In The Know: More than $140M available to return to Oklahoma agencies

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

More than $140M available to return to Oklahoma agencies: Mid-year budget cuts ordered for Oklahoma agencies amid a revenue downturn earlier this year were deeper than necessary, resulting in $140.8 million in additional revenue that could be returned to state agencies or used to help fund a teacher pay raise, state finance officials announced on Wednesday. …Gov. Mary Fallin said she is talking to Republican legislative leaders about the possibility of calling a special session to consider using the money as part of a teacher pay raise package, although specific details haven’t been worked out [NewsOK]. After two revenue failures, Oklahoma will end the year with surplus. What? [OK Policy]

Oklahoma wind farm construction continues: Oklahoma didn’t complete any wind farms in the second quarter, but the state has more than 1,100 megawatts under construction so far this year, a national wind trade group said Tuesday in its latest market report. The American Wind Energy Association said just 310 megawatts of wind capacity was installed across the country in the second quarter. That came after 520 megawatts were added in the first three months of 2016 [NewsOK].

Trump’s Fundraising in Okla. Eclipses Clinton’s for First Time: Donald Trump has a new reason to believe that deep-red Oklahoma will swing his way as the presidential campaign accelerates into the final months. Federal Election Commission filings released recently show that June was the first time the Republican presidential nominee has raised more money in the state than his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma economy slides again in first quarter: Lower oil prices and manufacturing declines dragged on the Oklahoma economy as the state posted its fourth consecutive quarterly contraction, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday. Led by losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 percent in the first quarter. The state joined 13 others with contractions in the first three months of the year [NewsOK].

Cuts to alternative education will come back to haunt us: Nothing is as critical to a young person’s future prospects as a high school diploma. Decades of research shows that those who drop out of high school are at significantly higher risk of being unemployed, living in poverty, and serving time in prison. Over the past two decades, Oklahoma has been a national leader for alternative education programs that keep at-risk students in school and help them to graduate [OK Policy]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: The progressive case for SQ 779: Last week the state Supreme Court ruled that State Question 779, the initiative petition to give teachers a $5,000 raise and make other investments in public education through a 1-cent sales tax increase, will be on November’s ballot. Many proponents of higher teacher pay are troubled because the sales tax hits low-income households hardest. This is a valid concern, especially as these same families have benefited little from the past decade’s income tax cuts [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Our statement on the initiative petition is here

Oklahoma sees increase in whooping cough cases: Oklahoma has seen an increase in 2016 in the occurrence of pertussis, or whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease that can cause serious illness in children and adults. Since Jan. 1, Oklahoma has seen 70 confirmed cases of pertussis, compared to 86 confirmed cases for all of 2015, according to the state Health Department [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s effort to bring wine, beer sales to grocery stores gets underway: Supporters of the effort to bring beer and wine sales to Oklahoma grocery stores kicked off a campaign Wednesday to earn votes for the state question on the November ballot. Yes on 792 held a news conference at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City to launch the campaign. Jeff Reasor, the campaign’s chairman and CEO of Reasor’s grocery stores, state Sen. Stephanie Bice, and Roy Williams, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber CEO, spoke in support of the effort [NewsOK].

Study: Half of casino revenue from rural areas: Mayor Julie Ferguson has lived in this eastern Oklahoma city for more than 40 years. She and her husband first came to the city so he could work in the coal industry. She said the Cherokee Nation’s continued expansions at its casino have made the town more attractive to outside businesses. The casino is off Interstate 40 and is clearly visible from the highway [Journal Record]. Here’s why the lottery didn’t fix Oklahoma’s education funding problems [OK Policy].

Joint Police Team Defends Civil Asset Forfeiture In OK: Civil asset forfeiture will likely be a hot topic in the state legislature next session. The law allows police to seize assets, like money, without making an arrest and without a warrant as long as officers have a probable cause to believe that what they are seizing was used in a crime. Local law enforcement says it’s a valuable tool to break up the flow of drugs and drug money coming through Oklahoma [News9]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Department of Corrections appoints new warden for Oklahoma State Penitentiary: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Wednesday it has appointed a Florida warden be in charge of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the state’s highest-security prison and home to its death-row unit. Terry Royal, 44, of Clermont, Florida, will replace interim warden Kevin Duckworth. The appointment is pending approval from the Oklahoma Board of Corrections, which will take up the issue at its September meeting [Tulsa World].

Former Oklahoma Senate leader in federal prison in Arkansas: A former Oklahoma Senate president pro tem has begun his 18-month prison sentence at a low-security federal correctional institution in eastern Arkansas. Mike Morgan, a Stillwater Democrat, was convicted at trial in 2012 of accepting $12,000 in bribes to influence legislation. He originally was sentenced in 2013 to five years on probation [NewsOK].

Tax Commission: Blue Dome District bars owned by Tulsa city councilor failed to pay about $80,000 in taxes: Three bars in the downtown Blue Dome District owned by a Tulsa city councilor failed to pay about $80,000 in state taxes over the past two years, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Court action was taken to collect the debt from The Max Retropub, 114 S. Elgin Ave.; The Fur Shop, 520 E. Third St.; and Legends Dance Hall & Saloon, 514 E. Second St [Tulsa World].

Heat Causes Sequoyah County Highway To Buckle: The summer heat is making a mess of some Oklahoma roads.  Video taken in Sequoyah County Sunday of Highway 64 near Vian shows the roadway buckled, then collapsed. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has reported similar problems in the past in Washington and McIntosh counties [NewsOn6]. 

Quote of the Day

“If the Republicans truly cared about teachers, they would have used their legislative supermajorities to pass a teacher pay raise at any time during the past eight years — when teachers last had a pay raise. And that included years when oil was bringing $100 a barrel.”

– House Democratic Leader Scott Inman (D-Oklahoma City), speaking against a suggested special legislative session to use the state’s surprise $140 million surplus to fund a teacher pay raise, rather than return the funds to state agencies (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s eligible voters who voted in the 2014 General Elections, the 2nd lowest voter turnout in the U.S.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Tax Aspects of Pokémon Go: The new Pokémon Go app has already generated many discussions regarding the multiple ways that the game intersects with the law. I’ve previously opined on some of the broader issues, but, as a tax professor, my thoughts have naturally focused on that topic. Fortunately, the Surly Subgroup was nice enough to let me present those thoughts here in a guest post. The tax issues that I’ve been thinking about stem largely from the fact that Pokémon Go is built on a freemium business model [The Surly Subgroup].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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