In The Know: With Step Up failure, budget cuts loom again

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

With Step Up failure, budget cuts loom again: If Oklahoma state agencies have to make the cuts under consideration, they’ll seem three times as steep, so some officials are taking precautions now. On Monday, the House of Representatives failed to pass House Bill 1033, one of the major funding components within the Step Up Oklahoma plan. The measure contained several tax increases that would have helped lawmakers plug the roughly $90 million budget hole that remains for fiscal 2018. Top Republicans said that plan was the state’s final opportunity to raise revenue before cuts became inevitable. House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said Tuesday the Legislature could work with the executive branch to find about $50 million in cash resources, and members would likely have to authorize between $40 million and $45 million in cuts [Journal Record]. 

Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven): Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends. You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class. But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch. Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on. Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools [OK Policy].

Teacher writes honest open letter to Oklahoma Legislature: A local teacher wrote an honest open letter to the Oklahoma Legislature after a $581 tax bill that would have given teachers a raise failed. On Monday, House Bill 1033, part of the Step Up Oklahoma, remained at 63-35 for hours. The measure would impose additional taxes on tobacco, diesel fuel and wind energy. It would also raise the gross production tax (GPT) on all wells from 2 percent to 4 percent. In order to pass the House, it needed 76 votes [KFOR News].

Prosperity Policy: Don’t rush to consolidate power: Since lawmakers reconvened last week, attention has focused on the package of revenue bills aimed at stabilizing the state budget and providing teachers a raise. Far less conspicuous has been a bill that would involve a massive transfer of power to future governors. House Bill 1027 was filed last week as a special session bill and passed by the House Rules Committee. Beginning in 2019, it would give the governor full power to appoint and remove the heads of seven major state agencies, including the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Office of Juvenile Affairs, and Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Corrections and Health. The boards and commissions that currently govern these agencies would become advisory only, without any statutory duties or authority [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Step Up effort could be sign of new paradigm: The status quo is always hard to overcome. Add political gamesmanship and an onerous constitutional supermajority requirement and even a game-changing plan for our State with broad-based public support has no chance of dethroning the status quo. We continue to have a debilitating budget problem. After years of budget cuts and unfulfilled expectations, fundamental state services including education, health care, mental health, and corrections are near the breaking point [Scott Meacham / NewsOK].

Oklahoma higher education proponents regroup for continued fight for funding: One day after a $581 million revenue bill failed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, higher education proponents gathered Tuesday at the state Capitol to promote their agenda and funding request. “In this legislative environment, you’ve got to regroup and look at what the options are,” Chancellor Glen Johnson said. “We look forward to engaging as early as today with our governor and with our leadership on what those options are [NewsOK]. Here are 5 takeaways from 2018 Higher Ed Day [NewsOK].

Oklahoma pulling up red carpet offered to wind industry: As Oklahoma sought to diversify its oil-and-gas powered economy in the early 2000s, policymakers rolled out the red carpet for the burgeoning wind industry, offering generous state tax incentives and access to windy, inexpensive tracts of land. The industry exploded from virtually nothing in 2002 to 7,495 megawatts of capacity last year, ranking it No. 2 nationally in installed wind capacity behind neighboring Texas to the south. More than 3,700 giant turbines now dot vast swathes of central and western Oklahoma’s rural landscape. But as the state’s finances plunged into recession amid a downturn in the oil patch in recent years, lawmakers ended all the state incentives and now are considering a new production tax on wind and even capping previously guaranteed incentives [Miami OK].

Citing budget uncertainty, Oklahoma Department of Corrections implements hiring freeze: Citing uncertainty with the current fiscal year budget, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections on Wednesday announced a hiring freeze. The freeze would apply to all posts except for correctional officers, food service workers and maintenance staff. It also would not apply to those with employment offers already on the table. “Nearly 90 percent of our budget falls into four categories,” said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh. “That does not leave much wiggle room. We can’t just close the Department of Corrections to save money [Tulsa World].

