In The Know: State of State address calls for tax cuts, flat budgets, more charter schools | Tribal leaders concerned with speech’s rhetoric | Legislative Black Caucus to combat attacks on diversity | Federal border bill

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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Special session went according to script, but tax cuts still major topic during next few months (Capitol Update): The special session last week went pretty much according to script. The House, following Speaker Charles McCall’s lead, passed the governor’s .25-percent income tax cut along strict party lines. The Senate made good on President Pro Tempore Greg Treat’s announced intention to adjourn the session with no action. Both chambers adjourned to the call of the chair so they could take up a tax bill later in either the regular session that started Monday or in the special session. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

State Government News

Governor lays out priorities: income tax cuts, flat state budget, more school choice: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says he wants to continue pushing economic growth. And he argued that starts with tax cuts. He has support for a plan to phase out the state’s income tax from House Speaker Charles McCall, but not from Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, who has called for a grocery tax cut rather than an income tax cut. But finding that path forward was the thematic throughline of Stitt’s speech. He acknowledged recent disagreements with Treat and McCall over everything from education reforms to tax cuts and tribal compacts. [KOSU]

  • Amid protests and skepticism, Gov. Kevin Stitt kicks off legislative session with State of the State address [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Get government out of the way’: Stitt hits slew of topics in 2024 State of the State [NonDoc]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt calls for tax cut, increases in number of Oklahoma charter schools  [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt again calls for tax cuts, takes aim at tribes as legislative session begins [Tulsa World]
  • In proposed budget, Stitt aims to keep Oklahoma schools, agency funding flat [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Income tax cut, higher education consolidation key issues for Stitt this session [Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma Gov. Stitt champions tax cuts, education innovation at first legislative session [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Gov. Stitt faces renewed tribal sovereignty issue as legislative session begins [AP / Fox News]
  • Stitt asks for flat spending, income tax cut [Tulsa World]
  • Tax Cuts, Tribal Relations Dominate Stitt’s State Of The State Address [Oklahoma Watch]
  • 2024 State of the State: Read Gov. Kevin Stitt’s full speech []

Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus plans to punch above its weight: The Black Caucus members, all of whom are Democrats, plan to sound the alarm on legislation they believe will harm marginalized communities. Yet they’re also pushing for bills that would take the state in a new direction. Caucus Leader Rep. Monroe Nichols described six priorities for the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus this session. They include: Economic Opportunity, Criminal Justice Reform, Voting Rights, Education Funding, Combating attacks on diversity and Improving health care access. [Black Wall Street Times]

Why Democrats think Gov. Kevin Stitt is ‘out of touch’ with everyday Oklahomans: Democrats particularly objected to both the governor’s call for a flat state budget for the upcoming fiscal year and a cut in the state’s income tax. They said instead of cutting taxes, state leaders should invest in areas that include common education, higher education and child care. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: The voters spoke: Ten Commandments monument should not be resurrected at Oklahoma State Capitol: The court ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union by determining that displaying an overtly religious monument on Capitol grounds violated a state constitutional prohibition against using public property to support a singular religion. State officials decided to wait until about 10:30 p.m. in October 2015 to follow the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s orders to remove the 6-foot tall, two-ton granite monument. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

Listen: Sara Hill becomes first Indigenous woman to serve on federal bench in Oklahoma: Judge Sara Hill serves on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. She became the first Native American woman to join this bench when she was confirmed in December. And she begins at a busy time. Cases in the Northern District have increased since the 2020 Supreme Court decision that said much of the eastern part of Oklahoma is within a Native American reservation. That means certain major criminal cases have to be tried in the federal courts, not state courts. And as Elizabeth Caldwell of member station KWGS reports, Judge Hill has her work cut out for her. [NPR / KOSU]

Intense opposition to U.S. Senate immigration deal negotiated by Oklahoma Republican quickly emerges: The immigration deal was negotiated by the White House and Sens. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona. The proposed global security funding legislation that includes major bipartisan updates to immigration policy encountered opposition from members of both parties Monday, especially Republicans upset by the Biden administration’s handling of border security, charting a tumultuous path for passage in the Senate this week. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Lankford says border security bill would have stopped 800,000 entries in past four months [Tulsa World]
  • Negotiators release $118 billion border bill as GOP leaders call it dead in the House [NPR/KOSU]
  • Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford defends bipartisan border, aid package: ‘Gaps get closed.’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Senate Republicans cast serious doubt on fate of bipartsan immigration deal [NPR / KOSU]

