In The Know: Everything ‘on the table’ as lawmakers tackle $868 million budget hole, Republican Senate leader says

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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Everything ‘on the table’ as lawmakers tackle $868 million budget hole, Republican Senate leader says: Everything, including new revenue sources, “will have to be on the table” as lawmakers grapple with an $868 million budget hole, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said Thursday. “There is no one thing, no silver bullet” that will solve the problem, Schulz said during a morning press conference at the Tulsa Press Club. “Certainly, discussions are going on about revenue-raising measures.” Among those measures are a broadening of the state sales tax to services not currently taxed, accelerated elimination of a renewable energy tax credit and an increase in the state tobacco tax [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma on Track for $2B Budget Hole by 2030: You’ve heard this before, but it’s just as true today — Oklahoma is locked into a structural budget deficit. “Or, even simpler, we’re broke,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt at the group’s fourth annual budget summit in Oklahoma City. “The structural budget deficit was already almost $700 million in 2015. Based on current policies, that will climb to $2 billion by 2030, about 15 percent of revenues.” [KWGS] Our January 2017 Budget Trends and Outlook fact sheet is available here

Be prepared for the 2017 session with the new Legislative Primer: How many bills were filed this year? What are the steps for a bill to become law? Who’s in Governor Fallin’s cabinet? As the 2017 Oklahoma Legislative session gets underway, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the 2017 Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format [OK Policy]. We’ve also recently released our updated Online Budget Guide

Bill would require quicker action to collect late child support: Parents falling behind on their child support could see speedier state threats. When mom or dad isn’t paying up, Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials are allowed to revoke licenses. Those include the expected, driver’s licenses, as well as recreational licenses or professional licenses such as a surveyor’s or medical license. If a parent is behind, he or she could lose a lifetime fishing license [Journal Record].

Lawmaker proposing waste water tax to cut down on earthquakes: One Oklahoma lawmaker is proposing to tax waste water in hopes of cracking down on earthquakes. Representative David Perryman said he was inspired to write his latest bill after learning 1.5 billion barrels of waste water was disposed in Oklahoma in 2015. 2.5 million of those barrels came from out of state. His idea is to tax companies five cents for each barrel of waste water that is put in the ground [KFOR].

Alternative theories for students back again: Despite a handful of dead past bills, state Sen. Josh Brecheen is forging ahead with the Oklahoma Science Education Act. Brecheen, R-Coalgate, was elected in 2010, and ever since, he’s been pushing to get legislation passed that would allow teachers to present alternative theories on controversial topics such as global warming. He and a handful of senators this year will fight for specters they introduced years ago. Experts said that is far from unprecedented. Legislative leaders don’t anticipate a different outcome for Brecheen’s Senate Bill 393 this year [Journal Record].

Tulsa Regional Chamber hosts panel discussion on health care and the upcoming legislative session: Budget concerns, increasing the cigarette tax and improving rural health-care access are among the top health-care issues heading into the upcoming legislative session. “The No. 1 concern with the budget is making sure we do not erode the infrastructure and progress we’ve made in the state. I have grave concerns about that,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Health Terry Cline [Tulsa World].

Critics Warn against Federal Block Grant Funding for Oklahoma: Block grants as federal funding are catching on for the purported flexibility they offer states, but there are downsides. While an Affordable Care Act repeal could cost more than 300,000 Oklahomans their heath insurance, Republicans’ plans for Medicaid could have drastic consequences as well. They’re proposing block grants or patient caps for Medicaid to cut federal spending $1 trillion over 10 years [KWGS]. 

Mayors across country, including Oklahoma City, express concern about efforts to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare: As lawmakers in Washington work to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, several mayors from across the county are expressing their concerns with the idea. Officers for the Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to encourage them to keep certain aspects of the act [KFOR]. Plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act threaten chaos for Oklahomans’ health care [OK Policy].

Advocates count Oklahoma City’s homeless: On Thursday morning, a few hours before dawn, a pack of volunteers tramped through a patch of woods in southwest Oklahoma City, picking their way through vines, limbs and roots while keeping an eye out for anyone else who might be there. At first, at least, it looked like no one was. Flashlights shone into the woods mostly illuminated nothing but the odd empty cup or soda can [NewsOK].

Social worker within library system helps those struggling with homelessness, mental illness: Most visits between Deborah Hunter and her daughter end with Hunter at home, in tears. Her daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after starting college. The disease has progressed to a point where Hunter’s daughter doesn’t believe her mother is really her mother. Instead, in her mind, they are simply friends [Tulsa World].

