In The Know: Fallin Signs $6.8B Spending Plan to Fund Oklahoma Government

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 Signs $6.8B Spending Plan to Fund Oklahoma Government: Gov. Mary Fallin signed a $6.8 billion spending bill on Wednesday that slashes the budgets of most Oklahoma agencies by about 5 percent over the objection of critics who say the measure may be unconstitutional and is likely to face a legal challenge. Fallin signed the general appropriations bill , along with more than a dozen other measures approved by the Legislature in the last days of the legislative session that ended Friday. The Legislature closed an $878 million hole in the budget through a combination of agency budget cuts and several revenue raising measures, including a $1.50-per-pack cigarette fee and a new 1.25 percent tax on vehicle purchases [AP]. If we look only at the bills that made it through the full legislative process to be signed by the governor, most Oklahomans would view this year’s legislative session as a disappointment [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Disappointment and hope: If we look only at the bills that made it into law, the legislative session that adjourned last Friday was a disappointment. Lawmakers entered the session knowing they needed to confront big problems – like uncompetitive pay that is draining away our most skilled teachers and state workers; a failing, hugely expensive criminal justice system; long waiting lists for mental health treatment and at-home disability care; and a budget falling ever farther behind what’s needed to keep our state prosperous and safe [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Nation’s Least-Funded Schools Get What They Pay for: In his 17 years as a school official in Oklahoma, Robert Romines has dealt with more than his share of painful situations. In 2013, as superintendent in the town of Moore, he had to shepherd his system through the aftermath of a tornado that caused $2 billion in total damage, destroying entire neighborhoods and taking down two elementary schools. Today, he is up against a subtler but deeply corrosive attack on his schools: death by a thousand spending cuts. No state has suffered more than Oklahoma when it comes to education funding over the past decade [Governing]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

State budget picture allows Tulsa Public Schools to drop plan for furlough days next year: Furlough days for Tulsa Public Schools employees are no longer on the table as the school district moves forward with plans to cut next year’s budget, Superintendent Deborah Gist announced Saturday. Furlough days, which would shorten the district’s school year and reduce the pay of all TPS employees, had been included in Gist’s plan to cut $12 million from the school district’s 2017-18 budget in anticipation of state funding reductions [Tulsa World].

70+ sites around Tulsa offer free summer meals for children: There are a few days every summer that Niva Grayson hates. They’re the days the program director at North Mabee Boys & Girls Club has to go to the freezer to check for bread and ham to thaw. If the kids are lucky, there’s mayo. Some days it’s only two children who don’t have anything for lunch, Grayson said, but on others it’s as many as eight. No one wants bland sandwiches, but it’s all Grayson and the rest of the club’s staff have to offer [Tulsa World]. For Oklahoma families who are food-insecure, school meals can be a lifeline [OK Policy].

Legislature’s failure shifts burden of highway patrol costs to turnpike drivers: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has agreed to fund an Oklahoma Highway Patrol academy class next year for about 30 new state troopers, a renewal of OHP numbers that is needed. The authority’s $5 million donation will cover the cost of training and equipping the troopers and their first year’s salaries and benefits. One or two of those troopers will be assigned to state turnpikes, but the vast majority will be assigned to other state roads [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Budget Cuts Continue to Affect Oklahoma Panhandle State University: Serious budget cuts continue to plague Oklahoma Panhandle State University once again this fiscal year. Oklahoma Panhandle State University is projected to see a loss of over $358,000 through the combination of a 4.5% cut in state allocations and a $146,323 bond debt service. This reduction will mean the loss of jobs and community services. This cut coupled with last fiscal year’s disastrous 15.95% reduction that resulted in a $1.12 million dollar loss to OPSU calls for drastic measures in order to maintain operations [My High Skies]. A budget that slashes Oklahoma’s investment in higher education is one of the worst choices we can make if want a growing economy and a strong middle class [OK Policy].

TCC faces more ‘hard choices’ after state funding cut $1.8 million: Four years of reduced state funding are affecting Tulsa Community College’s ability to meet increasing demand for post-secondary education, TCC President Leigh Goodson said Wednesday. “We can’t put (graduates) out if we don’t have the resources,” Goodson said. “Going forward, high school is just not going to be enough. It won’t be enough if we want to have family-sustaining wages supporting our economy.” [Tulsa World]

ECU president’s story offers students encouragement: Katricia Pierson’s journey from clueless college freshman to East Central University president gives her plenty to draw on when it comes to relating to students and their struggles. Young people who grew up in poverty, students who are the first in their family to tackle higher education, single moms trying to juggle coursework and home life — Pierson has been there. “I’m really sympathetic to first-generation students that we see. They’re coming out of family situations that I experienced,” she said [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett announces he’s preparing to run for governor in 2018: Mick Cornett, who is finishing his fourth and final term as mayor of Oklahoma City, announced Wednesday he is preparing a run for governor in 2018. Cornett, a Republican, likely would go into a GOP primary contest against candidates including Tulsa personal injury lawyer Gary Richardson and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. Cornett shared his plans Wednesday evening with more than 20,000 people who follow him on Twitter [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Council sets public hearings on sales tax, bond proposals: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday set public hearings for June 13 on bond and sales tax proposals designed to address residents’ No. 1 complaint — abysmal streets. Together, bonds financed by property taxes and extension of the MAPS 3 sales tax will bring in an estimated $725 million for streets and related improvements in the next 10 years. A significant share will be front-loaded by combining borrowing with the $180 million expected to be raised in the first 27 months through the MAPS sales tax extension [NewsOK].

