progress on collecting taxes from online sales: This session has seen the Oklahoma Legislature take a couple of important steps towards addressing the problem of untaxed online sales. These bills and reforms from earlier sessions are moving Oklahoma closer to an even playing field when it comes to taxation of online purchases versus purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. But it’s an impending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that offers the best hope for a real and lasting solution to the problem [OK Policy].

‘Momentum is on our side,’ Oklahoma teachers union leader declares with strike in ninth day: Oklahoma teachers carried their walkout over school funding and higher pay into a ninth day on Tuesday as the Republican party governor signed school revenue bills that fell short of their demands. Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature said it may be difficult to find more money after approving nearly $450 million in new taxes and other revenues since the walkout began on April 2 to help fund pay raises for teachers and boost spending [Reuters]. Oklahoma Republicans refuse to bow to teachers’ demands [AP].

Over 500,000 students statewide out of school Monday as walkout continues into second week: Over 500,000 students statewide were out of school Monday as the teacher walkout stretched into its sixth day, according to a Tulsa World analysis of reporting school districts. The World identified 162 school districts that reported closing on Monday. Those districts had a total of 501,030 students enrolled, according data maintained by the Oklahoma Department of Education [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma teachers’ march: immigration debate fuels calls for bilingual education: Many education professionals say bilingual schools are critical to integrating immigrants. Young children can grow and learn in the language they speak at home without being ashamed to do so at school, as Contreras was. At the same time, their classmates can learn Spanish with help from Latino peers. Contreras is one of more than 100 teachers marching from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, in search of better funding for education in the state. Many leaders of the march have said funding bilingual education is vital, not just for integrating Latinos but for improving education overall [The Guardian].

State’s general revenue continues modest growth: Deposits to the state’s general revenue fund continued trending upward in March, Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Denise Northrup said Tuesday. Collections for the month totaled $405.5 million, or 5.6 above projections and 15.2 percent above the same month a year ago. General revenue for the first nine months of fiscal year 2018, which ends June 30, are 3.7 percent above projections and 13.4 percent, or $468.5 million, more than for the same period in FY 2017 [Tulsa World].

Medical cost transparency bill dies in Oklahoma House with little support: The House Public Health Committee blocked a measure Tuesday that would have forced most hospitals to share their prices on demand. The original version of Senate Bill 890 would have created a state-run website featuring the average cost of the most popular medical procedures, by hospital. It would have affected only hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers that accept Medicaid patients [NewsOK].

Patrick Wyrick, state Supreme Court justice, nominated by Trump for federal judgeship: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick, who is on President Donald Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court choices, was nominated Tuesday for a federal judgeship in Oklahoma City. The 37-year-old rising star in conservative legal circles was formerly the state’s solicitor general under then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt. He argued the state’s position in the 2015 lethal injection case Glossip v. Gross before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning a narrow 5-4 majority [NewsOK].

Group circulating recreational marijuana petition solicits volunteers at Capitol during teacher walkout: Supporters of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana were at the Capitol on Tuesday to solicit volunteers and votes. Green the Vote filed notice on April 3 with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office that it intends to seek signatures to get the two issues on the Nov. 6 ballot. The organization is seeking a constitutional change in the form of State Question 796 for medical marijuana use and State Question 797 for recreational marijuana use [Tulsa World].

Pruitt’s Oklahoma trips raise concerns he’s using ‘public office for personal gain,’ top ethics official warns: Scott Pruitt’s travel to Oklahoma as Environmental Protection Agency administrator raise the possibility he is profiting from public office, the federal government’s top ethics official says. David Apol, acting director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, wrote a letter Friday to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s ethics watchdog, warning him of possible ethics violations by Pruitt [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“My physical suffering is there. But three or four days from now, I’ll be fine. The wounds that have been caused by the state legislature’s neglect will take much longer to heal.”

– Craig Hoxie, a Tulsa high school science teacher, before completing the final leg of the 110-mile walk from Tulsa to the Capitol with a group of teachers (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma Medicaid (SoonerCare) spending paid by the federal government, FY 2016

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Do states regret expanding Medicaid? With the ACA in its fifth year of full expansion, we now have an established track record in the expanding states to help estimate what the actual costs of expansion will be to the states and how those costs have compared to states’ projections. This Issue Brief reviews that evidence, and evaluates continuing claims by Medicaid opponents that expansion is a “proven disaster” for state budgets. The strong balance of objective evidence indicates that actual costs to states so far from expanding Medicaid are negligible or minor, and that states across the political spectrum do not regret their decisions to expand Medicaid [Brookings].

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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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