In 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
Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan takes a step forward: The Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan took a step forward just before noon today. Multiple bills cleared the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, including an 83-page bill that could create $581 million for Fiscal Year 2019 if it passes the full House and the Senate next week. That, however, will be no easy task, as five of the seven Democrats on the House committee voted against the major tax proposal, which mirrors the major revenue bill that fell five votes short in November, with two primary differences. [NonDoc]
Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families: Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the amendment to HB 1037, the income tax component of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which passed out of House committee today: The move to restore Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit and other changes in this amendment will make it easier for low- and middle-income Oklahomans to support themselves and their families. [OKPolicy]
Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor): As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience. We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours. Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence. Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX, that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies. [OK Policy]
Tempers flare with talk of ‘punitive’ wind energy taxation: Tempers flared Tuesday as members of a wind advocacy group accused some lawmakers of pressing for “punitive” taxation that would harm the industry. “I think there have been some that have grabbed onto the anti-wind rhetoric and believe that’s the scapegoat for the state’s problems and the state’s ills,” said Mark Yates, executive director of OK WindPower, which promotes wind development. Yates said the industry has “truly transformed our energy economy,” and Oklahoma is now the No. 2 wind producer in the country. Only Texas produces more, he said. [Claremore Daily Progress]
Tax Commission letter refutes claims of wind industry: The Oklahoma Tax Commission has refuted claims by wind industry representatives that state incentives have expired for the renewable energy source. The state has already paid out more than $63 million in tax credits connected to wind power in the current fiscal year, according to Tony Mastin, executive director of the tax commission. The state will be refunding credits for at least the next ten years, Mastin said in a letter to Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller. Miller had initiated the analysis trying to verify claims by wind industry representatives. [NewsOK]
Experts Say Oklahoma’s Opioid Plan Does Little to Expand Treatment: Drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma increased 91 percent over the last decade and a half, prompting the state to form a task force charged with a daunting goal: Brainstorm a plan to guide the state out of an opioid epidemic that kills three Oklahomans nearly every day. The Commission on Opioid Abuse released its final report in January. “The sort of clear and present danger is overprescribing and oversupply, and that was the focus of what we looked at,” Attorney General Mike Hunter, who headed the nine-member commission, said in an interview with StateImpact. [NPR]
Oklahoma sees 15 percent surge in tax revenue for January in year-over-year comparison: January’s gross receipts to the state treasury surged 15 percent above the same month a year ago, Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller announced Thursday. Gross receipts are all taxes paid to the state, including those collected on behalf of local governments and money returned to taxpayers as refunds and rebates. Thursday morning’s report was issued hours before the Legislature began considering a $750 million revenue package that proponents say is necessary to assure long-term fiscal stability for the state after years of budget crises. [Tulsa World]
Senator J.J. Dossett: “Oklahoma’s budget a mess”: For far too long, Oklahoma’s budget has been a mess. Because of terrible budgeting practices put in place years ago, even in years of economic improvement, we continually face shortfalls and failures. For a decade our teachers have watched the size of their classrooms grow while their resources have shrunk. They’ve seen their work levels and responsibilities increase daily as a direct result of inadequate funding. And yet they have seen the buying power of their pay continue to shrink. [Skiatook Journal]
Republicans want to turn the entire country into Oklahoma: We have in this country an essentially unchanging disagreement about what model of governance will produce the best economic and social results. Democrats advocate what we might call weak social democracy: relatively high taxes (though lower than those of our peer countries), combined with a relatively strong safety net (though again, not as strong as other countries), spending on needs like education and health care, and economic regulation to protect workers, consumers and the environment. Republicans, on the other hand, advocate low taxes, less social spending and less regulation. Both sides have moral arguments for why their models are better, but they also make practical arguments. They say that their model works, and that when it is implemented, we see positive results. While the moral argument may not be resolvable, the practical argument can be tested. [Washington Post]
Oklahoma sets record in flu hospitalizations, near record number of deaths for modern era: This year’s brutal flu season has set a record for the number of flu hospitalizations in the state since tracking began in 2009. And the number of deaths in Oklahoma is also poised to set a record, with 129 deaths so far this season — one short of the record 130 deaths recorded last season, state health officials said. A total of 3,000 people have been hospitalized statewide for the flu, including 748 in Tulsa County, between Sept. 1 and Tuesday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [Tulsa World] As the flu spreads across Oklahoma, one lawmaker wants to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who refuse to get the influenza vaccine. [Enid News]
Hamilton: Nonpartisan redistricting commission needed: Step Up Oklahoma’s efforts to streamline state government and bolster its finances omitted what may be the most significant available reform: changing the way legislative district boundaries are drawn every decade. I know, I know. Redistricting is a word guaranteed to cause eyes to glaze over. But that doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly important, even if it fails to drive up blood pressure like cigarette or gasoline tax hikes. If the powers that be behind Step Up Oklahoma truly seek a better, fairer path forward and not just to cement their control over a system already tilted in their favor, they will embrace nascent efforts to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. [Journal Record]
Voting begins for next OKC mayor, OKCPS board member: Four county election boards opened for early voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday for voters to decide who will be City of Oklahoma City’s next mayor. Also on the ballot are candidates for Board of Education seats in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Early voting will continue Friday at election boards from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, regular polling locations will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The city’s expansive boundaries cover most of Oklahoma County but also reach into Canadian, Cleveland and Pottawatomie Counties. [Free Press OKC]
Rural Oklahoma Development Set for Renovation: Located in the rural community of Kingfisher, Okla., Autumn Trace Apartments is the only affordable housing property specifically designated for seniors in the area. Under a new deal, the property will be renovated and remain affordable for years to come. Hunt Capital Partners, in partnership with Volunteers of America National Services (VOA), announced the financial closing of $1.75 million in low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity for the acquisition and rehabilitation of Autumn Trace. [Affordable Housing Finance]
Quote of the Day
“Truly we have reached a fork in the road. The direction we choose this session will impact our entire state for decades to come.”
– Senator J.J. Dossett on efforts by lawmakers pass new revenues to fix the state budget (Source)
Number of the Day
Number of woman-owned firms with paid employees in Oklahoma, about 17.6 percent of all firms in the state.
What Happens to People Who Fail Work Requirements? People who receive government assistance ought to do something to show they’re trying to lift themselves out of poverty, rather than remaining on the taxpayer dole forever. At least, that’s the general idea behind attaching work requirements to welfare programs: If recipients have a job or are engaged in some kind of job training, they might eventually earn enough to not need welfare anymore. In theory, the policy should reduce dependency on government, save taxpayer money and encourage Americans to solve their economic problems through employment. But what happens when people fail to meet work requirements? What happens when the policy leaves someone in deep poverty? [Governing]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.