In The Know: Governor Signs Bill to Bank Booming Revenue to Fund State During Oil Busts

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

Governor Signs Bill to Bank Booming Revenue to Fund State During Oil Busts: Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed into law legislation that banks boom-time tax revenues to cushion the state during energy downturns. The Energy Revenues Stabilization Act was created through House Bill 2763, authored by Rep. John Montgomery, R-Lawton. The measure siphons off above-average tax revenues levied on corporations and oil and gas production and saves it in an account that can be tapped during state funding emergencies [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Voter registration deadline nearing for Oklahoma primary: A registration deadline is looming for Oklahomans wishing to vote in the June 28 primary election. Voters have until Friday to register to vote or to change their party affiliation or address before the statewide primary. Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website or picked up at county election board offices, post offices, tag agencies or libraries [Associated Press].

Supporters hope tobacco tax can be revived: Recently, the Oklahoma House of Representatives was unable to pass a proposed “sin tax.” Among the proposals to account for the state’s $1.3 billion revenue shortfall, legislation was proposed to place a $1.50 per pack hike on tobacco taxes, more than double the current tax smokers pay of $1.03 on each pack. The measure failed in a 59-40 vote on May 18 with Republicans placing much blame on the heads of House Democrats [Tahlequah Daily Press]. 

Bill authorizes use of cameras, automated systems to catch uninsured motorists: Oklahoma district attorneys and law enforcement agencies would be authorized to contract for the use of cameras and automated license plate readers to enforce the state’s compulsory insurance law under a bill currently awaiting the governor’s signature. Sears said there are about 650,000 uninsured motorists driving in Oklahoma, and they create danger and financial risk for other motorists who do things right and carry insurance [NewsOK].

Oklahoma legislative session a bust: The legislative session started with high hopes. Sure, the state was facing a $1.2 billion revenue shortfall, but many lawmakers seemed poised to finally fix Oklahoma’s revenue shortfalls. Then, politics took over. Lawmakers, especially the majority party — Republicans — just kicked the budget can down the road. The underlying problem — the revenue deficit which was a problem before the oil downtown and just got worse with it — wasn’t seriously considered [Editorial Board / Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

In its current form, Education Savings Accounts proposal would widen inequality: With budget cuts to public schools dominating recent headlines, the political wrangling in March over Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) seems long forgotten. Rep. Jason Nelson’s HB 2949 would have allowed payments to families with students who leave public schools. These families would receive a voucher for a portion of the funding that the state would have given their public school district, which could go towards private school tuition or homeschool expenses [John Lepine / OK Policy].

Oklahoma poised to take last place in teacher salaries: As the state fights to find ways to give teachers a raise, other states are poised to pass Oklahoma in the national pay scale rankings. The two states previously below Oklahoma in the rankings are getting ready to phase in salary increases in time for next school year. Oklahomans will go to the polls in November to vote on a one-percent sales tax increase, which among other things promises a $5,000 pay increase to all teachers [KFOR].

Oklahoma faces PR nightmare after legislature repeatedly makes national headlines: Oklahoma has been in the national media a lot in recent weeks – and not in a good way. Decisions by our state lawmakers, from the budget to controversial bills, have made headlines for weeks. Now, the business community is concerned. The Chamber of Commerce does perception surveys, where they ask out of state business leaders what they think about Oklahoma [KFOR].

Real ID bill never got out of an Oklahoma legislative committee: The Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept Oklahoma driver’s licenses as valid identification for domestic flights for another couple of years even though they do not comply with a federal act calling for states to improve their ID systems. Aaron R. Rodriguez, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said the deadline for compliance is Jan. 22, 2018, although the state could get an extension that would take it through Oct. 1, 2020 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City schools’ budget tightening means loss of federal technology funds: Oklahoma City Public Schools will not complete a Wi-Fi expansion for all elementary schools this year after officials said they had to turn down $4.6 million in federal technology funds because midyear budget failures left the district without enough money to contribute to the project. In addition to budget cuts, an expansion of the federal funding program to high-income schools has limited the money available for districts like Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

Concerns only mount for crowded OK County jail: When he took over in March as Oklahoma County’s presiding judge, District Judge Don Deason said he wanted his colleagues not to rely solely on the usual bond schedule when setting bail for first-time visitors to the county jail. Concerns being raised by the county’s public offender underscore the need for this change, and perhaps others. In a letter to Deason and county commissioners, Public Defender Bob Ravitz said nearly 1,300 jail inmates were being housed three in a cell last week, and 12 were being held four to a cell [Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Increase in Oklahoma homicides may not indicate dramatic trend: On its face, a 35 percent increase in the number of homicides in Oklahoma from one year to the next sounds bad. But when comparing the figures to the previous five years, remembering that the state saw two mass murders in 2015 and considering that 2014 had the lowest number of murders in a decade — 241 homicides may not indicate a dramatic rising trend in violent crime [Tulsa World].

‘Systemic ineptitude’ not good enough: “Systemic ineptitude” is a phrase that no one wants associated with their state. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Oklahoma got when the report of a multi-county grand jury was made public. The grand jury investigated the Oklahoma Department of Corrections about its handling of executions. In its 106-page report, the jury harshly condemned the actions of some state officials [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

OKC Council approves emergency bridge funds: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday approved emergency steps taken after a 52-foot section of the May Avenue bridge fell onto the Northwest Expressway. City Manager Jim Couch sought $120,000 to pay for removing the fallen roadway and to have engineers inspect the damage and prepare plans for repairs. In a memo, Couch said the roadway demolition work by Cimarron Construction Co. came to $57,750 [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“They had the chance to make a difference that would have been revenue neutral. It would have made huge difference for women across this state, and they chose not to do it.”

-Sally’s List Executive Director Kendra Horn, speaking about an equal pay bill that failed the last day of session. Business leaders have expressed concern that the state legislature is harming Oklahoma’s national reputation (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of hourly workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage in Oklahoma in 2015

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Rehabilitation Paradox: Aman is a twenty-three-year-old man with schizophrenia. As a child, he moved to Boston from the Caribbean, settling with his mother in the predominantly African-American section of Dorchester. During his teen-age years, he got into gang fights and was stabbed three different times. In his junior year, he dropped out of high school and lived in homeless shelters. He was arrested twice for drug possession, and, at seventeen, he was caught with a sawed-off shotgun and sentenced to eighteen months, the mandatory minimum [The New Yorker].

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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.

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