In The Know: House leaders will present budget cuts this week

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

House leaders will present budget cuts this week: The Oklahoma House will vote this week on $40 million in spending cuts after lawmakers rejected on Monday a tax increase. House Floor Leader Jon Echols said the cuts will be combined with whatever money is available this year to handle the remaining $63 million revenue shortfall [NewsOK].

Legislature’s steps unclear in budget follow-up: Three state agencies’ fates remain uncertain after the Step Up Oklahoma plan failed on the House floor late Monday. Democrats insisted productive negotiations are still possible Tuesday, but top Republicans said it’s too late and that about $45 million in cuts is inevitable. Those would all take place by the end of fiscal year 2018 in June. Step Up Oklahoma is a coalition of business executives that pitched a policy- and budget-overhaul plan in January [Journal Record]. House Democrats called for renewed budget negotiations [Public Radio Tulsa].

Following accusations of domestic violence, interim OSDH director resigns: Less than 24 hours after a report by The Frontier outlined an incident where Preston Doerflinger was accused of choking his wife, he resigned from Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet and as interim commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. In a statement, Gov. Mary Fallin said Doerflinger never told her about a 2012 run-in with police in which Doerflinger was accused of choking his now ex-wife [The Frontier].

David Holt elected Oklahoma City mayor; Murdock wins SD 27: Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) has been elected as Oklahoma City’s next mayor. He will succeed Mayor Mick Cornett, for whom Holt served as chief of staff from 2006 to 2010. Cornett is running for governor. Holt, 38, will become the youngest mayor of Oklahoma City since 1923, according to information provided by his campaign. He will be sworn into office April 10 [NonDoc].

Pay raise fight worth the effort, teachers say: Oklahoma educators filled the Capitol on Monday to support a $5,000 salary increase, with hope that lawmakers would vote for the tax hikes to pay for it. The raise would be paid for with tax revenue in Step Up Oklahoma’s plan through House Bill 1033. Teachers have helped round out the political force behind the tax plan, and the inclusion of a salary increase gave lawmakers more of an incentive to support it [NewsOK]. One day after the Step Up failure, 11 educators across Tulsa announced their resignations [KJRH].

Hofmeister calls failure of HB 1033 ‘soul-crushing blow’ for Oklahoma education: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the following remarks this evening following the failure of House Bill 1033, a revenue package that would have funded a $5,000 teacher pay raise, to pass the state House of Representatives. The measure fell short of the required three-fourths “supermajority” for revenue bills [Claremore Progress].

Professionals fear mental health services are at risk in budget talks: As lawmakers work on the state budget, lives and livelihoods hang in the balance. Outpatient services cost less than keeping people in prison or other institutions, but outpatient services are often the first to go during budget cuts, mental health professionals said at a recent meeting of the Cleveland County Mental Health Task Force [Norman Transcript].

Spotlight on both political parties as Oklahoma seems headed for ‘financial apocalypse’: Politics makes for strange bedfellows. It also makes for strange tote boards. Monday, for instance, nearly three-fourths of the Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted for a $581.5 million tax increase. Nearly two-thirds of House Democrats voted against it, and in so doing voted against more money for teachers, Medicaid and mental health [Tulsa World].

Bill Watch: Will 2018 be the year Oklahoma finally gets serious about criminal justice reform? After a disappointing end to the 2017 session, there are encouraging signs that 2018 could be a more fruitful year for Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform advocates. Many of the far-reaching proposals of the Justice Reform Task Force have a shortened path to the Governor’s desk this year since they already passed several votes last year, and House Speaker Charles McCall has said he intends to bring them up quickly. In addition to those proposals, which focus on reining in prison population growth, there are promising ideas to make progress on pretrial justice and to reduce the impact of criminal fines and fees [OK Policy].

Kentucky Rushes to Remake Medicaid as Other States Prepare to Follow: With approval from the Trump administration fresh in hand, Kentucky is rushing to roll out its first-in-the-nation plan to require many Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer or train for a job — even as critics mount a legal challenge to stop it on the grounds that it violates the basic tenets of the program. At least eight other Republican-led states are hoping to follow — a ninth, Indiana, has already won permission to do so — and some want to go even further by imposing time limits on coverage [New York Times]. Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new Medicaid​ restrictions​ [OK Policy].

Battle Brewing Over Oklahoma Alcohol Tax Laws: Oklahoma’s new alcohol laws take effect in October, but how drinks will be taxed is still up in the air. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, has filed legislation that would eliminate a 13.5 percent tax on full strength beer, wine and drinks with spirits purchased at restaurants and bars, and replace it with a 6.5 percent alcohol tax at the distribution level [KGOU].

Analysis: Oklahoma the third worst state for structurally deficient bridges: Decades of neglect to the state’s aging transportation system have left thousands of bridges in desperate need of expensive replacement or repair. Nearly 1 in 7 of Oklahoma’s county bridges can’t support the weight of a fully loaded school bus, said Randy Robinson, executive director of the Oklahoma Cooperative Circuit Engineering Districts Board. The board helps tackle transportation issues on the county roadway system [CNHI].

Oklahoma lawmaker wants judge removed over rape plea deal: An Oklahoma lawmaker is calling for the ouster of a judge who approved probation for a man who admitted raping a 13-year-old Texas girl at a church camp. House Resolution 1025 by Republican Rep. Mike Ritze asks the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary to begin removal proceedings for District Judge Wallace Coppedge. The resolution is not legally binding [AP].

Here Are the Places That Struggle to Meet the Rules on Safe Drinking Water: To ensure that tap water in the United States is safe to drink, the federal government has been steadily tightening the health standards for the nation’s water supplies for decades. But over and over again, local water systems around the country have failed to meet these requirements. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that, since 1982, between 3 and 10 percent of the country’s water systems have been in violation of federal Safe Drinking Water Act health standards each year [New York Times].

Quote of the Day

“Today our members are back at school doing their job and they expect nothing less of our legislators. If there’s a better plan, I expect to see it soon.”

– Alicia Priest, president of Oklahoma Education Association, encouraging the Legislature to keep trying to fund a plan to provide a teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


The percentage of OK Dept. of Corrections employees who qualify for SNAP benefits, according to Director Joe Allbaugh.

Source: KFOR News

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities: The expansion provided a lifeline to the struggling region, creating jobs and contributing tax revenue to an area sorely in need of both. In San Bernardino, the unemployment rate that was as high as 15 percent in 2012 is now 5 percent. Yet in many ways, Amazon has not been a “rare and wonderful” opportunity for San Bernardino. Workers say the warehouse jobs are grueling and high-stress, and that few people are able to stay in them long enough to reap the offered benefits, many of which don’t become available until people have been with the company a year or more [Atlantic].

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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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