In The Know: Fallin proposes spending $72M from rainy day fund

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 proposes spending $72M from rainy day fund: Gov. Mary Fallin proposed spending $72 million from the rainy day fund on education and prisons, to partially dampen the effect of midyear budget cuts in those agencies. Fallin’s recommendation totals less than a third of the amount available to spend this year from the savings account, and there’s not much support among leadership at the state Capitol to drain it. Through a combination of executive and legislative action, roughly $240 million can be withdrawn to help fill the current year’s budget gap [Journal Record]. OK Policy issued a statement in support of the move last week [OK Policy].

Trimming state payroll might not be an easy solution for budget problem: When finances are tight, states often reduce payrolls to close budget gaps. The reason is obvious: Salaries and benefits make up a substantial share of spending. No doubt cutting employees will be one of the ways Oklahoma copes with a looming $1.3 billion general revenue loss. But it might not be as easy here as in other states. Contrary to the national trend, Oklahoma actually has slightly fewer full-time state employees than it did two decades ago, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Census from 1995 to 2014 [Tulsa World].

OK House passes criminal justice reform measures: Oklahoma district attorneys would gain increased discretion to charge non-violent crimes as a misdemeanor rather than a felony under a bill approved by the Oklahoma House on Monday. The House also approved a bill to increase the felony threshold for property crimes from $500 to $1,000. It also approved a change in the first offense sentence for drug possession. That sentence now stands at two to 10 years [NewsOK].

Why tax increases would be less harmful to Oklahoma’s economy than budget cuts: Do we close the budget hole with deep cuts to core services like schools, public safety, infrastructure, and health care? Do we make what is an unpopular choice even in good economic times by raising taxes? While almost no one wants to cut core services or raise taxes if it can be avoided, the budget won’t be balanced without one, the other, or both. But we can ask: between these bad options, what is likely to do the least harm? [OK Policy].

Oklahoma DHS wants to downsize hundreds of workers while paying millions to consultants: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has paid out more than $5.6 million over the past four years to a New Jersey-based consulting group that includes three experts paid $315 an hour to oversee reforms to the state’s troubled child welfare system. Taxpayer funded payments to Public Catalyst — which average more than $100,000 a month — continue at a time when DHS has offered voluntary buyouts to more than 400 employees as agency officials seek to make tens of millions of dollars in spending cuts over the next 16 months because of declining state revenues [NewsOK].

The clock’s ticking — Legislature should act on behalf of autistic children: Most of us would spend our last dime to help our children. That is exactly what many families across Oklahoma face if they hope to get timely and expensive treatment for a son or daughter with autism. And even then, personal resources might not be enough to cover the cost. Some parents have packed up and moved to Texas where the law requires insurance companies to cover the cost of therapies [Julie DelCour / Tulsa World].

Economists: Oklahoma Came Close To Recession In Last Half Of 2015: Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates Oklahoma came close to a recession last year due to stagnant energy prices. Numbers out Wednesday show Oklahoma saw just 0.1 percent gross domestic product growth during the third quarter of 2015. Only Alaska, North Dakota, and West Virginia saw worse numbers – with negative GDP growth. Oklahoma was on par with Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, and New York at GDP growth below 1 percent [KGOU].

Oklahoma education funding could be further jeopardized by fantasy gaming legislation: Oklahoma education funding could take another blow this year with proposed bills involving fantasy sports gaming. Following a nationwide trend, fantasy gaming leagues are looking to legalize their operations in Oklahoma with legislative measures HB 2278 and SB 1396. If approved, the bills would go into effect Nov. 1 [OU Daily].

Oklahoma public schools receive additional budget cut: Sand Springs Public Schools, like other school districts across the state, is feeling the impact of an additional four percent across-the-board reduction in funding for state agencies that receive money from the general revenue fund. Across the state, the reduction amounts to a $62.3 million funding cut in the wake of the second general revenue failure for fiscal year 2016, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education [Sand Springs Leader].

A proposal that would confirm the authority of Oklahoma regulators to bind companies to their directives heads to the state Senate after passing the House: The state House of Representatives on Monday passed the bill that would explicitly confirm the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has an authority that House Speaker Jeff Hickman says it already possesses: the power to make binding emergency orders and agreements with companies within the commission’s jurisdiction. Hickman says the idea for his bill came from an incident last year when a company challenged the commission’s decision to impose wastewater-disposal restrictions in response to a spike in earthquake activity [Associated Press].

Repealing tax credits won’t solve Oklahoma budget shortfall: Given Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion shortfall, many expected state lawmakers to consider some tax or fee increases this year, along with spending cuts, to fill the budget hole. And members of the Oklahoma Senate, in particular, have advanced numerous bills to repeal or place moratoriums on current tax breaks. The problem is that the Senate has advanced numerous tax increases of various stripes while doing little to address this year’s budget challenges [The Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Shaky Oklahoma releases another plan to reduce temblors: State regulators on Monday asked oil and natural gas producers in central Oklahoma to decrease their wastewater disposal operations to try to temper the sharp increase in the number and severity of earthquakes in the energy-rich state. The proposal released by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission covers more than 400 wells across 6,000 square miles, and it comes less than a month after the commission issued a similar plan covering nearly 250 wells in northwestern Oklahoma. Oklahoma has about 3,800 disposal wells statewide [Associated Press].

First bill signed into law this session transfers Will Rogers Memorial Commission to Oklahoma Historical Society: The first bill signed into law this session transfers the Will Rogers Memorial Commission to the Oklahoma Historical Society. Senate Bill 1570 by Sen. Clark Jolly, R-Edmond, was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday and is effective immediately [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“The cuts are going to come either way either now or next year. But at least if we say the cuts are going to be deeper next year, our schools and hospitals can adjust to those cuts ahead of time and adjust personnel ahead of time.”

-Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City), arguing that Rainy Day funds should go to the Department of Education and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults who were obese in 2015

Source: United Health Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Differences In Suspension May Cause 20 Percent Of Achievement Gap: The achievement gap between black students and their peers is well documented, but conclusive explanations of the reasons for the gap are harder to come by. Now a study of more than 15,000 students in Kentucky says that as much as 20 percent of the difference may be due to a single cause: getting suspended from school. “This analysis — the first of its kind — reveals that school suspensions account for approximately one-fifth of black-white differences in school performance,” write sociology professors Edward W. Morris and Brea L. Perry in the study, published in the journal Social Problems last month [WBUR].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Fallin proposes spending $72M from rainy day fund

  1. Let’s see if we have this straight. Despite their leading role in OK’s place among the worst states in crime reduction and improved public safety over the last two decades, despite their gaining greater political power and professional prestige from their control over the status quo sentencing system in OK, and despite their use of their discretion previously to turn prior misdemeanor charges into felonies and then to pursue even harsher prison sentences for them, in large part causing OK’s overincarceration which is now being “reformed,” state prosecutors are being given more discretion to supposedly, maybe, maybe not start charging more misdemeanors and this is hailed as sentencing reform. Meanwhile all the budget problems outlined in the other stories above will, contrary to Rep. Inman’s statement, go on “next year” (and the year after that) as well as “now.” Okay, got it. Thanks. Congrats.

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