In The Know: Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax

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

Fallin calls for a wide-ranging special session on the budget, teachers, vehicle tax: Gov. Mary Fallin issued a much-anticipated order Friday calling the Legislature into a special session on Sept. 25 to rectify a $215 million budget shortfall. In addition to an immediate budget solution, Fallin called on the Legislature to find a long-term fix to repeated budget shortfalls, find waste within state government, consider pay increases for K-12 teachers and amend a new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles. [The Oklahoman] Education advocates cheer inclusion of teacher pay in special session [The Oklahoman] Don’t waste second chance to get the budget right [OK Policy]

Agencies brace for cuts as lawmakers return in special session: State agencies are bracing for possible additional cuts during an upcoming special session, but are hopeful lawmakers can find revenue to avoid it. Lawmakers could attempt to pass revenue raising measures, cut state agencies to offset the blow to the three affected agencies or do nothing. They can also use $23 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund and $83 million in cash. [Tulsa World]

DHS Announces New Child Support Services Fee: In an attempt to balance its budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Friday it would charge a new fee on child support collections. “We’ve done everything internally and administratively that the agency can possibly do,” said Jeff Wagner, Child Support Services (CSS) spokesperson. “That leaves this fee as one of the very few remaining alternatives to being able to maintain a viable program.” [News9]

When do we address poverty?: With national poverty falling to 14 percent, its lowest since 2008, Oklahoma’s poverty rate actually increased. According to the release, 16.3 percent of Oklahomans – almost one in six people – made less than the poverty line, roughly $24,000 for a family of four before taxes. All in all, about 9,500 Oklahomans fell under the poverty line in 2016 from 2015. [Stillwater News Press] New Census data shows Oklahoma fell further behind the U.S. on poverty and uninsured rate in 2016 [OK Policy]

Policymakers must address revenue needs and unfair tax policies: Policymakers and other opinion leaders often make inaccurate statements to justify continued cuts in income taxes and other important federal and state revenue sources. As a result, our governmental entities have diminished resources to provide core services such as public education, public safety, disaster recovery, services for the less fortunate and those with significant physical and mental health needs. [Dennis Neill/Tulsa World] Focus on “government spending” instead of real people is leading lawmakers astray [OK Policy]

67 percent support for GPT hike means #okleg should listen: A new poll commissioned by a group of longtime Oklahoma oil and gas executives says two-thirds of the voting public wants to eliminate the state’s low gross production tax (GPT) incentive rate. While the state’s largest petroleum companies and the influential trade associations they control oppose elimination of the incentive rate, the strong support indicated by the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance poll means the Oklahoma Legislature should take a vote on increasing the incentive rate during the special session set to begin Sept. 25. [William W. Savage III/NonDoc] How much new revenue will ending oil and gas tax breaks bring in? [OK Policy]

Reveal, The Atlantic to present Oklahoma forum on female incarceration: For more than 25 years, Oklahoma has held a distinction its state leaders aren’t proud of: The state leads the nation in female incarceration – at a rate more than twice the national average. The stories behind Oklahoma’s disproportionately high female incarceration rate are the subject of an upcoming investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and a forum in Oklahoma City that will explore the experiences of women in the state’s justice system. [Reveal]

Suicide numbers keep increasing: From 2004 to 2010 suicide was the most common manner of violent death in Oklahoma, accounting for 3,836 deaths during that time frame. That is an average of 548 deaths by suicide per year in the state. Between 2010 and 2015, in Woodward County alone there were 20 individuals who died as a result of suicide. [Woodward News]

Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding: As has now become ritual, the Department of Corrections (DOC) is sounding the alarm about the overcrowding of Oklahoma’s Corrections system. It was announced last week that DOC reached another population record with 63,009 people in its system, marking the third significant population increase in less than a year. [OK Policy] Bail reform should be the solution for Oklahoma’s overcrowded jails [OK Policy]

In OKC, an encouraging trend in criminal justice: One longstanding and significant problem with the Oklahoma County Jail is the number of men and women housed there. Originally constructed to hold 1,200, the jail population regularly stands at about twice that. But this pressure is easing just a bit due to procedural changes implemented by the police department and other sectors that are saving the city money and keeping low-level offenders from being locked up. This is good news. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] What works to stop crime? Not incarceration [OK Policy]

Work Ready Oklahoma reaches out to long-term unemployed: Unemployment is currently taking a toll on many Oklahoma families during the energy slump. The longer a person goes without a job, the harder it is to regain employment. Work Ready Oklahoma, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, offers free training and educational opportunities to help certain unemployed and underemployed individuals become better equipped — and more competitively positioned — for good jobs. [Edmond Sun]

OU students offer personal appeals for DACA action: There are about 80 students at the University of Oklahoma thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A handful of them shared their stories with the crowd Friday. Surrounded by community activists, OU faculty, students who chose to speak out and, not least, fellow DACA participators, the stories were a central part of the Support the Dream DACA Rally in the Unity Garden of the South Oval. Some held signs, others held phones and many offered voices of support and comfort. [Norman Transcript] Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy]

Amid higher ed budget woes, OK State Regents for High Ed reduce Academic Scholars Program: Founded in 1988, the Academic Scholars Program provided scholarships for students with an outstanding academic record. This program would give many residents and non-resident students a chance to go to any Oklahoma college or university. The program would feel the knife’s edge from the $6.8 million budget bill made on May 26. [Red Dirt Report] Higher education funding cuts continue to drive up tuition and threaten college access [OK Policy]

Cherokee Nation distributes STEM funding to public schools: The Cherokee Nation is proud to provide additional financial assistance to public schools in northeast Oklahoma, especially during this era of declining budgets across the state. Last week, we issued more than $444,000 to public school districts in the Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties. We sent 107 school districts a one-time award of $4,150. The money, allocated by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council from the tribe’s Motor Vehicle Tax fund, will help students in the constantly evolving areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programming.  [Principal Chief Bill John Baker/Sequoyah County Times]

Governor calls special election for state Senate seat vacated by Woodward Republican: Gov. Mary Fallin has scheduled a special election to fill the state Senate District 27 seat vacated by the resignation of former Sen. Bryce Marlatt. Fallin on Thursday scheduled a special primary election for Dec. 12 and a special general election for Feb. 13. If a special primary election is unnecessary, the special general election will be Dec. 12. The filing period for candidates for the seat is Oct. 2-4. [Tulsa World]

Rogers County officials eye property tax proposal to create scholarship fund: The high school senior told Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas it was a pleasure to meet him, that he wanted to be a city manager some day, too. Great, said Thomas. What do you plan to study in college? Oh, I’m not going to college, said the student. Can’t afford it. That encounter a few days ago hit home for Thomas. He’s the oldest of nine children and was the first in his family to go to college. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Our constituents did not send us to the Capitol to simply make across the board cuts and walk away claiming ‘we tried’. The people of Oklahoma expect more from us than a short-term, Band-Aid budget fix which fills the immediate budget hole, but does nothing to address the budget problems we are facing next year.”

– Senate Minority Leader John Sparks (D-Norman) on the importance of addressing the structural budget deficit in the upcoming special legislative session (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children under age 5 living in poverty in 2016.

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Cassidy-Graham’s Waiver Authority Would Gut Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions: The revised Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal plan from Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, which is also backed by Senators Dean Heller and Ron Johnson, would give states broad waiver authority to eliminate the ACA’s core protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. These waivers would come on top of the proposal’s elimination of the ACA’s marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion, its radical restructuring of the rest of the Medicaid program, and its large cuts to total federal funding for health insurance coverage. [CBPP]

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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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