In The Know: Fallin would veto another budget lacking teacher raise

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.

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Today In The News

Fallin would veto another budget lacking teacher raise: Gov. Mary Fallin said she would veto another proposed budget that doesn’t include a pay raise for teachers, something she called a top priority headed into her final year in office. Following an address to dozens of school superintendents on Wednesday, in which she talked about the need for a teacher pay raise, Fallin was asked by a reporter if she would veto a budget that did not include a salary increase for educators. “In the second special session? Yeah, I would,” Fallin said [NewsOK].

Poll: Likely voters would support teacher raise with gross production tax hike, give lawmakers low marks on education funding: More than half of the respondents to a poll released Wednesday believe that education funding should be increased, even if it means raising taxes. The poll was commissioned by the Oklahoma Education Association and was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research Inc., based in Colorado. The results are based on 502 random telephone interviews among likely voters in the November 2018 Oklahoma elections [Tulsa World]. Most Oklahoma voters have a positive opinion of President Donald Trump, while Gov. Mary Fallin and the state Legislature received negative ratings from most voters in a recent poll [NewsOK]. The survey is available here. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy].

Petition to increase teacher pay faces legal challenge from oil and gas group: Legal challenges were filed Wednesday against a recently announced initiative petition seeking a vote to increase the gross production tax to fund teacher pay raises. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association filed two challenges to State Question 795 with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state question petition, spearheaded by Restore Oklahoma Now Inc., seeks signatures to put on the ballot a proposal to raise the rate on new wells to 7 percent from 2 percent in order to fund a $4,000 teacher pay raise [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmaker warns Nebraska against tax cut triggers: A Republican state representative in Oklahoma who has been chair of its House Appropriations and Budget Committee has cautioned Nebraska state senators about considering enactment of legislation that would automatically trigger tax cuts. Oklahoma did that, with her help, Rep. Leslie Osborn said, and “we had to pull it back” because of its impact on state programs, which already had been affected by a continuing series of tax cuts [Lincoln Journal Star]. Tax cut triggers are anything but fiscally responsible [OK Policy].

Health Agency ‘Bloat’ Included Fallin Effort to Remake Public Health: Seven years ago, with Oklahoma stuck near the bottom in key public health rankings, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Gov. Mary Fallin set out to reshape the strategy for markedly improving health outcomes for Oklahomans. The approach would involve new health department initiatives, partnerships, educational efforts and other programs. There was just one problem: The money to pay for them could run out. And ultimately, that’s what started to happen [Oklahoma Watch].

Bill could give districts more flexibility in spending property taxes: A state lawmaker wants to give school boards and superintendents more flexibility in how they can spend property taxes. Under current law, districts must spend a certain portion of their ad valorem funds on capital improvement projects like school buildings, furniture, equipment, computers, telecommunication and utility costs, insurance premiums or to pay the salaries of security guards. But state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, said local school district leaders and technology centers should also have the option of spending those funds on operational costs — like teacher salaries and other needs [CNHI].

Roadside cameras won’t solve Oklahoma’s uninsured driver problem: In 2016 Oklahoma enacted SB 359 creating the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program. The new law allows district attorneys to contract with private companies for automated license plate readers to catch and send tickets to uninsured drivers. The company that won the contract, Gatso USA, will provide the equipment and in return will get a portion of the fine (initially about 43 percent). District attorneys will also get a cut of any fines collected – 20 percent. Supporters of this program argue that it will reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: The ACA lives: After a newspaper ran a premature obituary notice for Mark Twain, the author famously announced, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Today we could write that about the Affordable Care Act, the signature policy achievement of President Obama that has reduced uninsured rates to historic lows and ensured that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions can get care. For most of last year, Republicans in Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Lifting burden for nurse practitioners: Rural Oklahoma has always been close to my heart. I grew up on a farm in Adair, and it was the values of a rural community – hard work, honesty, caring for your neighbors – that shaped who I am and led me to public service. Today, I chair the legislature’s Rural Caucus and seek solutions to the problems facing small communities across our state. One of those problems is a lack of access to health care, and that problem is quickly becoming a crisis [Sen. AJ Griffin / Stillwater News Press].

