In The Know: Bill to increase lottery prizes, payout to education signed by Gov. Mary Fallin

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Bill to increase lottery prizes, payout to education signed by Gov. Mary Fallin: Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed a measure designed to raise lottery prizes in hopes of increasing sales and funding for education. Current law requires the lottery to give 35 percent of its profits to education. House Bill 1837 removes that profit requirement. For years, lottery officials have said prizes were not competitive, hindering sales and reducing the amount of revenue the lottery could provide for education. Lawmakers had balked at making changes in the past, but a $878 million budget hole may have changed some minds [Tulsa World].

House Democrats grate on Republican majority as big revenue bill comes to the floor: Tsk, tsk, said Gov. Mary Fallin. Democrats aren’t voting for Republican tax bills, she said late Monday. “Us?” hooted several House Democrats via Twitter. “What about your own party?” And on that tranquil note, the House turns Wednesday to the first big revenue bill of the year. House Bill 2365, by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, would raise an estimated $390 million, most of it by raising the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and the fuel tax by 6 cents per gallon. The bill would also eliminate $50 million in oil and gas industry tax preferences, although those wouldn’t show up on the balance sheet until fiscal year 2019 [Tulsa World].

Senate passes bill reducing road funding; gas tax anticipated to fill gap: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that reduces funding for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Senate Bill 837 would reduce funding to the agency by $251 million in hopes that a portion of that could be made up by increasing the tax on gasoline and diesel by 6 cents. The measure passed by a vote of 39-5 and now heads to the House. A gasoline tax increase would require a super majority in both chambers and bring in $125.1 million [Tulsa World].

Sound budgeting needed to save Oklahoma: It’s not every day more than 20 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans come together with a unified goal. But the budget crisis has reached a tipping point, and members of the Save Our State Coalition agree we can’t sit idly by while the state’s persistent budget challenges worsen [Andy Moore and Amber England / NewsOK]. The Save Our State Coalition includes OK Policy and has released a Blueprint for a Better Budget [Save Our State].

Christians can’t abandon their historical investment in public education: Given this history, it seems surprising that we Christians have become so disinterested in supporting public education, and that those in our great state who have their hands on the levers of power — many who are followers of Jesus — would be indifferent or, worse, complicit in Oklahoma’s 47th-place national ranking. No doubt, we can and should do better than this [Pastor Ryan Moore / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoes six bills; one would divert cash into dead account: Oklahoma’s governor has vetoed a bill because lawmakers earmarked its revenue for an account that doesn’t exist. Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of House Bill 1670 was one of six she’s made so far this year. The bill raises a court fee by $1 and directs the money to the Toxicology Laboratory Revolving Fund at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Fallin noted that it doesn’t exist [NewsOK].

Itemized deduction reform is a promising state budget solution: Itemizing deductions is a strategy used almost entirely by wealthier households, since low- and medium-income households typically don’t spend enough on those categories to surpass the standard deduction. Overall, itemized deductions make our tax system more regressive by reducing tax bills for the wealthy but doing little for poor and middle class families who already pay the biggest share of their incomes in state and local taxes. With Oklahoma lawmakers in search of solutions to fill a massive budget hole — especially solutions that won’t require a 3/4ths majority vote under SQ 640 — the time may be right to reform itemized deductions [OK Policy].

Oklahoma repeals antiquated seduction, slander laws: For more than a century, seducing a virgin by promising to marry her has been illegal in Oklahoma. So has been slandering a woman’s virtue. Those old laws will be coming off the books this fall. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed Senate Bill 286 repealing laws against seducing an unmarried female and imputing unchastity to females. The changes go into effect Nov. 1 [NewsOK].

Legislature approves payday loan measure; opponents hopeful for Fallin veto: The Legislature passed a bill creating a high-interest quick loan product, leaving Gov. Mary Fallin as the last resort for the politicians and advocates who railed against it. House Bill 1913 would double the state’s cap on short-term personal loans, raising it to $1,500 per person. It would also extend the payment period to a year, with a 17-percent-per-month interest rate. Proponents said it gives struggling families another tool to use during hard times, but opponents said the bill does nothing but prey on the poor [Journal Record]. These loans would allow interest to be charged at an annual rate of over 200 percent, which is far costlier than what can be charged under current law. Please contact Governor Mary Fallin to express your opposition to HB 1913 and ask her to veto the bill [OK Policy].

