In The Know: Faith leaders, nonprofit groups lobby to protect tax credits for low-income families, seniors

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

Faith leaders, nonprofit groups lobby to protect tax credits for low-income families, seniors: Ministers and nonprofit groups urged state lawmakers Wednesday not to reduce or eliminate tax credits that benefit low-income Oklahomans. David Blatt, executive director of the Tulsa-based Oklahoma Policy Institute, said at a Capitol news conference that a legislative plan under consideration would reduce the Oklahoma Earned Income Tax Credit, Sales Tax Relief Credit and Child Care Tax Credit. The credits support more than 400,000 low- to moderate-income families and seniors [Tulsa World]. Click here to read the letter faith leaders delivered to Gov. Fallin urging her and legislators to protect the tax credits on Wednesday.

New video and tools to save tax credits for working families: Today more than 140 religious leaders and over two dozen non-profit organizations and foundations are speaking out against state budget plans that threaten tax credits for hundreds of thousands of working families and seniors. Clergy from across Oklahoma have signed a letter urging lawmakers not to reduce Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit, Sales Tax Relief Credit, or Child Tax Credit/Child Care Tax Credit [OK Policy]. Learn more and take action here.

Prosperity Policy: Unbelievable: These are tough days for low- and moderate-income families in Oklahoma. Many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. They must often depend on public benefits and private charity to put food on the table and pay their bills at the end of each month. One in six Oklahoma households struggles with having enough food to eat. That’s even more of a problem for children, but all kinds of Oklahomans often don’t get enough to eat, including seniors and military veterans [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Legislation would end test-score based teacher evaluations in Oklahoma: A bill that won final legislative approval Wednesday would relieve school districts from the requirement that teachers be evaluated based on student test scores. House Bill 2957 would allow school districts to continue the evaluation system if they so choose. The bill now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s Capitol needs Sherlock, not a ninja: It isn’t teachers rappelling from the Oklahoma Capitol dome this week. It’ll be reality show contestants from NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” where athletes are put through the paces in elaborate obstacles. What better way to show off our state’s crumbling infrastructure. Oh, wait. The Capitol building is getting a $125 million renovation, paid for through bonds, with the possibility of another $125 million in bonds needed next year. It’s the rest of the state falling apart. How could I forget? [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Lawmakers play ball while budget crisis looms: With a $1.3 billion budget hole and a deadline looming what would you expect your elected leaders would be doing? Fox 25 found several state representatives playing ball during a time many people would consider business hours. It is the one time of year you’ll see Democrats and Republicans playing ball with each other. The annual softball game used to pit the Senate versus the House. It is just the House that plays now. No one really knows why, except a few years ago the Senate added a former professional baseball player to its ranks [FOX25].

Oklahoma Legislature must save health care now: The end is near for the legislative session and so is health care as we know it in Oklahoma. Our state’s health-care system is on life support. Today, we face a crisis. In less than three weeks, all Oklahomans will start experiencing a disastrous failing in our system of care, unless the Legislature acts now. The agency that administers Medicaid in Oklahoma warns it will be forced to slash medical provider rates up to 25 percent in just a few weeks. Previous funding cuts of 18 percent have already taken a heavy toll. Any new health-care cuts will be catastrophic [Craig Jones / Tulsa World]. The Medicaid Rebalancing Act is essential to strengthen and stabilize health care in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Emergency declaration keys Oklahoma anti-price gouging law: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says a state of emergency declared after tornadoes and severe storms triggered the state’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act. The law is intended to stop price gouging by prohibiting an increase of more than 10 percent in most goods and services in the affected counties. The prohibition is in effect throughout the state of emergency and for 30 days afterward. It additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction [NewsOK].

