In The Know: Finance secretary warns of possible ‘flat budgets’ amid revenue decline

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma’s top finance official warned state agencies to prepare for flat budgets next year after a report showing state revenue collections trail those from the same time last year. Supporters of an initiative petition to create a $500 million bond issue to pay for school storm shelters are criticizing how Attorney General Scott Pruitt has rewritten the ballot language. The Oklahoman profiled a woman who has worked for decades to reform Oklahoma’s marijuana laws.

OETA examined how the continuing government shutdown is beginning to affect businesses and nonprofits in Oklahoma. Nearly 400 state employees at the Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Military Department could be furloughed this week because of the shutdown. Prior to the shutdown, Oklahoma Congressmen James Lankford and Tom Cole warned that it would damage the economy and would not succeed politically, but they voted for it anyway.

The Kansas Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether large tax cuts passed in Kansas have unconstitutionally underfunded public schools. The Tulsa World writes that Oklahoma improve school funding until lawmakers believe they will pay a political price for not doing it. The Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network is sponsoring a public forum on land use and economic growth, as well as a workshop on writing research-based op-eds.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses how the growth of inequality may be damaging our democratic political system. Tonight at Circle Cinema in Tulsa, you can join OK Policy for a screening of the documentary “Inequality for All” followed by a group discussion.

In The News

Oklahoma’s finance secretary warns of possible ‘flat budgets’ amid revenue decline

Oklahoma’s top finance official warned state agency directors Monday to prepare for the possibility of flat budgets next fiscal year after a report showing collections this quarter to the state’s general fund trail those from the same time last year. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger released figures that show collections to the state’s main operating fund for the first three months of the fiscal year were down more than 4 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Collections also were down 6.6 percent in September compared to the same month in the previous year.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Lawmaker criticizes AG’s  ballot rewrite for school storm shelter bonds

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has rewritten a ballot title for an initiative petition seeking to let voters decide whether the state should create a $500 million bond issue to pay for school storm shelters and security. Pruitt’s office found several flaws with how the original measure was worded. Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said Monday that the reworded version focuses too much on the funding mechanism — the franchise tax — as opposed to the project. Dorman is a strong supporter of the bond issue. Supporters of proposed State Question 767 have until Dec. 16 to secure the 155,216 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma woman won’t give up on trying to reform state’s marijuana laws

Few Oklahomans could rival Norma Sapp’s efforts to legalize marijuana. She drove a motor home across the United States, serving as the support vehicle for a friend who was riding his one-eyed paint horse, Misty, across the country to raise awareness of a message: “Cops say legalize marijuana, ask me why.” She has walked the marble hallways of the state Capitol more times than she can remember to advocate for changes in Oklahoma’s marijuana laws. And she ran for a state House office in the 1990s — and quickly learned she didn’t want it. Sapp is a walking encyclopedia for her cause. And still, nothing. Despite the failures, Sapp stays motivated by thinking about what impact a prison sentence can have on a family.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahomans grapple with growing shutdown impact as resources start to dry up

While efforts to end the government shutdown continue, we examine the effect it’s having on communities across the country. With an estimated 40,000 people in central Oklahoma who work for the federal government and a growing number of Oklahomans on food stamps or other government-funded programs, just about every one knows somebody who is being affected by the shutdown or is about to be. The impact extends far beyond government workers now to businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Read more from OETA.

Nearly 400 state workers face furloughs this week

Nearly 400 state employees could be furloughed this week because of the federal budget impasse, Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday. Speaking at a Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel Warren Place, Fallin said the effect on the state of the federal government’s partial shutdown and potential default has been “terrible.” John Estus of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said 277 Department of Rehabilitation Services workers are scheduled for furlough beginning Tuesday. Estus said the Oklahoma Military Department will furlough 111 employees on Friday.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma lawmakers predicted futility of Obamacare fight, but went along

As he prepared to leave town on Saturday, the 12th day of the partial government shutdown, Rep. James Lankford was clearly ready for a resolution. “I didn’t want it to get to this point, and I didn’t want it to last this long if it did,” the Oklahoma City Republican said. His colleague, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, expressed cautious optimism on Saturday that Senate leaders would be able to craft a deal that would avoid default on the nation’s debt and get the government “up and operational.” Both men have thousands of federal workers in their districts — at military bases, field offices for federal agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration center. Though most Defense Department civilians have returned to work, other agencies are still mostly shuttered. Both men saw it coming, and both helped it along.

Read more from NewsOK.

School funding shortfall could end Kansas tax cut push

Hundreds of millions of tax dollars for public schools are at stake in a lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court, but so is the core of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s vision for the state. The Supreme Court heard arguments from attorneys last week in the state’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that Kansas must increase its annual spending on aid to its public schools by at least $440 million. Projections from the Legislature’s research staff suggest the state can’t add so much new spending to its annual budgets with the income tax cuts in place.

Read more from the Kansas City Star.

Changing school funding situation will require new political thinking

State aid to public schools has fallen more than $200 million since the 2008-09 school year, according to a report prepared by the top financial officers of three area districts. That’s simultaneously stunning and not surprising. We all know that the state has cut its support of public schools — more so on a percentage basis than any other state since 2008, according to another study. At the same time, polls of state voters consistently show that their top priority is education — so it is amazing that the state budget doesn’t match that goal.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Upcoming Events: Scholars Strategy Network sponsors local development forum and writing workshop

The Oklahoma chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network is excited to be co-sponsoring two upcoming events. On Wednesday, November 13th, Oklahoma SSN and the OU Economics Club will host a public forum, “Nurturing Local Economic Growth: What can we learn from people in the know?” The forum will address competing approaches to land use policy by bringing together professionals with first-hand experience with land use and economic growth. On Thursday, November 14th, Oklahoma SSN and the University of Tulsa Faculty Writing Program will host a workshop, “Going Public: Writing Research-based Op-Eds”, intended to encourage and assist scholars to have an impact on policy debates.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

I think politically that’s an extremely dangerous thing to do. And I don’t think it will work … I think it will only damage the economy and hurt a lot of innocent people.

-Congressman Tom Cole, speaking in August about a proposal to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. In late September, he joined every other House Republican in voting to do just that (Source:

Number of the Day

74.1 percent

The percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K in Oklahoma, 2nd most in the country behind Florida

Source: National Institute for Early Education Research via Center for American Progress

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Envy, scorn, and shutdown

“Dysfunctional” is a word often applied to the federal government shutdown. If only we had a functional understanding of the causes of dysfunction. Many explanations offered point to the effects of increased income inequality on political institutions. But increased inequality may have even more direct effects, undermining trust and driving the emotional climate toward more intense expressions of envy and scorn.

Read more from Economix.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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