Airbnb voluntarily adds taxes in Oklahoma: Beginning March 1, Airbnb will begin collecting and remitting the 5% Lodging Tax on behalf of its hosts and guests on eligible bookings in Tulsa. With this new agreement, Tulsa joins more than 350 jurisdictions globally where Airbnb has collected and remitted more than $510 million in hotel and tourist taxes since 2014. The company has partnered with Tulsa on this new tax agreement and currently has agreements with Oklahoma City as well [KFOR News].

The City of Oklahoma City teamed with struggling neighborhoods to revive their areas: There once was a tale of two cities in Oklahoma City, a tug of war between declining urban areas and booming suburbs. All that began to change a few decades ago when citizens backed plans for capital infrastructure projects that ushered in a resurgent downtown core. Yet outside downtown and its neighboring commercial areas and historic preservation districts, there was no renaissance story. Urban neighborhoods struggled from the aftereffects of urban sprawl. It was easy to spot boarded-up doors and windows on homes, collapsed garages and porches, cracked sidewalks and more, all clouds of embarrassment for longtime residents and city leaders [Oklahoma Gazette].

American drinking water could soon get a lot dirtier: A new plan to speed up the way the US government does business related to federal waters may leave some cities footing a bigger bill for clean drinking water. The White House on Monday released its new infrastructure plan, which calls for “protecting clean water with greater efficiency.” In the plan the Trump administration outlines proposals for how to reduce the number of federal agencies that need to sign off on permits for dumping “dredged or fill material” into the nation’s waterways. Such sites include fisheries, wetlands, and tap-water supplies. If the plan gets the green light, it will undo the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to veto building permits that affect US waterways, and cut back on environmental reviews [Business Insider].

Some feeling chapped by sunscreen legislation: A Tulsa lawmaker doesn’t want any students getting burned at school. Republican state Sen. Gary Stanislawski said it’s time for districts to allow children to bring sunscreen to school and to self-apply it without the written authorization of a parent or doctor. If a child can’t apply it on their own, Stanislawski said nurses, administrators or other designated district employees should apply it for them — with written permission from a parent [Enid News & Eagle].

Lawmaker wants Oklahoma’s “Stand Your Ground” law to cover places of worship: An Oklahoma House committee signed off Wednesday on a proposed expansion of the state’s “stand your ground” law. House Bill 2632 by Rep. Greg Babinec would add places of worship to the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act as locations where killing someone in self-defense cannot be prosecuted. Rep. David Perryman said by not defining what a place of worship is, the bill is a backdoor attempt at constitutional carry [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoma reproductive freedom organization fights for legislation: This Valentines Day, family and healthcare advocates gathered at the Capitol in support of 15 House Bills and 10 Senate bills that would bolster reproductive freedoms and improve conditions for Oklahoma families. At the third annual Pink Love lobby day, volunteers spent the day rallying in support of Oklahoma’s most pro-family legislation of 2018. The event, hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, was an opportunity to promote bills that Oklahoma women love [Norman Transcript].

Measles case confirmed in Cleveland County: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has confirmed the first case of measles in Oklahoma in three years. The department says that the case was confirmed in Norman. The infected individual had just returned to the state from international travel. The contagious respiratory disease spreads through the air and can stay airborne up to two hours after those infected leave the indoor area. Officials would like to alert anyone that may have been in contact with the person infected [FOX25].

Quote of the Day

“It sad to think an Oklahoma teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps; must work two or three part time jobs to make ends meet and cannot even afford to send their children to Oklahoma universities without putting themselves and their children in debt. By failing to invest in education you are condemning Oklahoma’s children to a substandard education that will impact them for a life time.”

Thomas A. Pecore, Putnam City North High School teacher and soccer coach writing an open letter to the state Legislature (Source).

Number of the Day


Job growth in Oklahoma City in 2017, ranking 41st out of the 53 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Source: Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Lessons From the Last Push for Welfare Reform: The original welfare-reform bill — the 1996 law that created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program — changed the financing and benefit structure of cash assistance. For conservatives, the program has been a model of resounding success, with shrinking costs and a welfare caseload that decreases by the year. But based on several studies of TANF and its beneficiaries, it barely reaches even the poorest Americans, and has all but ceased doing the work of lifting people out of poverty. “Welfare reform” didn’t fix welfare so much as destroy it, and if similar changes were applied to Medicaid and food stamps, they would likely do the same. [The Atlantic].

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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.

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