In The Know: The latest on Oklahoma GOP’s education and budget deals | Flat taxes, proposed cuts make our tax system less fair | 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.

New from OK Policy

Flat tax, tax triggers would make Oklahoma’s tax system less fair, less adequate, and less stable: With less than two weeks left in the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers have very little time remaining to reach agreement on, reveal, and adopt the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget. Bills that would change tax policy are typically unveiled as part of the budget package. Though they have not yet been introduced, this year’s budget package might include several ill-advised tax changes, such as the creation of private school vouchers via a tax credit. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Opinion: Tax cuts today means even worse Oklahoma outcomes tomorrow: Most Oklahomans recognize that taxes are an illustration of community; they are what we contribute to live and thrive in a functioning society. During the last two decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have implemented a host of tax cuts that were promised to bring prosperity to all. Instead, they weakened the state’s ability to deliver vital services and programs as our population grows and inflation rises. [Emma Morris Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma News

Will GOP Lawmakers Strike an Education Deal This Week?: Republican leaders in Oklahoma’s House and Senate have seemingly aligned on teacher pay raises, directing more funds to school districts in low-income and rural areas and establishing a refundable tax credit system for private and homeschool families. [Oklahoma Watch]

What to expect in the final two weeks of Oklahoma legislative session: On paper there’s just under two weeks left before Oklahoma lawmakers have to wrap up their business for the year and go home. The legislative session begins every February and by law must end on or before May 26 this year. Here’s what to expect in these final weeks: Anything. [The Oklahoman]

  • Deal or no deal? [NonDoc]
  • Senate and House Democrats call for transparent budget process [Okemah News Leader]
  • Capitol Insider: Time running short for tax cuts, education funding, and state budget [KGOU]

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt: Oklahoma lawmakers should be subject to public records law: Gov. Kevin Stitt wants state lawmakers to be subject to the public records laws that apply to the executive branch, state agencies, and city and county government entities. But the GOP-led Oklahoma Legislature appears unlikely to undo an exemption in state law that shields lawmakers’ emails, text messages, calendars and other records from public scrutiny. [Tulsa World]

Whistleblower claims Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters lied to state lawmakers: A whistleblower who formerly worked at the Oklahoma State Department of Education claims Superintendent Ryan Walters’ administration failed to follow through on federal grant contracts worth millions of dollars, and that he outright lied to lawmakers about the status of grants. [KOSU]

  • As nearly $200M of federal education grants expire, lawmakers question if OSDE is applying [OKC Fox 25]

Measure hiking monthly cell phone fees for 911 upgrade heads to governor: As part of an effort to upgrade the state’s emergency hotline system, Oklahomans will see a permanent 67 percent increase in the monthly 911 fees that they pay on each cell phone line if Gov. Kevin Stitt signs a measure into law that cleared its final legislative hearing Thursday. [NonDoc]

Opinion: New state law fails to protect most vulnerable Oklahoma kids: These are the names of some mothers of transgender children in Oklahoma. They are wonderful and caring mothers and, like most, are willing to do whatever it takes to help their children be safe, healthy and fulfilled. After Senate Bill 613, they are now facing a nightmare — the care their kid desperately needs to survive in this world has been outlawed, making an already difficult system of health care even more cloudy, with providers fearful of criminal charges. [Chris Moore and Josh Payton Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Stitt indicates Clifford the Big Red Dog could be a big red issue in 2024: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attempt to shut down Oklahoma’s Public Broadcasting System because of programming like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “NewsHour” and “Let’s Learn” have earned him and the state national attention. Whether it’s good or bad attention is a matter of perspective. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

OK congressman says proposed federal regulation would harm truckers, farmers, ranchers: Oklahoma Congressman Josh Brecheen (R) is trying to put the brakes on a proposed federal rule that he argues would negatively impact farmers, ranchers, and truckers. [OKC Fox 25]

Tribal Nations News

Postal Service unveils stamp honoring Ponca Chief Standing Bear: A Ponca tribe chief whose landmark lawsuit in 1879 established that a Native American is a person under the law was honored Friday with the unveiling of a U.S. Postal Service stamp that features his portrait. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Henryetta district legislator wants tougher sentencing for sex offenders: State Rep. Scott Fetgatter’s stages of grief have resulted in him pushing for a bill that would lengthen the prison sentence for offenders of serious sex crimes, his response to this month’s killing of six people in his eastern Oklahoma district. [The Oklahoman]

Living Hell: The Oklahoma County jail: The Oklahoma County jail has been plagued by problems for decades, many that only got worse under the watch of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, a nine-member panel appointed in 2019 that was intended to bring order and reduce deaths and assaults at the 13-story facility in downtown Oklahoma City. A year-long investigation by The Oklahoman found that since the panel, known as the jail trust, took over, the detention center went from being a dangerous facility to one of the deadliest — if not the deadliest — large jails in America. [The Oklahoman]

