In The Know: State budget headed to Governor

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Today In The News

State Budget Headed to Governor: The Oklahoma Legislature made history on Friday. For the first time in decades, the state budget was adopted weeks ahead of the constitutional deadline. And for the first time in several years, lawmakers passed a budget that makes no cuts to agencies. The $7.6 billion spending bill passed the House 63-31 Friday afternoon, essentially along party lines. Senate Bill 1600 now heads to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin [Journal Record].

With Budget Hammered Out, Legislature Barrels Toward Early Adjournment: The Oklahoma Legislature is barreling toward an early adjournment well before the May 25 deadline. Lawmakers last week sent Gov. Mary Fallin a $7.6 billion budget that provides for teacher and state employee pay raises, clearing the path for campaign season. The budget provides an average increase of 10.92 percent for state agencies. Normally, the budget agreement is not announced until later in May. “I think realistically we are probably looking at (ending session on) Thursday,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus.  [Tulsa World].

After the budget, not much work left for lawmakers: One of the most significant bills still waiting on a vote in the Oklahoma Legislature this year would create a regulatory framework for new alcohol modernization laws adopted almost two years ago in a statewide vote. As the end of session looms, Senate Bill 1173 is one of the few bills considered must-pass that haven’t received a final vote. After lawmakers gave approval to the state budget last week, their to-do list nearly emptied [NewsOK].

Budget Shortfalls Stir Talk Among Oklahoma Gubernatorial Candidates About Tax Breaks: As Oklahoma’s budget problems have brought more scrutiny to various tax breaks, gubernatorial candidates have been talking about whether subsidies are worth the loss of revenue. At forums last week, candidates were asked about tax incentives in general and about ones for wind energy in particular. Candidates from the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties expressed skepticism about the value of trying to lure businesses with the promise of taxpayer subsidies, though some conceded it may at times be necessary [NewsOK].

DOC Director: Oklahoma Prisons in Precarious Spot: I dread the day when I will have to attend the funeral of one of our correctional officers or nonuniformed staff or account for the loss of life of inmates we are charged to protect. Recent history of hauntingly similar situations indicates it’s only a matter of time [Joe Albaugh/NewsOK]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OKPolicy].

‘Not Going to Be Enough for Our Circumstances’: School Finances Have Changed Little Despite Walkout: The Oklahoma teacher walkout has been hailed as a historic victory for education and credited for raising public awareness of the state’s revenue problems. But what did it change for school districts’ finances? Superintendents and chief financial officers say not much. Districts will receive about $50 million statewide — $33 million for textbooks and $17 million for operations. Depending on the district’s size, they project they’ll see increased funding to the tune of a few million or a few hundred thousand dollars — not enough to materially change their already strained finances [Tulsa World].

New Funding Has OK Mental Health Agency in Better Spot: There have been many times in recent years that Oklahoma lawmakers have touted the budget they approved, and state mental health Commissioner Terri White has wondered what they were talking about. This year, “It really is a good budget,” White says. She’s grateful, because like so many other state agencies, hers has been hard hit by cuts. In recent years the Department of Mental Health and Substances Abuse Services has had to reduce its payments to providers by tens of millions of dollars. This year, the agency is getting $2 million in new money to begin the restoration process [NewsOK]. 

Oklahoma Child Abuse Prevention Programs Worry About Funding: Parent Promise made it through this year’s budget cuts without leaving the high-risk families it works with in the lurch. Executive Director Sherry Fair said she isn’t sure it can pull off the same trick for another year, though. Oklahoma City-based Parent Promise and eight other organizations had $2 million in state contracts to perform home visits with families at a higher-than-average risk of child abuse or neglect. The Oklahoma State Department of Health cut the contracts in October to deal with a budget shortfall caused by years of overspending [NewsOK].

Tulsa World Editorial: Gross Production Tax Effort Takes the Initiative and Forces a Better Compromise on Education Funding: Organizers of an initiative petition to raise the state gross production tax to 7 percent level have dropped their campaign. Instead, Mickey Thompson, executive director of Restore Oklahoma Now Inc., said his group will concentrate on defending school-funding tax increases recently passed by the Oklahoma Legislature against a promised repeal effort [Tulsa World]. Will the history of SQ 640 repeat itself? [OKPolicy].

Reform of SQ 640 Dead for Session, Supporters Say: The legislative push to give voters a chance to re-examine a controversial tax law is dead for this session, supporters say. There’s not enough legislative support to place the measure on the November ballot, said state Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee. Such legislation would give voters the chance to decide whether to modernize the law — known as State Question 640 — requiring approval of three-quarters of lawmakers to raise new taxes [The Norman Transcript]. SQ 640 has made Oklahoma ungovernable [OK Policy].