Blocked in tribal courts, Cherokee Nation to pursue opioid lawsuit in state court, officials say: Blocked from pursuing the case in tribal court, the Cherokee Nation plans to sue several major corporations in state court for allegedly creating “an epidemic of prescription opioid drug abuse” among Native Americans, officials said Wednesday. Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree originally filed the lawsuit last April in tribal court, arguing that federal and Cherokee law gives tribal judges jurisdiction over non-Indians when they are threatening the “political integrity, economic security or health and welfare” of the tribe [Tulsa World].

AG Hunter speaks on opioid epidemic, process: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has been on the job less than a year. Much of the his focus has been on the state’s opioid epidemic. Hunter met with members of the Stillwater News Press Editorial Board to discuss his goals as attorney general Wednesday afternoon. Hunter replaced Scott Pruitt when Pruitt was appointed as head of the Environmental Protective Agency by President Donald Trump. Hunter is running for re-election this year, although he has no opponent to date [Stillwater News Press].

In states that didn’t expand Medicaid, hospital closures have spiked: In recent years Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion has created a financial fault line in American health care. Hospitals in states that enacted the expansion got a wave of newly insured patients, while those in states that rejected it were left with large numbers of uninsured individuals. A new study released Monday reports a crucial consequence of that divide: Nonexpansion states have suffered a significant increase in hospital closures. States that expanded benefits, on the other hand, saw their rate of closures decline [STAT]. It’s time to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Landowners, Halliburton at odds over polluted site: David P. Page is suing Halliburton Energy Services Inc. for damages to homes and businesses near the company’s former headquarters in Duncan. The ammonium perchlorate that contaminated the groundwater near an old industrial site isn’t what’s in question in the mass tort case the attorney has in federal court. It’s how much each of the 119 plaintiffs was damaged. Gary Allison, a retired law energy law professor, said the case is much more straightforward than a health-related pollution damages case [Journal Record].

Midwest City Industrial Site Put On EPA Superfund List: The Environmental Protection Agency has placed a contaminated industrial site in Midwest City on the national priorities list for Superfund sites. The EPA said groundwater around the former Eagle Industries site at 10901 SE 29th is polluted with trichlorethylene or TCE. The Dept. of Environmental Quality said the TCE was used to clean airplane equipment. Eagle Industries closed in 2010 and had worked with the DEQ since 2003 to clean soil at its site [News9].

Parents Still Fighting To Remove Humphreys From School Board: A group of about 20 parents asked Oklahoma City Public School Board members on Monday to kick former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys off the board of a local charter school. Humphreys recently equated homosexuality to pedophilia while on a Sunday morning talk show, and many John Rex Charter School parents feel his comments were homophobic, and disqualify him from serving on the charter’s board of directors [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Navy veteran brings relief to local food desert in northeast Oklahoma City: Access to affordable groceries just got a whole lot easier for many residents in northeast Oklahoma City. A new Save-A-Lot will provide access to fresh foods for many in one of Oklahoma City’s food deserts, an area where many low-income residents are living more than a mile from the nearest grocery store. The store is owned by a group of military veterans who open stores in similar need-based locations across the country [NewsOK]. Food deserts are a big reason behind Oklahomans’ poor health [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“In the second special session? Yeah, I would.”

– Gov. Fallin, in response to a reporter who asked if she would veto a budget that did not contain a teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of children age 0-17 in foster care in Oklahoma in SFY 2016

Source: KIDS Count Data Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Choosing Between Squalor Or The Street: Housing Without Government Aid: Pearlie Mae Brown’s wooden house is listing a little. The screen door is broken, and another screen door is nailed sideways over a window. Inside, most of the outlets don’t work, cockroaches scurry across the appliances and the kitchen floor has a large hole in it down to the dirt below the house. “It’s supposed to be a wooden floor,” Brown, 81, says with a wry smile. This house is a rental — just minutes away from the booming heart of downtown in West Dallas, the newly gentrifying neighborhood where Brown has lived all her life. Many of the houses are cheap in this part of town, but the conditions are often poor. Brown says she has little choice [NPR].

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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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