  • The Oklahoma County Jail under the Jail Trust. A timeline of trouble [The Oklahoman]
  • Every inmate who died at the Oklahoma County Jail since the Trust took over [The Oklahoman]
  • Broken Trust: How the Oklahoma County jail leadership failed those it sought to protect [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa police chief laments lack of action to reduce gun violence: “People talk — the legislators talk about it — but nobody has put pen to paper and done anything to try and help curb this,” Franklin said last week in an interview with the Tulsa World. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

States responding to housing crisis through variety of programs: As the nation’s affordable housing crisis continues to worsen, a multi-pronged approach from local, state and federal officials is needed, experts say. [CNHI News]

  • Advocates: States’ housing stability programs ‘chronically’ underfunded [CNHI News]

Opinion: It takes more than shoes to give life-altering help to those without a home: Tulsa has more than 3,000 people without a permanent home. Many are on the streets with a daily struggle to just survive. Some don’t make it. The average life expectancy for someone on the streets is about 20 years less than most of people reading this now, who are under a roof with their basic needs met. [Brad Johnson Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Facing hunger in north Tulsa as a legacy issue: While food insecurity is a worldwide concern, it is a legacy issue for many people living in north Tulsa. In north Tulsa, the food crisis began decades ago. [Kevin Harper Community Advisory Board Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Devon reports record oil production in first quarter; Chesapeake profit grows: Devon Energy produced a record amount of oil in the first quarter of this year, the company said this week in an earnings report that showed nearly $1 billion in profit in the first three months of the year. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma says 13 major financial institutions are boycotting the oil and gas industry:  Oklahoma’s state treasurer has issued a list of 13 financial institutions that he says are boycotting Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and shouldn’t be allowed to do business with the state. Last year, lawmakers targeted financial institutions and investment managers with environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies that limit the companies’ involvement with oil and gas companies. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s fight over ‘woke investing’ draws meeting with BlackRock: In the midst of a crusade by Gov. Kevin Stitt and state Treasurer Todd Russ against a range of progressive policies, state officials met with BlackRock representatives this week to discuss the firm’s ban from doing state business. [Journal Record]

ONG seeks rate hike, while OG&E could make request in second half of the year: Oklahoma Natural Gas is seeking a rate hike that would add $1.55 to the average residential customer’s monthly bill this year, while Oklahoma Gas and Electric may seek a rate review in the second half of the year. [The Oklahoman]

ONEOK to acquire Magellan Midstream Partners for $18.8B: NEOK Inc. announced Sunday that it will acquire Magellan Midstream Partners LP for $18.8 billion, including assumed debt, resulting in a combined company with a total value of $60 billion. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Lawmakers agree report cards for state schools not working: Oklahoma’s State Department of Education plans to revamp the way it produces public school report cards, and state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters may have support at the Capitol to accomplish that goal. The report cards, which give a grade letter for each public school in the state, were released later than usual this year and without the usual fanfare. Walters and the Education Department have been reluctant to discuss the report cards publicly, though they indicated an overhaul to the school evaluation system is coming. [The Oklahoman]

  • State report cards are out for area school districts, but changes may be coming [Tulsa World]

Rural charter schools in Oklahoma? The Academy of Seminole begins push to expand into other small towns: The founder and operators of The Academy of Seminole have applied for sponsorship of a second charter school location in Okmulgee and say they have their sights set next in the area of Chickasha or Blanchard and then Kingfisher. [Tulsa World]

Guest: Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board faces historic decision: The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is set to vote on a first-ever, publicly funded, religious charter school. This vote is expected to take place between mid-May and late June. Should the application be approved, Oklahoma would become the first state in the nation to approve and fund with public dollars a religious charter school. This decision has national implications that challenge the constitutional separation of church and state. [Erika Wright Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Commemoration Fund awards latest $1 million to groups supporting underserved, minority communities [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa-area businesses offering tuition and exam assistance, student loan repayment [Tulsa World]
  • Traffic on I-35 is abysmal. Here’s what Edmond has planned to fix it [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“If we continue to accept high levels of poverty, food insecurity, un-insurance, infant mortality and poor reading proficiency and college readiness — what happens next? What does our workforce look like in 30 years? How do we hope to attract new businesses or new residents?

– Emma Morris, OK Policy’s Health Care and Fiscal Policy Analyst, writing about Oklahoma’s need to protect state revenue so that we can invest in shared programs and services that improve the state’s outcomes. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


If Oklahoma adopted a 4.5 percent flat tax and increased the standard deduction (as proposed in HB 2285), almost two-thirds of the tax cut — 61 percent — would go to the wealthiest 20 percent of Oklahomans. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

The Pitfalls of Flat Income Tax: While most states have a graduated rate income tax, some state lawmakers have recently become enamored with the idea of moving toward flat rate taxes instead. What’s the difference? And are states well served by the transition? A flat tax is one where each taxpayer pays the same percentage of their income whereas a graduated tax applies higher rates to higher incomes. Flat taxes have some surface appeal but come with significant disadvantages. Critically, a flat tax guarantees that wealthy families’ total state and local tax bill will be a lower share of their income than that paid by families of more modest means. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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