Lawmakers Take Aim at Wind Energy Subsidy: A high stakes battle is being waged in the state Capitol over a bill that would kill a wind industry subsidy that currently is costing Oklahoma taxpayers about $70 million a year. The Oklahoma House voted 51-46 Wednesday to kill the refundable aspect of the zero emissions tax credit. Senate Bill 888 is now awaiting further action in the Senate [NewsOK].

Wildlife Director Lashes out at Legislation: The state wildlife director said Friday that a bill headed for a vote in the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives is “a dangerous step to privatizing our wildlife.” J.D. Strong, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said if passed in its present form, the bill would “benefit some wealthy landowners to the detriment of most of Oklahoma‘s hunters and fishermen” [NewsOK].

Hindu Prayer to Be Offered in Oklahoma Senate: A spiritual leader from Nevada will deliver the Oklahoma Senate’s first Hindu prayer, part of an interfaith movement in a Legislature in the Bible Belt that has faced criticism its lack of religious diversity. Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, will visit Oklahoma on Monday as part of his effort to pray before lawmakers in state Capitols across the country. He is the guest of state Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican who also has invited a local rabbi and people from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and African Methodist Episcopal Church to pray before the body this week [Public Radio Tulsa].

Alcohol Regulators, Distillers Get Ready for Liquor Law Changes: The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission is preparing for a historic change in the state’s liquor laws. Now Executive Director Keith A. Burt can finally hire people to help with the transition and to oversee all the new licensees. With the state’s fiscal year 2019 budget on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, Burt’s agency is slated to get a 22.5 percent increase in its budget. This equates to an additional $500,000 for the year. The 2019 budget would be about $3 million [Journal Record].

In Fire-Scorched Oklahoma, Help Comes One Bale at a Time: The hay began arriving before the fires were out. It came stacked on pickup trucks and strapped onto semis. From a few counties away. From halfway across the country. For ranchers whose grazing land was destroyed by wildfires that tore across western Oklahoma this month, the cylindrical bales were an economic lifeline, a way to feed cattle marooned on grassless patches of charred red soil. The hay was also free, provided not by lawmakers in Washington or Oklahoma City, but mostly by strangers in other corners of rural America [The New York Times]. 

Seven Oklahoma Highway Patrol Chases Resulted in Eight Deaths. All Were Within Policy That OHP Keeps Secret: In a 14-month span, state troopers led seven vehicle chases that resulted in eight deaths — two were uninvolved motorists, and the latest was one of their own lieutenants. No discipline was handed down in any of the seven pursuits as all troopers’ actions were deemed to be within policy by the Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, according to records [Tulsa World].

Latest Chickasaw ‘Land Fix’ Attempt Came in Federal Measure, and Fell Barely Short of Passage: A long-anticipated attempt to “fix” dubious federal trust land decisions, advocated for by the Chickasaw Nation’s leadership, fell barely short of passage this past month. With both of the Sooner State’s U.S. Senators in support of a procedural move, the “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act” was only five votes short of the 60 needed to advance toward enactment [CapitolBeatOK].

Quote of the Day

“Are the issues new? No. Newly reported? No. Ignored? No, not by those who have the responsibility to fight the issues. They have been passed over if not ignored by those controlling the agency’s purse strings. That must change today.”

-Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, who said that Oklahoma’s deep understaffing and overcrowding of prisons risks a deadly riot [Source].

Number of the Day


Homeownership rate for Hispanic Oklahomans in 2017, above the national average for Hispanic homeownership of 46.2%.

Source: 2017 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Restaurant Industry Ran a Private Poll on the Minimum Wage. It Did Not Go Well for Them: The poll — which was presented on a slide deck obtained by The Intercept and Documented — found that seven in 10 Americans want to see the minimum wage raised even if it means that they’d have to pay more for meals. It also found that the industry’s various talking points against raising the wage are mostly falling flat with the general public [The Intercept].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

One thought on “In The Know: State budget headed to Governor

  1. The DOC director rightly dreads the day he has to attend the funeral of a C.O. due to poor funding leading to hazardous situations. He surely dreads more the years he will face fighting federal takeover of those prisons (as happened a few decades back) once some enterprising attorney realizes s/he can fund his/her kids’ college educations with the lawsuits. Teacher pay raises and education restoration? Child abuse prevention? Help for burnt out farmers?

    Bwahahahahaha . . . !

    Cal Hobson and Dwayne Steidley told the legislature and OK generally about everything that’s happening twenty years ago. More scary, their predictions haven’t nearly fully played out yet. But listen to the state’s highly ineffective DAs about the (demonstrated low) public safety value of overincarceration and keep 640 and those corporate tax cuts that are important to OK’s VIPs.

    Priorities, after all.

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