Kirby decides to meet with panel investigating sexual harassment claim: Rep. Dan Kirby is expected to meet Friday with a House panel looking into allegations of sexual harassment against him. Kirby, R-Tulsa, had earlier said he would not testify because the rules imposed by the committee, which meets behind closed doors, impeded his right to due process. His Tulsa attorney, Rachel Mathis, said Thursday that she and Kirby still have concerns about the procedure [Tulsa World].

No city in Oklahoma considered a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants: Oklahoma does not have any municipalities considered “sanctuary cities,” and Tulsa officials anticipate no changes in regard to immigration enforcement as the new presidential administration maneuvers toward stricter practices. President Donald Trump has signed executive orders ordering a Mexican border wall be built, hiring 15,000 additional immigration enforcement officers, adding more detention centers along the border and threatening to withhold federal money to “sanctuary cities.” More executive orders regarding immigration enforcement are expected [Tulsa World].

Defying Local School Board, State Board Approves Charter School: A unanimous vote Thursday by the State Board of Education sends a message to public school boards across the state: If you won’t sponsor a charter school, we may do so instead. The Seminole Public Schools board had twice rejected the application for the Academy of Seminole, and the state board took up the application on appeal. In a packed boardroom after several hours of discussion, the board voted to sponsor the school itself. It’s unprecedented in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch]. An Oklahoma Watch- Out forum on February 28 will discuss school choice [Oklahoma Watch].

City’s success relies on quality of schools, Mayor G.T. Bynum tells PTA council: Mayor G.T. Bynum told parents and teachers on Tuesday that he wants to support local education as a “proactive partner” and “advocate,” because a city’s growth relies on the quality of its schools. “The cities that are growing are the ones that are viewed as having great educational opportunities. It’s the greatest indicator of a city’s long-term success,” Bynum told the Tulsa Council of Parent Teacher Associations, citing the growth in Jenks as an example. “I want people around the country to be talking about the schools here.” [Tulsa World]

Money in hand to trigger state match, resume Indian Cultural Center & Museum construction in Oklahoma City: Construction of the long-awaited American Indian Cultural Center & Museum could resume as soon as this fall. Fund-raisers reported Thursday that they had collected $10.8 million in private donations, enough to start the process outlined in a 2015 state law to complete and open the museum. Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, chairman of the Native American Cultural & Educational Authority (NACEA), hailed the development as a “benchmark” in the decades-long effort create the Cultural Center & Museum [NewsOK].

Cherokee Nation Preserves Food Culture by Freezing History: Before the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in the eastern U.S. along the Trail of Tears, the tribe grew varieties of crops now nearly lost. But at the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank in Tahlequah, Okla., a vital part of the tribe’s history is kept frozen. Deep underground on a Norwegian island in the remote arctic, the Global Seed Vault shelters seeds from around the globe, protecting them from natural disaster, nuclear catastrophe or any apocalypse that might bring humans to the brink. For the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the apocalypse already happened [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“The No. 1 concern with the budget is making sure we do not erode the infrastructure and progress we’ve made in the state. I have grave concerns about that.”

– Oklahoma Secretary of Health Terry Cline, speaking at a Tulsa Regional Chamber panel discussion on health care and the upcoming legislative session (Source)

Number of the Day


Average school counselor to student ratio in Oklahoma, 2013


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Clearing Criminal Records Puts People to Work: If you live in Kentucky and want to work on a farm, run an HVAC company, or interpret for the deaf community, you’d better not have a criminal record. Those professions and more than 100 others have licensing restrictions in the state based on a person’s prior convictions, making it hard for even those with minor offenses in their history to get a job. It’s not just Kentucky—every state in the U.S. has some form of employment restriction based on criminal records. There are nearly 70 million Americans with a prior arrest or conviction. The mark on their record follows them around, sometimes for 30 or 40 years [CityLab].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Everything ‘on the table’ as lawmakers tackle $868 million budget hole, Republican Senate leader says

  1. Not a single city in the Great Red State of Oklahoma has identified as a sanctuary for people—-thought we would at least have some “abolitionist Christians” —thought we would have at least a few to step up and do the right “thing” or maybe it is the “republican oppression” that just makes it OK

    And a shout out to Mayor Bynum!!! People are already looking at our schools sir! Put down the orange Kool Aid for a minute – We are the role model for NOT how to run public education !

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