Tulsa Jail tour: Mental health pods to contain features for specialized care: The Tulsa Jail’s mental health pods, being constructed as part of a multimillion-dollar expansion, are at the forefront in design for housing mentally ill inmates, with an emphasis on providing better and specialized care. Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette explained the factors underlying her assessment to the Tulsa World and other media outlets during a tour of the unfinished structures late Wednesday afternoon. She termed the two new mental health pods an immense improvement over the current state of affairs [Tulsa World].

City councilors, area leaders look at Race Riot history on tour around Greenwood: With the 95th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot less than three weeks away, city councilors, their staff and other leaders Tuesday toured the Greenwood District just north of downtown, an area that was all but destroyed in late May 1921. The riot started with the accusation that a black man had assaulted a young white female elevator operator, and when it was over, 1,256 homes and businesses of blacks in a 30-block area were burned, and an estimated 300 people were dead, both black and white [Tulsa World].

Guns Are Banned, but Are Oklahoma Lawmakers Packing? It’s become a common scene at the Oklahoma Capitol: While construction workers, employees and visiting schoolchildren wait patiently to walk through the metal detectors guarding the entrances, a man with a briefcase arrives and breezes straight through the checkpoint without stopping, setting off the alarms. The security officers on duty flinch but look away. Just a lawmaker in a hurry? That’s all it is, some members say [ABC News].

Oklahoma lawmakers should revisit Medicaid expansion: Over the past several years, arguments for Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma have been made using sound economic, budgetary and public health rationales. They have collapsed, however, under the reflexive antipathy toward the Affordable Care Act by Gov. Mary Fallin and conservatives in the Legislature. The result: Tens of thousands of Oklahoma’s workers go without health insurance compared with states that expanded Medicaid, according to a study by Families USA [Ron Pollack / NewsOK]. Coverage expansion’s track record shows it’s a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Tulsa Public Schools Begins Construction On Storm Shelters: Tulsa students will soon have a safe place to go when severe storms approach. The district is adding 20 new storm shelters that will double as classrooms or libraries. Voters recently approved a bond that’s paying for the safe rooms, and crews just started work on the first one at Springdale Elementary. “We are in a 91-year-old building so they didn’t really build things to tornado code back in those days,” said Springdale principal, Becky Bacon [NewsOn6].

SandRidge to delay quarterly filings: SandRidge Energy Inc. will delay filing financial statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company announced Wednesday. The driller is negotiating with lenders for a temporary default waiver and potentially a comprehensive restructuring. Executives diverted time and resources to debt negotiations and haven’t had enough time to process the company’s normal quarterly financial results. SandRidge did not provide a date when it would file its first-quarter results with the SEC [Journal Record].

Fallin a mystery to most GOP voters: The good news for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is that she has the lowest unfavorable rating among 11 potential Republican vice presidential candidate, according to a poll released Tuesday by Morning Consult. The bad news is that Fallin also had the lowest favorable rating. That’s because almost half those surveyed — 46 percent — said they had never heard of Fallin. Another 14 percent had heard of her but had no opinion [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I have heard it said that in a crisis like this everybody should do their fair share — they should pay their fair share. But people who do not have a fair share in the first place cannot pay their fair share.”

– Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, encouraging legislators to protect broad-based tax credits for low-income Oklahoma families at a press conference on Wednesday. Tabbernee was one of 150 Oklahoma faith leaders who signed a letter urging lawmakers to protect the credits and “not to make decisions that increase poverty or further burden the poor.” (Source)

Number of the Day


Total number of elementary and secondary education teachers in Oklahoma in the 2013-2014 school year

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Energy States Could Better Weather the Boom-and-Bust Cycle: Following a sharp decline in oil severance tax revenues, Alaska lawmakers are considering bringing back the state’s personal income tax for the first time in nearly four decades to help close an estimated $4 billion budget deficit. Earlier this year, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple similarly ordered 4 percent budget cuts for most state agencies to make up for a $1 billion shortfall. In Louisiana, which had its credit ratings downgraded by two rating agencies, lawmakers are debating several proposed cuts and tax increases to balance the budget [Governing].

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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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