In The Know: Doerflinger says Oklahoma must broaden its tax base, What to watch in potential school funding lawsuit

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

Doerflinger says Oklahoma must broaden its tax base: Oklahoma has shown signs recently that it has turned the corner after a sharp economic downturn, but State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger warns that the underlying problems remain. “There’s so many good things occurring in this economy,” he told KRMG Wednesday, “but as far as the general revenue fund goes, which is what we use to fund state government, we’re not seeing the types of collections come into that that we need to as rapidly to really, really turn this thing – from a state funding standpoint – around.” [KRMG] The Save our State Coalition proposed new revenues as part of their Better Budget Blueprint [Save Our State]

What to Watch in Potential School Funding Lawsuit: A school funding lawsuit, like the one being considered by the Oklahoma City Public Schools board, threatens to force the state Legislature to find more money for schools — a maneuver attempted in nearly every state with varying degrees of success. The district announced Thursday its board plans to pursue legal action against the Legislature, and specifically House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, due to unfunded legislative mandates, especially items like textbooks. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too. [OK Policy]

Parole board vacancies concern defense attorneys: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is short two members, and some criminal defense attorneys said that could create a burden for defendants and prisoners. The board can’t meet unless three members are present. This has prevented hearings only one month in the past year, when officials had to cancel the April docket and postpone each of those hearings until May. Defense attorneys are less concerned about the possibility that hearings could become more difficult to schedule. They said that having only three members on the board could make it more difficult to get the requisite positive votes. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s money — but not food — left on the table: Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma youth from poverty-stricken families receive free or reduced-price school lunches, but those meals abruptly end for all but a few over the summer. There’s a reason. For years, state officials have essentially turned down millions of dollars in free, federal aid designed to ensure Oklahoma serve nutritious breakfast and lunch to children through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. [CNHI] Some schools use food trucks to fight food insecurity during summer months [OK Policy]

Rep. Mickey Dollens sees an opportunity to reform career and technical education: Months after the 2017 legislative session ended, Dollens began pitching his plan to create career pathways focused on delivering skilled workers to an ever-changing labor market. Dollens believes by rebooting the state’s technical education and growing apprenticeships programs, Oklahoma would build a well-educated, high-quality workforce to fuel innovation, investment and economic diversification as well as social and occupational mobility. [OK Gazette]

Poverty is too expensive! We can’t afford it!: Shortly after being elected to the Legislature in 2004, I heard the governor from a southern state remark: “Sick children can’t learn; sick parents can’t earn, and poverty is too expensive!” This phrase has echoed in my heart and grown louder over time while working with agencies that help Oklahoma families face disease, disabilities, unemployment, natural disasters, incarceration of a loved one and much more. [Jeannie McDaniel/Tulsa World] Why poverty in Oklahoma is being compared to a Third World nation [OK Policy]

Proposed PSO wind farm line is a win for everyone: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma plans to build a transmission line from a Panhandle wind farm to the Tulsa area hit a bump when Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a motion with the Corporation Commission to dismiss PSO’s preapproval case. The $4.5 billion line would bring a huge hunk of clean, cheap electricity to local PSO customers who need it. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

TPS officials hope participation in national study attracts more children to public pre-k: Hundreds of TPS preschool teachers met with researchers from OU-Tulsa, Georgetown University, and Harvard on Thursday to learn more about a research project focusing on their students. The study called SEED or “School Experiences and Early Development” will follow approximately 900 preschoolers until third grade. It will involve children in Educare, Cap-Tulsa, and community child care programs. [KTUL]

Hatred is not a political issue: The supremacy of any race over another is not only immoral, it’s contradictory to the fundamental idea of America and our Declaration of Independence, which affirms that all men are created equal. America and the Allied forces fought and soundly defeated Nazism in World War II at a high cost to our country and the world. [Sen. James Lankford/Tulsa World]

Former Oklahoma County juvenile shelter to offer services for children, parents in foster care system: A former shelter for abused and neglected juveniles will be transformed to provide services to families with children in foster care. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services closed the shelter at 5909 N Classen Court in November 2015 as it moved to place more children in state custody with foster families. [The Oklahoman]

New Research Questions Forecasted Earthquake Slowdown: In a newly published paper in the journal Science Advances, a team of scientists from University of California Santa Cruz and the Oklahoma Geological Survey agree the number of small earthquakes has diminished, but their analysis shows Oklahoma is twice as likely to experience a 5.0-magnitude or greater earthquake in 2017 than previously predicted. Earlier research put the odds at around 37 percent; the new research suggests the probability is 80 percent. [StateImpact]

State should reconsider licensing requirements: The state of Oklahoma limits who can enter an incredible number of occupations through licensing requirements. How many? No one really knows for sure; but at last count, the number was close to 1,000 occupations that require licensing by various arms of the state bureaucracy. In some cases, that makes obvious sense. We like the idea that doctors have met certain state-controlled standards before they start treating patients. But hair-braiders? [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

The opioid crisis is a national emergency: Sixty thousand Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016. This is more people than have ever died in a single year in motor vehicle accidents in the United States. It’s more than died fighting for the U.S. during the entirety of the war in Vietnam. Deaths from opioid abuse are a public health crisis. President Trump has declared the crisis a national emergency. [Dr. John Henning Schuman/Tulsa World]

Gov. Fallin visits Fort Sill Women’s Equality Day celebration: Governor Mary Fallin tackled hot topics facing the country and the state of Oklahoma today at Fort Sill. She was invited to post to celebrate Women’s Equality Day. She spoke about the importance of voting, and why all Americans should exercise their rights on election day. [KSWO]

Quote of the Day

“I think the fundamental question that people are going to have to ask themselves, and specifically sitting members of the legislature – but the citizens too – is what type of state do we want to have? And are we going to invest in the things that are going to make our state better, more competitive, and be able to provide for the most vulnerable among us?”

– Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger talking about the need to modernize Oklahoma’s tax code and broaden our tax base (Source)

Number of the Day


Voter registration rate in Oklahoma in 2014, 44th in the US

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States Start to See More Cost Than Benefit to Tax-Free Holidays: Consumers in 16 states can take advantage of sales tax holidays this year—going on frenzied shopping sprees to buy items such as backpacks, computers and school clothes tax-free. But states confronting budget woes and a long list of spending priorities are questioning whether the hyped-up shopping events are worth the cost. Left-leaning critics say the holidays are regressive and cost states money that could be spent on other priorities. Right-leaning groups agree that they are regressive, and argue that they don’t attract new business for retailers. Instead, they say, the holidays just concentrate buying into a single weekend. [Governing]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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