In The Know: State declares pending ‘revenue failure,’ forcing mid-year cuts

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

State Declares Pending ‘Revenue Failure,’ Forcing Mid-Year Cuts: Oklahoma will see a revenue failure this fiscal year after it was announce Thursday that November’s revenue was down $50.1 million, or 12 percent , from what was budgeted. State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said in a press release the state will enact midyear budget cuts for “appropriated state agencies,” and that Oklahoma faces a $900.8 million budget hole heading into fiscal year 2017 [Oklahoma Watch]. OK Policy released a statement that Oklahoma can’t make it through this emergency by doubling down on deeper budget cuts and one-time fixes [OK Policy].

What state budget cuts could mean for mental health services: Terri White, commissioner at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said at a hearing Wednesday that thousands of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans do not receive the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need, a problem that continues to worsen over time thanks to a chronically underfunded state mental health system [NewsOK].

Oklahoma GOP says it won’t open its primary to independents: Democrats had previously announced that they would let independent voters take part in their primaries and the GOP had said it had no intention to follow suit. The state GOP made it official Tuesday in a letter to the state’s Election Board secretary. As of last month, Oklahoma had 261,199 registered independent voters, or about 13 percent of the state’s 1.9 million registered voters [NewsOK].

Insurance companies refuse coverage for man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma: Some insurance companies said they will not offer coverage for man-made earthquakes. Other insurance companies said they will cover all earthquake damage. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak asked insurance companies in October to let their customers know what their policies cover [Fox23].

Chesapeake brings in debt restructuring experts: In an effort to reorganize and reduce its $11.6 billion of debt, Chesapeake Energy has brought in restructuring experts from Evercore Partners, according to multiple published reports. The company, the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, has posted three-straight quarterly losses this year. In September, the company laid off 740 employees, 562 of them at its headquarters in Oklahoma City [News9].

Superintendent educates committee on cost of end-of-instruction testing: In a budget meeting with lawmakers, Hofmeister said the state can save money, more than $6 million each year, if the Legislature ditches the seven tests required of students who are graduating from high school. Hofmeister hasn’t explicitly endorsed replacing them with the ACT, but has said previously that she has lost confidence in the state’s decade-old End of Instruction (EOI) exams. She testified that current EOIs don’t align with new math and English language arts standards to be considered during the next legislative session [Journal Record].

Oklahoma graduation rates keep pace with U.S. numbers: The U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday that the graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year rose to 82.3 percent — the highest level since states adopted a more uniform way of calculating rates five years ago. Oklahoma graduated 82.7 percent of students in 2013-14 and also graduated a higher percentage of American Indians, Hispanics and blacks than the national averages, according to the data [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin: Capitol building deserves fix-up befitting its stature: Oklahoma’s crumbling Capitol has been neglected for so long that repairs inevitably will be extensive and costly. Many parts of the building are in decrepit condition. We must fix it. This building, more than any other, is irreplaceable to Oklahomans. It deserves repair and restoration befitting of its stature as Oklahoma’s front door to the world [Mary Fallin / NewsOK].

Oklahoma in line with decline in use of capital punishment nationwide: The state of Oklahoma executed one person and handed down only three new death sentences in 2015, a trend that death-penalty researchers say is in line with a decline in the use of capital punishment around the country. The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that researches capital punishment, released its year-end report Wednesday, and Oklahoma features prominently throughout [Tulsa World]. You can see the full report here.

Quote of the Day

“The most frightening element of the education statistics is that the period since 2008 included a national recession and an Oklahoma boom, driven by record high petroleum prices. Rather than turning that gusher to education or saving it for the future, the Legislature cut taxes, ensuring fewer resources for critical state services, especially public schools. With Tuesday’s announcement that crashing oil prices have brought a state budget faillure, there’s no reason for optimism that the state’s education funding failure will soon improve.”

-Tulsa World Editorial Board, discussing why Oklahoma leads the nation for cuts to education funding (Source)

Number of the Day

$900.8 million

Oklahoma projected budget hole next year, due to proliferating tax cuts and tax breaks and a weakening oil and gas industry.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Destruction of Workers’ Compensation: In 1996, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, who is now governor, held a meeting at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame to kick off what became a nearly 20-year campaign to change the state’s workers’ comp law. A Tyson personnel manager handed Fallin a check for $200 to help her campaign. Reforming the Oklahoma law, he told the crowd, would save Tyson $200,000 a year. “Tyson’s fingerprint since 1996 has been heavy on Oklahoma workers’ comp,” said Bob Burke, a longtime workers’ lawyer who has negotiated legislation [Pacific Standard].

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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.

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