Editorial: Don’t let politics get in the way of securing the U.S. border with deal brokered by U.S. Sen. James Lankford: Since taking office in 2015, Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. James Lankford has prioritized immigration. It’s one of the reasons he was asked to lead an effort to find a solution to the growing crisis at the U.S. border. It’s a heavy lift against the political winds of a presidential election year. Nothing illustrates that more than the line of fellow Republicans blasting a possible agreement before the language was even released. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma sends a growing number of kids with complex needs out of state for treatment: Amber Boyer’s 14-year-old son Davin has been on Oklahoma’s waiting list for developmental disability services for around a decade. Boyer has relied on private insurance and Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to help pay for his care in the meantime. Struggling to find care is common for parents with children who have dual needs, or an intellectual or developmental disability and a mental or behavioral health challenge. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa County teen birth rate has seen dramatic decline since 2009: New data shows Tulsa County’s teen birth rate has declined by 67% from 2009 to 2022, thanks to support from local initiatives introducing education and contraceptive services to Tulsa youth. The George Kaiser Family Foundation reported Tulsa County’s teen birth rate was 57.2 teen births per every 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2009. In 2022, it was 18.9 teen births per every 1,000 females aged 15-19. [KOSU]

Economy & Business News

Financial education program helps low-income Tulsans improve credit scores: Through its support of the Coaching and Resource Empowerment program, JP Morgan Chase’s goal is to address wealth disparities and create a more equitable business environment across the region. “The program will heavily impact low-and-moderate income residents of the Tulsa community who can’t get a loan because their credit score is too low,” said Rose Washington-Jones, executive director of Tulsa Economic Development Core. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s overall cattle numbers increase as national population dips to 1950s levels: The number of cattle and calves in Oklahoma is up in the new year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle Survey, but shoppers still might see differences at the grocery store. Derrell Peel, an OSU extension livestock marketing specialist, said on a national level the all-cattle inventory is the lowest it’s been in 73 years. [KOSU]

Midwest ‘brain drain’ persists. And job opportunity is the main driver: “Brain drain,” the migration of people with a higher education degree, remains an issue in most of the Midwest and Great Plains. Recent U.S. Census data shows many states are losing some of their most educated residents. [Harvest Public Media / KOSU]

Education News

Walters says he wants cap on private school tax credits eliminated at Monday special meeting: The controversial private school tax credit program, House Bill 1934, provides up to $150 million in tax credits for parents in tax year 2024, some $200 million in 2025 and $250 million in 2026. Tax Commission officials said in December that applications may exceed the first-year program limit. At Monday’s meeting, State Superintendent Ryan Walters lamented the funding limits the Legislature placed on the program. “I don’t want there to be a cap — I think every family that signs up should receive funding. It’s my biggest concern moving forward,” Walters said. [Tulsa World]

TPS board approves new nature-focused charter school: Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education voted to authorize a new charter elementary school that is slated to begin classes in August 2025. The school will incorporate a nature-focused curriculum incorporating the Waldorf philosophy of education, which puts an emphasis on hands-on, arts-infused, experience-based learning and individualized instruction with minimal use of technology. [Tulsa World]

General News

Jury awards $20 million in punitive damages as The Oklahoman’s libel trial concludes: The Oklahoman libel trial culminated yesterday when jurors announced their verdict finding Gannett Co., Inc. liable for $20 million in punitive damages to Scott Sapulpa for misidentifying him as the user of a racial slur during a high school basketball game broadcast in 2021. The verdict follows jurors’ Friday decision finding Gannett liable to Sapulpa for $5 million in actual damages. [NonDoc]

  • Jury says The Oklahoman defamed announcer, awards $25 million in damages; Gannett to appeal [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • NE Oklahoma City childcare center offers unique education for kids [KFOR]

Quote of the Day

“A flat budget is a cut. There’s something called inflation. There’s something called ‘fixed costs’ you have to operate as an agency. These folks are not growing government. They’re simply (providing) the very basic needs of Oklahomans.”

-Oklahoma House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson said during a press conference yesterday in response to the governor’s State of the State address on Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


In one year-long randomized controlled trial in Oklahoma County, payments to the court for legal debts totaled less than 5 percent of all outstanding debt despite significant efforts at collection. [Vera Institute of Justice]

Policy Note

 A Matter of Time: The Case for Shortening Criminal Debt Collection Statutes of Limitations, a 50-State Survey: Legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed on people in the criminal legal system trap many in cycles of poverty and punishment. When reducing the amount of debt that people owe is not viable, reducing the amount of time during which people are subject to court debt can offer significant relief from the burden and consequences of that debt. In this brief, Vera builds the case for using statutes of limitations (SOL) reform as an effective pathway for relief by outlining the scope and scale of the national LFO debt problem, describing the functions and capabilities of SOL reforms for criminal debt relief, and surveys the various periods of enforcement for criminal debts as compared to civil debts across all 50 states. [Vera Institute of Justice]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.