OKC unemployment rate continues to improve: Unemployment percentages are continuing to fall in the Oklahoma’s major metropolitan areas and across the state and oil and gas industry jobs are continuing to grow. That’s the latest conclusions analysts are drawing from data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The agency’s preliminary estimate of unemployed workers in Oklahoma was 4 percent in April, down from an adjusted percentage of 4.2 percent in March [NewsOK].

Tulsa’s Economic Development Commission re-emerges after going defunct in 2014: The city’s Economic Development Commission reconvened after a three-year hiatus Tuesday, reforming to connect Tulsa’s economic development “silos,” officials said. Kathy Taylor, Mayor’s Office economic development chief, said the commission’s focus will be to hone and house the city’s many economic development tools, beginning with a summit of various authorities, boards and commissions in July [Tulsa World].

Hospital sale leaves hundreds without insured access: Oklahoma’s largest hospital system bought Muskogee’s two hospitals, and now hundreds of people will lose access to them. Saint Francis Health System took over the two facilities this spring, and officials announced they would not take two of the most prominent insurance plans in the area. Blue Cross Blue Shield is diverting its patients to other providers, and residents using GlobalHealth will have to follow suit [Journal Record].

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt says he’s ‘determined to prioritize Superfund cleanups’: Many more millions of dollars and many more years on top of several decades of work already performed will be required in the cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund Site, but state and federal officials note continuing progress. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently put the force of his position behind the cleanup efforts. “I am determined to prioritize Superfund cleanups, which are a core part of our mission,” Pruitt said upon announcement of a new grant awarded to the Quapaw Tribe [Tulsa World].

Sen. Inhofe “Elated” at Trump’s Decision to Pull Out of Paris Climate Accord: “I’m elated.” It’s the response from Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe on Wednesday to word that President Trump would soon announce the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. Inhofe’s response came just a week after he took to the Senate floor and said, “If we remain in the agreement, we are putting ourselves at significant litigation risk.” [OK Energy Today]

Oklahoma Capitol restoration marks exterior work milestone: Restoration of Oklahoma’s century-old state Capitol reached a milestone Wednesday as workers dismantled scaffolding from the first portion of the building’s stone facade to undergo extensive repair and cleaning. The Capitol’s northwest corner sparkled in the warm spring sunshine as officials of JE Dunn Construction unveiled the result of their efforts to restore the building’s original cast iron windows, Indiana limestone facade and Oklahoma pink granite base [NewsOK].

Tulsa Race Riot: 96 years ago, a volatile combination exploded outside the Tulsa County Courthouse: Accounts vary as to who or what actually ignited the riot that began outside the Tulsa County Courthouse 96 years ago Wednesday evening. The one reported and apparently generally accepted at the time involved a law officer, a black man and a gun. The law officer, E.S. MacQueen, had been an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff in 1920. Having secured a constable’s commission from a justice of the peace, MacQueen seems to have arrived at the courthouse the evening of May 31, 1921, intent on proving voters had made a mistake electing “Uncle Bill” McCullough instead of him [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be a taxpaying citizen if education was in the state then that it is today. We are not going to break the cycle of poverty if our people aren’t educated. Every time you increase tuition, higher education is shutting out another family that could be helped out of poverty.”

– East Central University President Katricia Pierson (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma residences with broadband internet access, lower than the national average of of 90%

Source: Joint Economic Committee – U.S. Congress

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality: The son of a minister, Ohene Asare grew up poor. His family immigrated from Ghana when hew as 8 and settled down in West Bridgewater, Mass., a town 30 miles south of Boston, where he was one of the few black students at the local public school. “It was us and this Jewish family,” Asare remembered. “It was a field day.” His white classmates bullied him, sometimes using racial slurs. His father transferred Asare when he was 14 to Milton Academy, which awarded Asare a scholarship that covered tuition and board. His parents still had to take out loans worth about $20,000 for his living expenses. But the academy set Asare up for future success. He and his wife, Régine Jean-Charles, whom he got to know at Milton, are in their late 30s. She is a tenured professor of romance langauges and literature at Boston College, and Asare isa founder of Aesara, a consulting and technology company. Two years ago, the couple bought a new home [Matthew Desmond / The New York Times]. 

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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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