In The Know: Critics: $6.8B Oklahoma Budget Bill May Be Unconstitutional

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.

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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

Critics: $6.8B Oklahoma Budget Bill May Be Unconstitutional: Republican and Democratic members complained Wednesday that a $6.8 billion spending plan that cuts most state agencies’ spending by about 5 percent has not been properly vetted and is likely unconstitutional. Rank-and-file legislators were given few details ahead of votes in House and Senate committees shortly before midnight on the general appropriations bill that did not include a customary summary of the 56-page measure [Associated Press].

House proposal would cut education funding: The proposed House bill that would appropriate money to state agencies for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would cut funding to several education agencies by nearly 5 percent. Photos of the revised version of House Bill 2400 were posted by state Sen. David Holt on Twitter. Six of 11 state agencies classified under education would receive a 4.87-percent cut, while nine out of 11 would have cuts above 3 percent [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017 [OK Policy].

Advocacy Alert: Tell lawmakers to vote down budget that breaks their promises: The legislative session began with promises to fix Oklahoma’s structural deficit, fund a teacher pay raise, and stop the reckless use of one-time funds that make our budget problems worse in future years. Unfortunately, lawmakers are now considering a budget deal that breaks all of those promises [OK Policy]. Our full statement is available here.

With three days left, lawmakers pushing budget through Oklahoma Capitol: Gov. Mary Fallin said the budget agreement lawmakers are considering this week avoids the kind of significant cuts she warned about when threatening a veto earlier this year. In a late-night session that spanned Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, House and Senate legislators introduced $6.82 billion in spending, which on paper is a slight increase from last year [NewsOK]. Both parties agree the budget process was awful [Journal Record].

Oklahoma legislators’ word games only invite lawsuits: Oklahoma lawmakers have had four months to write a budget, aware the whole time of constitutional restrictions on raising taxes. Now political leaders seem to have settled on a strategy: ignore reality. State Question 640, passed by voters in 1992, amended the state constitution to declare that “any revenue bill” must get three-fourths support in both chambers of the Legislature or go to a vote of the people [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. While the specter of SQ 640 casts a giant shadow over policy discussions, its actual scope is not always well understood [OK Policy]

Crafting state budget sometimes requires semantic contortions: Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution makes legislators say and do strange things. On Tuesday, for instance, it caused Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, to patiently explain why raising the gross production tax on certain oil and gas wells from 1 to 4 percent would not be a tax increase, and would therefore require only 51 votes to pass, but that raising the GPT from 2 to 5 percent on some other wells would a be tax increase and require 76 votes [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: Let’s talk about jobs: One afternoon last week Continental Resources bused a couple of hundred employees to the state Capitol with signs saying “Don’t kill Oklahoma jobs” and “Oil and gas votes too.” The employees were sent to protest against ending subsidies that lower the gross production tax from 7 to 2 percent during an oil or gas well’s first 36 months of production. “I think companies would move away if we get too aggressive,” declared Continental President Harold Hamm [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Senate passes $1.50 cigarette fee as work continues on $6.8 billion budget: The Oklahoma Senate was considering a $6.8 billion budget bill late Wednesday. Earlier in the day the upper chamber had passed a key component toward funding the state budget for fiscal year 2018. By a vote of 28-18, the Senate passed Senate Bill 845, which would add a $1.50-per-pack “fee” on cigarettes in addition to the $1.03 tax already assessed [Tulsa World]. The state’s hospital systems and many physicians are looking to cigarettes for short-term solutions [Journal Record].

Right Thinking: A clear mandate for policy reform: Most were optimistic that this year, no matter their other failures, our legislators would enact the legal cornerstones of the plan to reform our criminal justice system that Gov. Mary Fallin, leaders of both the public and private sectors, and activists from both ends of the political spectrum have advocated for years. Can you think of another cause that so unites Oklahomans of different parties, ideologies, and backgrounds? [Andrew Spiropoulos / Journal Record] The Governor’s Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Bill expanding use of long laterals in drilling narrowly wins House approval: A measure desperately sought by the state’s largest oil and gas producers squeaked through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday, but only after the vote was held open more than a half-hour while three members were persuaded to switch from “no” to “yes.” Lobbyists clustered around the vote monitor outside the House chamber, some apparently texting people inside, and let out a cheer when Speaker Pro Tem Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, brought down the gavel on a final count of 51-47 for Senate Bill 867 [Tulsa World].

Plan to expand sales tax base not palatable for Oklahoma lawmakers: Observers say a highly touted plan that could have generated nearly a billion dollars in revenue by taxing new services has proven too toxic for Oklahoma lawmakers to stomach. Gov. Mary Fallin’s plan, which proposed ending the sales tax exemptions on more than 160 services like haircuts, pet grooming and doctor visits, has largely failed to gain traction, said David Blatt, executive director of the Tulsa-based Oklahoma Policy Institute think tank [CNHI].

Forum Video: Effects of State Budget Decisions on Children: Three leaders involved in children’s issues talk about the implications of state budget decisions on the lives of kids. Our “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum featured state Sen. AJ Griffin, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman, and Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth Director Lisa Smith [Oklahoma Watch].

Point of View: New perspectives can help Oklahomans with intellectual, developmental disabilities: Social innovation requires that we not only look for new solutions to problems, but that we also look at the problem through multiple lenses. A new lens for viewing social challenges can offer insight into new, complementary solutions. The challenges faced by Oklahomans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families is one such area that can significantly benefit from a new perspective [Wanda Felty and Ed Long / The Oklahoman].

Oklahoma retail jobs growing despite losses among national retailers: While brick-and-mortar retailers across the nation have closed stores and eliminated jobs, the number of retail jobs in Oklahoma grew as strongly as jobs in other segments of the state’s economy in recent years, numbers show. In 2007, before the start of the Great Recession, Oklahoma had about 171,200 retail jobs, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reports. In 2016, the state had about 184,500 retail jobs [NewsOK].

OKC police outreach shows results, chief says: Police Chief Bill Citty told the city council on Tuesday that community outreach efforts, including the recently opened Family Justice Center, are gaining traction. The Family Justice Center, focused on stemming domestic violence, has had more than 1,400 walk-ins since opening in February at 1140 N Hudson Ave., Citty said [NewsOK].

Program putting Tulsa’s panhandlers to work expected to start this summer, mayor says: Mayor G.T. Bynum told the City Council on Wednesday he expects a program putting panhandlers to work in Tulsa to begin this summer, sooner than expected. Bynum’s proposed budget had called for $25,000 to start a pilot program in January of the nationally renowned Better Way effort, pioneered in Albuquerque, New Mexico [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“This is a real disservice to the people of Oklahoma to do it this way. This is not the way it should work.”

– Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City), on the Oklahoma legislature’s last-minute budget assembly (Source)

Number of the Day


Change in Oklahoma tax revenue from its peak quarter, adjusted for inflation. Total tax revenues across all states have risen 5.8% from their peak

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Life Expectancy Can Vary By 20 Years Depending On Where You Live: There’s more grim news about inequality in America. New research documents significant disparities in the life spans of Americans depending on where they live. And those gaps appear to be widening, according to the research. “It’s dramatic,” says Christopher Murray, who heads the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. He helped conduct the analysis, published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Health experts have long known that Americans living in different parts of the country tend to have different life spans. But Murray’s team decided to take a closer look, analyzing records from every U.S. county between 1980 and 2014 [NPR].

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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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