House passes 3.2-percent solution: The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would create new taxes on low-point beer, even though the product will likely disappear from the shelves by the end of 2018. The Oklahoma Tax Commission projected that adding a gross receipts tax onto 3.2 beer sold in bars and restaurants would bring in about $20 million over the year. Legislators said they’re using House Bill 2360 and similar measures to cover the upcoming budget shortfall, which is now estimated to hit nearly $1 billion [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Legislature votes to ban spanking for some disabled students: The Oklahoma Legislature is expected to send Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would ban the use of disciplinary pain against students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. House Bill 1623 would prohibit corporal punishment for those students unless their parents or guardians include it in the child’s individualized education program, which is developed to meet disabled students’ educational needs [NewsOK].

State expects unclaimed property refunds to total $34.5 million: The state is on track to return $34.5 million in unclaimed property to Oklahoma residents by the end of the fiscal year, the Oklahoma treasurer’s office said Tuesday. Meanwhile, the unclaimed property fund continues to shrink. Through the third fiscal quarter, the department has reunited residents with $25.8 million in tax refunds, bank accounts, life insurance proceeds, security deposits, old government paychecks and the like. That compares well with $31.1 million returned to taxpayers in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016, said Tim Allen, state deputy treasurer for communications and program administration [Journal Record].

OK Congressmen Ready To Back New Healthcare Plan Despite Lack Of Detail: Health care reform is now back on the table in nation’s capitol. While details of the new GOP plan have not been released, some Oklahoma congressmen have already said they will back it. There are still plenty of unknown details as to what exactly will be in the GOP Health Care Plan 2.0 but at least two Oklahoma congressmen stand behind the plan. We reached out to all five Oklahoma congressmen and heard back from four. Reps. Tom Cole and Jim Bridenstine told News 9 they will vote in favor of the plan [News9].

Trump Names Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin To Council Of Governors: President Trump announced his appointment of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin as co-chair of the Council of Governors. Fallin will join nine other governors in serving on the bipartisan national council for a two-year term. The council was established in 2010 as a way to facilitate greater cooperation between state and federal officials on issues of homeland security and disaster response [NewsOn6].

Proposed Oklahoma City budget shows staff reductions and hope for a growth in sales tax: A recently submitted budget proposal for the City of Oklahoma City shows a reduction in 16 staff positions while the city remains hopeful that income from sales tax will grow in the next year. The proposal, submitted May 2 to the Oklahoma City Council, comes in at $1.38 billion. The proposed budget, which helps pay for day-to-day city services, has been reduced two percent down to $404.5 million. City Manager Jim Couch says the reduction is due to a continued decline in sales tax revenue. The .3 percent staff reduction will bring Oklahoma City down to 4,644 employees [KOKH].

Bynum’s first budget feels like a minor municipal miracle: Mayor G.T. Bynum has presented his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It still has to clear City Council approval, and there could be some changes, but overall it is a solid, optimistic proposal that addresses problems and offers new ideas. Bynum proposes adding three police academies of 30 each, marking the largest one-year infusion of officers in the city’s history. The mayor also calls for adding 35 new firefighters as well as replacing fire equipment that is more than a decade old. That’s in step with the will of voters, as expressed clearly in last year’s Vision tax extension [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“For years now, the state has been underfunding services that Oklahoma families rely on. Politicians and special-interest groups have succeeded by dividing us. It’s going to take all of us working together to begin righting this ship — everyone from underpaid teachers working in overcrowded classrooms to Highway Patrol troopers limited to 100 miles of driving each day.”

-Let’s Fix This Executive Director Andy Moore and Stand for Children Executive Director Amber England, calling on legislators to pass a budget with significant new investments in services (Source). Read the Blueprint for a Better Budget here.

Number of the Day


Percentage of reported nonviolent crimes in Oklahoma for which a person was arrested in 2015

Source: OSBI

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Building on ACA’s Success Would Help Millions with Substance Use Disorders: The need for substance use disorder treatment is acute. A record 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015, with 33,000 due to opioid use. Drug overdose deaths rose by statistically significant amounts in 19 states between 2014 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Millions of Americans have gained access to treatment through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — coverage that must be maintained and expanded despite Republicans’ efforts to repeal the ACA. President Trump recently charged a new commission with studying the “scope and effectiveness of the Federal response to drug addiction and the opioid crisis.” There’s no need, however, to wait for the commission to complete its work to continue to make treatment available and accessible to those who need it [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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