In The Know: House staff asks for 14.5 percent budget cut scenarios

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma House staff asks for 14.5 percent budget cut scenarios: Several state agencies have been asked to report how they would approach a 14.5 percent budget cut next year. In an email obtained by The Oklahoman, the state House’s deputy fiscal director asked agencies to send their reports to the House Appropriations and Budget subcommittee. Nicole McPhetridge wrote that revenue projections announced in February triggered the request. While speaking on a political news podcast this week, House Appropriation Chair Leslie Osborn invoked a 14.5 percent scenario where education funding remained the same while other agencies took cuts. [NewsOK] Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller says he’s cautiously optimistic after overall collections to the state treasury last month were slightly higher than those from the same month last year. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma House passes phased-in teacher pay raise measure: The Oklahoma House has overwhelmingly passed legislation that calls for a $6,000 raise for public school teachers over three years, although lawmakers have not figured out how to pay for it. The House voted 92-7 for the bill on Tuesday and sent it to the Senate. The bill by Republican Rep. Michael Rogers of Broken Arrow calls for a $1,000 raise next year, $2,000 the following year and $3,000 in the third year. [NewsOK] The main challenge for lawmakers is still figuring out how to pay for it. They can’t do that without some kind of tax increase. [OK Policy]

Federal Budget Knife Could Slash Into K-12 Programs: President Donald Trump’s push to drastically reduce domestic spending as a way to boost defense spending could have a significant impact on programs at the U.S. Department of Education, where the biggest streams of funding go toward low-income students and those with special needs. Early last week, Trump announced a proposal to increase defense-related spending by $54 billion in fiscal 2018, which begins in October, and to cut nondefense discretionary spending by a corresponding figure. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the chairman of the House subcommittee that appropriates money for the Education Department, last week referenced the possibility of $18 billion to $20 billion in cuts to the portion of the budget that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. [Education Week]

Oklahoma House Passes Tweak to Lottery Education Funding Formula: The Oklahoma House approved a bill Tuesday supporters say will mean $110 million more dollars over five years for common education. House Bill 1837 changes the lottery’s minimum funding requirement from 35 percent of net proceeds to the first $50 million. Rep. Leslie Osborn said the state budget crunch makes that tweak a good idea. Any funding past the first $50 million of net proceeds will be spent on programs in only two categories: STEM initiatives or reading initiatives. [KWGS]

Too much bacon?: When I first saw the bacon-encrusted maple bar, I actually responded with four words I didn’t think I would ever say: “That’s too much bacon!” I won’t quibble with the relatively new practice of sprinkling a few bacon bits on top of maple donuts. It does seem a match made in heaven. At the same time, this could be overkill. One of the challenges public education in Oklahoma has faced over the years is the false perception of some lawmakers that we also have too much bacon. Not only do they think we have too much bacon; a few lawmakers honestly believe our schools are covered in sprinkles, candy bits, cookies chunks, fancy frosting, and even have a few fruit loops in the mix. [A View From The Edge]

Under proposed drug reform, much of Tulsa becomes a felony zone: Criminal justice reforms were voted in overwhelmingly in November. The reforms — State Questions 780 and 781— go into effect in July and reclassify drug possession — what proponents referred to as “personal use amounts” of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, PCP, or heroin — into misdemeanor crimes rather than felonies and provides funding for drug treatment programs. Since that vote last year, it has been one fight after the other. The latest effort is House Bill 1482, proposed by State Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha. Similar to Shortey’s proposal, it would, by virtue of instituting “proximity modifiers,” neuter the changes made by SQ 780. [The Frontier]

Important to properly fund Oklahoma mental health agency: In a brave and poignant remembrance, The Oklahoman’s food editor, Dave Cathey, wrote last week about losing his 19-year-old son, Luke, to an accidental drug overdose. “The rising presence of opioids in our society is truly a scourge,” Cathey wrote. “His family’s only plea is that his passing be a stone in the path to a solution.” To which we say, from his lips to legislators’ ears. Oklahoma faces numerous important issues, not the least of which is the budget — the Legislature this year has $878 million less to work with than it did a year ago, when the shortfall topped $1 billion. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

House health-care replacement plan looks good to Mullin, not so great to Bridenstine: At least one Oklahoma congressman is excited about the health-care reform legislation introduced Monday by House Republicans. “I’m looking forward to passing The American Health Care Act out of committee so we can begin to deliver on our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with a health care plan that puts patients first,” 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin said in a written statement. Mullin is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday. He has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act. [Tulsa World]

House speaker remains silent on Muslim questionnaire: Oklahoma’s House speaker won’t comment on what has been described as a “hateful” questionnaire given to Muslims visiting another House member’s office. Speaker Charles McCall’s spokesman said the speaker doesn’t need to comment on the actions of state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “The speaker’s position is that all House members are duly elected by their constituents and they are accountable to their constituents for their words and actions,” said Jason Sutton, press secretary and senior public affairs adviser. [NewsOK]

“Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families: For many Oklahomans in a financial trouble, payday loans can seem like a quick and easy fix. Borrowers can take out a payday loan for up to $500, secured by a post-dated check, usually for a period of 12 to 14 days. Under Oklahoma’s deferred deposit lending act, payday lenders can charge $45 in fees for a $300 loan, which amounts to an APR (annual percentage rate) of 391 percent. [OK Policy]

Nation’s Report Card: Native American Students in Oklahoma Outperform Those in Other States: A new report shows Native American students in Oklahoma scored higher in math and reading than Native American students nationwide — a trend that has been consistent for the past decade. Oklahoma’s Native American students also outperformed their peers in nearly all subjects and states in the National Indian Education Study 2015, an analysis of American Indian and Alaska Native students using scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress report, or Nation’s Report Card. [Oklahoma Watch]

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Wyrick’s appointment: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the appointment of Patrick Wyrick to join the ranks of the state’s top court. Wyrick’s recent appointment was challenged by two southeastern Oklahoma residents using attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. They argued he did not meet residency requirements. The Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday, ruling the two residents lacked standing for the lawsuit and had not filed the litigation in a timely manner. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma voters decide bond issues, House primary: An oil and gas operator and an attorney led in their parties’ primary elections Tuesday evening for an open seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The winners of those primaries will go on to compete in a May 9 general election for the State House District 28 seat. The district includes portions of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. Steve Barnes, a Wewoka attorney, led among a field of five candidates in the Democratic primary, with 41.5 percent of the vote and 16 of 17 precincts reporting. Meanwhile, Republican candidate Zach Taylor was leading three other candidates with 56 percent of the vote. The top vote-getter in each primary election advances to the general election in May, regardless of whether the winner receives 50 percent of the vote. [NewsOK]

Latest estimate for Tulsa County juvenile justice center $83 million – nearly double promised figure: Nearly three years after Tulsa County residents approved a sales tax to build a new $45 million juvenile justice center, the latest estimate shows the project could cost as much as $83 million. County commissioners were given the news in November. Commissioner Karen Keith, who spearheaded the campaign to build the facility, said Monday that the public was not informed of the latest estimate because commissioners intended to get the cost within budget. But she also seemed to second-guess how the issue was handled. [The Frontier]

Merger scuttled between OU Medical Center and St. Anthony parent: SSM Health’s St. Anthony Hospitals and Physicians Group and the University of Oklahoma and the University Hospital Authority and Trust announced late Monday they won’t move forward with previously announced plans to combine the organizations. The announcement, issued in a news release by all of the parties involved, provided no specific explanation for why the proposal to create a new nonprofit failed. When announced in October, the agreed-upon merger heralded the creation of a new health care giant that was expected to have funded construction of a new hospital tower in Oklahoma City and to have paid for digital upgrades to patients’ records. [NewsOK]

Number of Oklahoma children up for adoption reaches record low: In 2016, the number of children under DHS custody dipped below 10,000. Now, officials say the department is at a record low with 9,500 children waiting for homes. “We had the highest number of children adopted since 1998. There were 2,244 children that exited foster care for adoption,” said Katelyn Burns, communications manager for DHS. Officials say several factors contribute to the decrease. The main factor is bringing awareness about the need through the governor’s Oklahoma Fosters campaign and showing the children through videos. [KFOR]

With electricity out, new EPA chief reached out to lobbyist: When a summer thunderstorm knocked out power to Scott Pruitt’s home three years ago, the then-attorney general of Oklahoma reached out to a lobbyist for American Electric Power. Pruitt’s executive assistant emailed Howard “Bud” Ground, saying “General Pruitt” wanted to know when his lights would be back on. The utility lobbyist asked for Pruitt’s address and a work crew soon arrived at the Republican official’s sprawling, 5,500-square-foot Tulsa home. The 2013 email exchange is one of dozens reviewed by The Associated Press that underscore the cozy ties between the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency and those that profit from burning fossil fuels. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“What you have is a clever way of basically erasing the law that voters voted for. Legislators have attempted to once again turn simple possession into a felony, which is what their goal is. Certain legislators don’t seem to want to acknowledge the will of the voters.”

-Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform chairman Kris Steele, speaking about HB 1482, which would reverse SQ 780 by reinstating felony drug possession in nearly all populated areas of the state (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage point drop in Oklahoma’s prime-age employment to population ratio from 2015 to 2016, the third largest drop in the U.S.

Source: Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The New Face of American Unemployment: Even at so-called full employment, some 20 million Americans are left behind. They’re looking for work, out of the labor force but unhappy about it, or report working part-time when they’d prefer more hours, according to data released last week. Their plight comes even as the U.S. flirts with what economists consider the maximum level of employment for the first time since before the recession, having added 15.8 million jobs since the start of 2010. While some of America’s jobless are simply between gigs, those persistently stuck out of work are called the structurally unemployed. [Bloomberg]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.