In The Know: Senate, House leaders at odds over special session | Sweeping tax cuts hurt everyday Oklahomans | Census: Oklahoma remains among poorest states | More

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

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Everyday Oklahomans will be hurt by sweeping revenue cuts: Oklahoma should be a place where all residents have equal access to public services, and where public dollars are spent in pursuit of meaningful, statewide well-being. However, when elected officials like Gov. Stitt call for the elimination of the personal income tax — the state’s largest revenue source that provides more than one-third of the funding for those services — the state cannot meet the needs of its citizens. Rather than continuing to cut our way to the bottom, Oklahoma should protect vital revenue and leverage tax dollars to improve quality of life for all Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

2022 Census data: Oklahoma remains among the nation’s poorest states; policy solutions can help reverse this trend: Data from the Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey released Sep. 14 show that Oklahoma’s poverty rate was 15.7 percent, which was the nation’s 8th highest. The national poverty rate in 2022 was 11.5 percent, and Oklahoma’s ranking among states remained unchanged compared to 2021. The data show that poverty is especially concentrated for Oklahoma’s children with 19.5 percent, or almost 1 in 5 children, living at or below the federal poverty level. [Gabriella Ramirez-Perez & Sabine Brown / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Republican legislative leaders out of sync on Gov. Stitt’s special session tax proposals: The two Republican leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature are clearly not in sync about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s call for a special session in October. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

House speaker: Only a criminal act by Oklahoma state superintendent will prompt impeachment action: Oklahoma’s House speaker on Thursday shut down impeachment speculations surrounding state Superintendent Ryan Walters. Speaker Charles McCall said his chamber would not pursue impeachment proceedings unless the fellow Republican commits a crime. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma House Speaker dismisses idea of Ryan Walters impeachment [Tulsa World]
  • Article VIII of the Oklahoma Constitution includes the state laws around impeachment and removal from office [Ballotpedia]

Raises reported for Oklahoma state agency directors: A new report covering the prior fiscal year shows that seven Oklahoma state agency directors received a salary increase higher than what most Oklahomans earn in a year. Communications professionals representing those agencies and Gov. Kevin Stitt said improving compensation for directors helps attract and retain talented leaders. [NonDoc]

Stitt appoints aide secretary of state: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Cockroft to fill the secretary of state opening created by the departure of Brian Bingman. [Tulsa World]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Stitt’s special session, Oklahoma’s abortion ban, new Thunder arena and more (audio): Panelists discuss Gov. Stitt’s calls for the legislature to meet in special session to talk about tax reform, an Oklahoma woman filing a complaint against health groups stemming from the state’s abortion ban and a Texas Republican presidential candidate wants a judge to remove Donald Trump from the Oklahoma ballot. [KOSU]

Opinion: Oklahomans’ expectations should be high when it comes to driver’s license services: After years of promised fixes, Oklahoma’s state-run driver’s license program remains broken. Perhaps nothing illustrates that as clearly as the fact that Oklahomans are having to get in line at 1 a.m. just to obtain a basic driver’s license replacement. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Lower taxes means driving farther, waiting longer for basic state services: Gov. Kevin Stitt has ordered the Legislature into special session to consider his proposal of eliminating the state personal income tax or putting the state on course to do so. Lawmakers would be irresponsible to set this course. It was just five years ago that the state was reeling from the devastating effects of a decade of mandated agency cuts due to a series of revenue failures. This was a result of previous Legislatures’ cutting taxes too far, an economic downturn, a slump in energy taxes and a lack of savings accounts. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Tribal leaders at odds with Gov. Kevin Stitt over whether citizens should be exempt from state taxes: The argument over who should be exempt from taxes is an ongoing battle that’s now spilling over into the Oklahoma Legislature. Gov. Kevin Stitt and the tribes are once again at odds, this time on whether certain tribal citizens should be exempt from state taxes. [KOCO]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma lawmakers double poll worker pay to help address shortages: Oklahoma lawmakers are banking that doubling the daily pay of the people who spend hours running polling locations will help alleviate the ongoing statewide struggles to find residents willing to work elections. Starting July 1, 2024, poll worker pay will increase from $110 to $225 per day for election inspectors and from $100 to $200 per day for judges and clerks. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: I’m a 17-year-old Oklahoma student and my peers don’t see the point in voting: My generation has lost faith in politics, so they are less likely to vote. Under 25% of eligible voters younger than 30 cast ballots last November. How do we restore faith in our political system? Many states have increased voter turnout through primary election reform. An open primary system allows all voters to participate in primary contests, regardless of political affiliation or non-party registration. Six of the highest turnout states in 2022 were states with open primaries. Oklahoma is the only state among our neighbors with a closed primary system. [Kimberlee Wilson / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Runaway questionable campaign tactics helped by underfunding Ethics Commission: Lawmakers may not directly interfere with the Ethics Commission, but the low fiscal prioritization made the commission ineffective. The consequence is a growing number of questionable campaign tactics going unchecked. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Lawton Police taser policy: Did a recent arrest violate it?: The sister of a man who was arrested and booked after a taser deployment by Lawton Police on August 15 has filed a request for an internal affairs investigation. The formal complaint claims LPD violated his state and federal constitutional rights. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Anthony Sanchez, death row prisoner, gets access to evidence: Oklahoma death row prisoner Anthony Castillo Sanchez, who is scheduled for execution on Sept. 21, received a “small victory” this week after a district judge granted him access to evidence in his case. He’s asking the Governor to grant him a 60-day stay so that his legal counsel can review the evidence. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

‘Critically important’: Officials highlight importance of quality jobs in getting out of poverty: In light of new data from the United States Census Bureau on poverty in the nation, FOX 25 examined how having a quality jobs can impact those struggling financially. According to the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development, having a quality job can make a huge difference when it comes to getting out of poverty. [Fox 25]

Education News

Court rules Kingfisher coach can argue against possible dismissal: Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order this week granting Kingfisher High School football coach Jeff Myers an opportunity to defend himself against an attempt to force his dismissal following allegations of abuse and hazing in the football program. [Enid News & Eagle via CNHI]

General News

OSU Extension brings free well water testing to county fairs across Oklahoma: Fairgoers had more than just prize-winning livestock and local art to look forward to this year as the OSU Extension Office offered free well water testing at the fair as part of its Oklahoma Well Owner Network. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Is OKC’s new NBA arena bringing a new tax? How is MAPS 4 involved? What to know [The Oklahoman]
  • Edmond City Council approves water, sewer rate increases to fund infrastructure improvements [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“A special session is not the appropriate avenue to address the loss of billions of dollars in revenue with potential threats to public safety, schools and roads that would result from the elimination of state income taxes.” 

-House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, said the governor’s call for a special session is political grandstanding [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day

$34-$78 billion

The amount of new sales needed annually if the state were to use sales tax to replace revenue lost by eliminating the personal income tax. That would roughly equate to every adult and child in Oklahoma generating between $8,500 and $19,500 in new spending every year. [Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency Report, Page 23] | [OK Policy]

Policy Note

States Should Protect or Raise Revenue as Uncertainty Looms: States should avoid additional short-sighted tax cuts, reversing or at least trimming recently enacted ones, and enacting policies to raise revenues where possible. That way, their revenue systems and the vital public services they support will be better prepared for a rocky economic road that could lie ahead. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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