In The Know: Fallin wants more revenue from tobacco and sales taxes

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.

This post has been updated to reflect a correction.

Today In The News

Fallin wants more revenue from tobacco and sales taxes: Trying to close a huge budget hole, Gov. Mary Fallin suggested Monday increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack and applying a sales tax to some goods and services that are now exempt. Speaking to the Legislature on the first day of its yearly session, she also proposed 6 percent spending cuts for most state agencies, while recommending select funding increases, including a $3,000-a-year pay hike to public school teachers [NewsOK]. The American Lung Association gave Oklahoma a failing grade for its low tobacco tax [Tulsa World]. Read our statement on the proposed new revenues here.

Bills to rein in Oklahoma tax subsidies face opposition: Opposition surfaced Tuesday against several bills that would rein in costly state tax subsidies, sending a strong signal to lawmakers that taking them away will be no easy task, even amid a steep budget shortfall. Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican state legislative leaders all have endorsed repealing or reducing various tax exemptions and deductions as a way to help close a $900 million hole in the state budget [Associated Press].

Sayre hospital closes doors after ongoing financial woes: Blaming “continual financial strain,” Sayre Memorial Hospital abruptly closed its doors on Monday. In a statement, Sayre Memorial Hospital said it had been hit hard by declining Medicare reimbursements as well as Oklahoma’s decision not to expand Medicaid after the passage of the the Affordable Care Act [NewsOK]. Various stakeholders urged Gov. Fallin to accept federal health care money at OK Policy’s State Budget Summit last week [Norman Transcript]. Medicaid expansion’s track record shows it’s a good deal for the state [OK Policy].

Shallow cuts still hurt: Shrinking budget worries patients with rare diseases: Tonia Sina’s rare kidney disease makes her unique in Oklahoma: She’s the only person with the diagnosis. She said she relies on a combination of private and federally sponsored insurance to cover her complicated medical issues and frequent hospitalizations. But budget cuts to state health agencies could affect Sina and thousands of Oklahomans with rare diseases. Gov. Mary Fallin announced Monday her proposed budget would cut 3 percent of appropriations from the Health Care Authority and several other agencies. Other agencies are facing higher reductions [Journal Record].

Fallin’s SOTS: Oklahoma needs to fix criminal justice: Today, at her State of the State address, Governor Mary Fallin spent a significant amount of time speaking about criminal justice reform. During her second and final inauguration, Fallin said prison reform would be one of the top three issues of her final term as governor. And, while there was a new spark of interest in justice reform last year, the Oklahoma Legislature largely ignored the topic. This year, however, lawmakers, advocates, and state officials from both sides of the aisle are taking up the issue [NewsOK].

The federal prison problem — Jonah has swallowed the whale: A one-size-fits-all sentencing policy has swelled the federal prison population to historic highs and is not giving taxpayers a good return on investment in terms of safer communities, reduced costs or better inmate outcomes. That’s the conclusion reached by the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, headed by former Oklahoma U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts [J.C. Watts / Tulsa World].

Governor’s proposals to fund education only a ‘Band-Aid,’ David Boren says: Gov. Mary Fallin is offering a “Band-Aid” to a patient in serious condition, University of Oklahoma President David Boren says. “It’s time for a comprehensive funding plan for education,” Boren said in a prepared statement released after the governor’s State of the State speech to lawmakers on Monday [Tulsa World].

Fallin raises eyebrows with plan for teacher raises: As most agencies learned they are staring down the barrel of a 6-percent budget cut, Gov. Mary Fallin promised Monday to spend $178.4 million to give all public teachers raises. Some Democrats and others scoffed that Fallin would even suggest raising teacher pay in the face of a budget hole of more than $900 million [Enid News].

Seeing success, conservative Oklahoma banks on universal preschool: Children in Oklahoma don’t wait for kindergarten to begin public education; there’s preschool for anyone who wants it. While costly, the government program has been hailed for the long-term benefits and has become a national model. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Tulsa [PBS NewsHour]. A representative of the OKC Chamber of Commerce spoke out against SB 1324, which would effectively end universal pre-k [NonDoc].

Federal Government Opens New Civil Rights Probe Into Oklahoma City Public Schools: A federal civil rights agency has opened its fourth investigation into Oklahoma City Public Schools, this time focused on claims that school officials discriminated against special education students. Officials with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said the newest investigation, filed on Dec. 3, examines whether the district applied different treatment, exclusion or denial of benefits to students with disabilities [KGOU].

Oklahoma student leaders propose a realistic minimum wage: Since 2013, substantive reforms to several state and local minimum wage systems have been implemented across the United States. Advocacy groups such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for $15 have steadily been gaining popular support and successfully driving the movement to raise the minimum wage into the political forefront. While the movement has seen notable success in U.S. cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City, other cities and rural areas are having difficulty garnering support behind the idea of the $15 livable wage [Andrew Hocutt / OK Policy].

In Wake Of Shootings, An Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants To Fix ‘Stand Your Ground’: Oklahoma state Sen. Kevin Matthews (D) is seeking to amend his state’s “stand your ground” law in the wake of a 2015 shooting that led to the death of a young man. In February 2015, a security guard at a Tulsa apartment complex shot 21-year-old Monroe Bird III in the spine, paralyzing him. The guard, Ricky Stone, argued that he was acting in self-defense because Bird had allegedly backed his vehicle into him [Huffington Post].

Lamb’s ties to new group could boost future campaigns: The E Foundation, created this year, has some of Oklahoma’s most influential industry and business leaders occupying top-level seats. Aside from the group’s stated goal of developing long-term strategic policy plans for the state, its members also get to rub elbows with a man who has all but announced a campaign for governor [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Treasurer Hopeful About State Economy: Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller remains bullish on the state of Oklahoma, he said at the 4o’clock 4cast Thursday before the Edmond Economic Development Authority in Edmond, Okla. The state’s anchor industry of oil and gas is being rocked, but the state economy’s fundamentals remain, Miller said. Collections for oil and natural gas were down in December [Edmond Sun].

Fort Sill to gain positions under Army restructuring: Fort Sill, the U.S. Army artillery post in southwest Oklahoma, will once again gain jobs while many other bases are downsizing, according to officials at the post and on Capitol Hill. Over the next two years, restructuring will mean a gain of roughly 400 positions [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We have schools moving to four-day weeks to save money and others who are already laying off employees to make ends meet this school year. She didn’t address those problems in her speech today.”

-Alicia Priest, president of Oklahoma Education Association, expressing skepticism about the $3,000 teacher salary raise proposed by Gov. Fallin in her State of the State address on Monday (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s total land area that is farmland, 2012.

Source: USDA.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most who OD on opioids are able to get new prescriptions: More than 90 percent of people who survived a prescription opioid overdose were able to obtain another prescription for the very drugs that nearly killed them, according to a Boston Medical Center study of chronic pain treatment published Monday. Amid nationwide alarm over soaring overdose deaths, the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine is believed to be the first to ask: What happens to those who survive? [Boston Globe]

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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