In The Know: Sales tax revenue falls in OKC and statewide

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 City takes hit in sales tax along with rest of Oklahoma: Sales tax revenue fell this month in Oklahoma City, reflecting persistent weakness in the oil and gas industry. The city received $18.3 million for the general fund Friday. That is down 2.6 percent from October 2014 and well short of the 0.6 percent year-over-year growth that was anticipated. Still, statewide results are worse. Sales tax revenue statewide is down 6.4 percent, state Treasurer Ken Miller said this week [NewsOK].

Shortage of skilled workers in Oklahoma is unsettling: The state is expected to produce about 6,700 STEM-related job openings in each of the next 10 years. In that same period, more than half of the current STEM workforce is expected to retire or leave the state. But just 5,300 STEM students graduated from state colleges in 2011. “We simply aren’t producing enough workers who have those skills to do those jobs,” Bob Funk said of information technology positions. The comments of Funk, a 50-year veteran of the staffing industry, are echoed by Oklahoma employers seeking workers with a variety of skills [NewsOK].

Where the skills gap and budget gap collide: As Oklahoma tries to shore up its educational standards and prepare more students for the workforce, it’s also trying to do it with less money. State appropriations for Oklahoma students have declined by 5.07 percent over the past five years, while average enrollment has grown by 5.5 percent, according to The Oklahoman’s analysis of Oklahoma State Department of Education data. Oklahoma students fall further behind in reading and math proficiency as state funding for education shrinks, said Gene Perry, policy director for the think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute [NewsOK].

The 1980s budget crisis and today’s: The budget picture in Oklahoma is finally beginning to look like the 1980s. In 1983 there was a historic downturn in Oklahoma’s economy that produced dramatic revenue failures and budget cuts threatening to leave Oklahoma’s state government in a shambles. During the 1970s our political leaders had made substantial investments in education and other necessities and at the same time passed tax cuts. But when the bottom fell out in 1983 the economy declined so rapidly and unpredictably that even tax increases and budget cuts barely kept the ship of state afloat [OK Policy].

A history lesson on Oklahoma’s mental health system: It’s somewhat inconceivable, but we’ve all been here before. Almost 70 years ago, an Oklahoman reporter was investigating the state’s mental health system and its lack of funding. Mike Gorman wrote about the deplorable conditions at state-funded psychiatric hospitals. And almost 70 years ago, Oklahomans like yourself read Mike Gorman’s articles and were outraged [Jaclyn Cosgrove].

Health boards consider pushing for tobacco tax increase: At a meeting of the Tri-Board of Health, Oklahoma Department of Health, Policy Director Mark Newman asked if the group would advocate for an increase in the tax. Oklahoma smokers pay $1.03 in taxes on every pack now. A $1 increase in the cigarette tax could bring in more than $140 million to state coffers, and raising it by $1.50 could mean $182 million more to spend. Tobacco tax revenue is mostly earmarked for health services and research [Journal Record].

Rose State official: Fighting poverty means focusing on education: In a small dusty town in rural Oklahoma, a thief is hovering over a sleeping child. He’s there to steal her dreams, rob her of opportunity and cheat her of access. He’ll suffocate her hope and strip away her optimism, leaving her to feel helpless, desperate and trapped. That thief is poverty [Amber Mitchell / NewsOK].

Oklahoma changes execution times to mid-afternoon: Since it last put a prisoner to death in January, the Corrections Department changed its protocol, moving the scheduled time of execution from 6 p.m. to 3 p.m. A Corrections Department spokesman said the change is due, in part, to security reasons, a desire to cut down on overtime and to return prison operations back to normal as quickly as possible. The change also allows witnesses to travel at more reasonable hours, he said. But some death penalty opponents contend moving up the clock is designed to shorten the amount of time available for last minute reversals [NewsOK].

Oklahoma officials may lack authority to address earthquakes caused by oil and gas industry:  Oklahoma oil and gas officials are dealing with increasingly strong earthquakes, but concerns are growing that they lack the legal authority for their efforts to reduce the shaking. “I think we’re headed for a very big lawsuit,” said state Rep. Cory Williams, a Democrat who represents the frequently shaken city of Stillwater. Oil companies might soon challenge regulators’ right to rein in operations, he said, “and they might be right” [EnergyWire]. An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 hit near the Cushing oil storage hub on Saturday afternoon [Reuters].

EPA’s Clean Water Rule on hold as federal court sides with Oklahoma: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempt to update the Clean Water Rule — also known as the waters of the U.S. rule — hit a snag today, with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to temporarily block its implementation. When the EPA finalized the rule, it’s meant to clarify which bodies of water qualify for federal protection. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined 17 other states in suing over the issue, and on Friday, praised the court’s decision [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Political groups and leaders take advantage of Ten Commandments ruling to seek donations and changes in the state constitution: The dirt had not settled around the base of the relocated Ten Commandments monument last week before it appeared in a fundraising appeal for its new custodian, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. And the OCPA may not be alone. Originally placed on the Capitol grounds and removed at the insistence of the state Supreme Court, the monument has quickly become a surefire talking point for political leaders and organizations, an issue to stir the base not only to vote, but to pull out the checkbooks [Tulsa World].

Oklahomans can still use state IDs to access federal facilities during Real ID grace period: Although the state’s extension to comply with the Real ID law expired Saturday, a three-month grace period will allow Oklahomans to use their state-issued driver’s licenses to access almost all federal facilities. At airports in the United States, until announced otherwise, the Transportation Safety Administration will continue to accept valid driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by all states [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Republican Party elects Pam Pollard as new chair: Pollard, of Midwest City, received 163 votes at the state committee meeting Sunday afternoon at Oklahoma City Community College. Estela Hernandez, the interim chairman, received 115 votes, while Robert Hubbard came in with 77 votes. The total number of votes came to 355, but there were only 339 credentialed voters on site. An additional 16 votes were cast, a discrepancy of about 4.7 percent of the total expected votes [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Machinists need to know trigonometry, advanced math — they’re running automated computerized equipment and they do the programming for the machines. Even welders are calculating angles and degrees to do cuts and welds.”

-Chuck Mills, President of Mills Machine Co. in Shawnee,  who said Oklahoma needs to do a better job of preparing kids for entering the workforce by teaching math skills (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s civilian employed population that works in service occupations.

Source: US Census American Community Survey

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Current State of State Budgets: State budgets continue to record modest growth but often not enough to keep pace with the cost of K-12 education, health care and other escalating items. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) detailing estimated fiscal 2015 financial figures and governors’ budget proposals for each state [Governing].

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.