In The Know: Facing massive budget cuts, Oklahoma House rejects revenue package

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

Facing massive budget cuts, Oklahoma House rejects revenue package: A tax revenue package that would have injected $342 million into next year’s budget failed after a contentious day of political fights over how Oklahoma’s government should be funded. Despite warnings from Democrats that they wouldn’t support the measure, House leadership pressed forward with a three-pronged tax increase on cigarettes, gasoline and production of oil and gas [NewsOK]. The Republican budget proposal ignores popular solutions [OK Policy]. 

GOP’s $345 million tax bill falls well short of passage in House: A Republican attempt to stampede a $345 million tax bill through the House came up far short of the 76 votes required for passage Tuesday night, but did get 51, which means it could wind up on a statewide ballot sometime in the future. The defeat came despite an impassioned plea from Appropriations and Budget Chairman Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, who entered the Legislature nine years ago as a true believer in slashing taxes but Tuesday night said she had been wrong [Tulsa World]. 

Will legislators again pass a last-minute budget without time for scrutiny? With fewer than two weeks left in Oklahoma’s legislative session, we still have little idea of what the state budget will look like. The budget is the single most important responsibility of lawmakers, but we’re again expecting a last-minute deal that will be rushed through in the final days and hours of session. Last year, a budget deal was announced May 19th. That same day, the General Appropriations bill, which ran 100 pages, included some 200 sections, and made appropriations of $6.8 billion to over 70 state agencies, was introduced and passed out of committee [OK Policy].

Bill now requires cross-state insurers cover Oklahoma mandates: The latest version of a bill that lets insurance companies sell policies across state lines requires those plans to include Oklahoma mandates. Senate Bill 478 would free up out-of-state insurers to market here to individual buyers. The most contentious part of the original legislation was that companies could avoid covering medical conditions that state law requires for plans originating in Oklahoma. If it is advanced into law, the bill would let the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner enter into an agreement with other states that allow cross-border insurance sales [NewsOK]. In its previous form, SB 478​ would have rolled back autism coverage and allowed worthless plans disguised as insurance​ [OK Policy].

Oklahoma school districts move on cuts without clear budget picture: Many Oklahoma public school districts are pulling the trigger on major cuts to next year’s budget as education officials brace for the worst. The Enid school board slashed $1.8 million from next year’s budget during a meeting Monday, the same day Tulsa schools approved a plan to close three schools in an effort to cut $12 million [NewsOK].

Legislature’s failures force TPS choices: The Tulsa school board voted Monday night to consolidate five west Tulsa schools and cut teaching positions as strategies to deal with inadequate state funding. Consolidation is a painful choice, and it isn’t surprising that supporters of the schools involved were upset with the plan. No one should be happy about some of the other choices forced on the district, including the elimination of 37 teaching positions and increased high school class sizes [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Office of Juvenile Affairs to stop using pepper spray on violent children: The Office of Juvenile Affairs will soon stop using pepper spray on children who get violent. Officers had been using an advanced form of pepper spray for years to control juveniles with violent behavior. The use started after a riot at a Tecumseh center, but since then board members say there have been no more riots and pepper spray appeared to do more harm than good. “For us to use really an extreme measure of control, it hurts their rehabilitation process,” OJA deputy director Terry Smith said [KOCO].

Will transportation officials succeed in swaying Oklahoma lawmakers? In an attempt to sway lawmakers against significantly cutting road funding for next year, transportation officials pulled out some heavy ammunition — the threat of continued snarled traffic on University of Oklahoma football game days if one legislative proposal is approved. That’s sure to get lawmakers’ attention. But will this gambit succeed? [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

OKC police to use body-worn cams with Wi-Fi: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday approved a reboot of the Police Department’s body-worn cameras program, in a deal that will bring the total number of cameras in the system to about 320. Federal Justice Department grants will cover 98 percent of the cost. The police department acquired and began using its first 100 body-worn cameras last year. Cameras were pulled off the streets for a number of months, though, as the department and the Fraternal Order of Police resolved differences over procedures for managing the devices [NewsOK].

New memo creates stir over how federal crimes will be prosecuted: Should prosecutors be tough on crime or smart on crime? A new memo from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors has sparked speculation that U.S. government prosecutors may soon be more dogged in their efforts to prosecute individuals to the full extent allowed by law. As a practical matter, however, Oklahoma City U.S. Attorney Mark Yancey said he expects very little change locally in how charges are filed [NewsOK].

Families needed: Number of children that need foster homes remains high: At any given time, there are an estimated 10,000 Oklahoma children in the custody of the Department of Human Services. Almost 100 of those are in Wagoner County, while over 300 are in neighboring Muskogee County, according to Child Welfare Specialist Beth Passmore, foster care recruiter out of the Wagoner County DHS office. Passmore said most kids in the foster care system come from homes where neglect, abuse, substance abuse or domestic violence are prevalent [Wagoner County American-Tribune].

Oklahoma DHS amends foster-care gun policy: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged the Oklahoma Department of Human Services violated foster parents’ right to bear arms. The lawsuit was filed after the department asked parents to sign a written agreement requiring weapons to be locked up. The suit argued that the department’s agreement obligated foster parents to keep their firearms locked up, to only carry their weapons around a child if it was required by their employer and to ensure weapons in automobiles were unloaded, disabled and locked in a container [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“I’ll own it. I made a mistake. We lowered the our base too low. … Let’s go the way of Kansas and Sam Brownback. How’s that’s working? No matter what you hear, things are falling apart there.”

-House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn, arguing for new revenue in next year’s budget (Source

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma residents who were born in a different U.S. state.

Source: US Census 2015 American Community Survey

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Spend a Dollar on Drug Treatment, and Save More on Crime Reduction: The burden of substance abuse disorders can fall heavily on the families and friends of those who battle addictions. But society also pays a great deal through increased crime. Treatment programs can reduce those costs. For at least two decades, we’ve known substance use and crime go hand in hand. More than half of violent offenders and one-third of property offenders say they committed crimes while under the influence of alcohol or drugs [New York Times].

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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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