In The Know: House weighs $1,000 teacher raises

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 weighs $1,000 teacher raises: Education advocates on Tuesday said a legislative proposal awarding teachers a $1,000 raise could ultimately be viewed as a slap in the face and push more educators out of Oklahoma classrooms. “That is not enough to incentivize future teachers or current teachers,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, after a House committee pushed a plan forward that would also give classroom support professionals a raise. A $1,000 raise would cost as much as $60 million a year, budget officials said [CNHI]. House lawmakers advanced familiar measures Tuesday but didn’t consider a Rainy Day Fund spending bill approved by the Senate a day earlier [NewsOK].

Legislature drills down into details on revenue-raising measures: The Oklahoma Legislature can’t seem to compromise on a bipartisan budget bill. So top officials are homing in on one portion of oil and gas wells from which to raise revenue. House Republicans introduced a bill that would raise rates on a small subset of existing wells. Previous attempts in the special session to raise gross production taxes to 4 percent on all new wells failed. Legislators were unsuccessful in advancing a $3,000 teacher pay raise [Journal Record]. Lawmakers have good revenue options for special session if they have the will to use them [OK Policy].

Legislature devolves from solutions to blame-game politics: Members of the Oklahoma Legislature seem to have given up on solving the state’s problems and have moved on to their more natural strengths: denial, projection, partisan bickering and blame-game politics. Last week, there was hope. Gov. Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz unveiled a plan to raise cigarette, fuel and alcoholic beverage taxes and use the money to plug the state’s $215 million budget hole, give teachers a $3,000 pay raise, recreate the state’s earned income tax credit for working poor parents and improve the state’s future fiscal structure [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Several fee hikes included in new state laws that take effect Wednesday: The Oklahoma Legislature has struggled to come up with enough votes to pass tax increases this year — but that didn’t keep lawmakers from approving a bunch of fee hikes. Oklahomans ranging from felons to aircraft owners now face higher fees due to increases that became effective Wednesday. Among the 228 new Oklahoma laws passed last session that took effect Nov. 1 are many that call for significant fee hikes [NewsOK].

Oklahoma auditor says agency ‘concerns’ prompt audit request: Financial concerns that prompted Oklahoma’s health commissioner to ask for a state audit of his agency also led to the commissioner’s resignation, Oklahoma’s top auditor said Tuesday. A team of state auditors has been reviewing the Health Department’s financial records since the agency requested the audit last month, Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones said. A Sept. 28 letter from the department’s health commissioner, Dr. Terry Cline, a its senior deputy commissioner, Julie Cox-Kain cited dwindling resources and “a budget and operating cash shortfall” since the start of the fiscal year on July 1 [AP]. One of Preston Doerflinger’s first moves Tuesday as interim head of the beleaguered Oklahoma Department of Health was to force out the agency’s chief lawyer [NewsOK].

Governor Fallin names interim director of Office of Management and Enterprise Services: Oklahoma’s governor has named an interim director for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Governor Mary Fallin announced Oct. 31 that she has named Denise Northrup interim director for OMES. Northrup takes over for Preston Doerflinger. …Doerflinger was named interim director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health Monday following the resignation of OSDH Terry Cline [FOX25].

Turnover of state workers climbing as their salaries fall further behind: We expect a lot from the Oklahomans who work for state government. These are the men and women we entrust to care for victims of abuse and neglect, supervise the most dangerous criminal offenders, stop the spread of infectious diseases, and ensure that our laws are applied fairly. We expect them to be well-trained, to work hard, and to maintain the highest ethical standards. Unfortunately, a decade of budget shortfalls have made it increasingly difficult to pay state workers competitive wages [OK Policy].

State Lawmakers Respond to Criticism Over Support for Terence Crutcher Foundation: State lawmakers pushed back Monday against recent criticism over their support of the Terence Crutcher Foundation. Sen. Kevin Matthews said since Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton questioned his citation to recognize Crutcher’s life and foundation, he’s received several calls and emails saying he shouldn’t support a man who was a criminal and a drug user [KWGS].

New jail visitation rules have increased profits, but left family members on the outside looking in: When Thomas Myers was arrested in early September, he had just allegedly broken into his childhood home and rummaged through a jewelry box. Myers’ legal trouble began about the same time he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1990s, according to Joni Clark, his sister. Clark said her brother is a caring, artistic person who hopes to one day create a program to take care of pets who are stranded when their owner goes to jail. But he’s also struggled to stay on his medication [The Frontier].

Periscope: Opioid addiction and declining workforce participation: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter put opioids on the top of his list as soon as he took office, forming an opioid task force to figure out how best to stem the tide of addiction and overdose deaths. Last week, President Trump declared opioid addiction a public health emergency and while that only made $57,000 available to combat the problem, the pronouncement certainly helped publicize the problem. As of 2015, there were about 34,000 Americans killed in car crashes [Ted Streuli / Journal Record].

ICE deports OKC man in country illegally, family vows to fight: Despite protests by his family and local activists, a father of six who entered the country illegally and has lived in Oklahoma City for more than a decade was deported over the weekend. “Luis Plaza Moreno was removed to Mexico through Del Rio, Texas, on Oct. 28,” said Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in an email [NewsOK].

Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Lucas Offers Insight into GOP Tax Reform Bill: What will the GOP tax reform bill coming out tomorrow look like? Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas has some predictions. Speaking at a Tulsa Regional Chamber forum, Lucas said the plan is still to double the individual income tax deduction from $12,000 to $24,000. But, a hefty border adjustment tax that would have paid for many other benefits in the legislation has become politically unpopular [KWGS].

Congress quietly passed a budget outline with $1.8 trillion in health care cuts: The budget resolution adopted by the US Senate last week, and by the House of Representatives on Thursday, is not a law. It cannot be signed or vetoed by the president, and the policies it recommends are just that — recommendations. But it still matters. The budget resolution changes the rules for passing certain legislation, especially in the Senate, and this resolution in particular will allow Republicans to pass $1.5 trillion in tax cuts (or more, depending on how they choose to do the math) over 10 years with only 51 votes [Vox].

PolitiFact: James Lankford’s statement on economic growth in past 100 years is half-true: The Republican message on tax reform is that it holds the key to kicking the economy into high gear. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has talked of steady yearly growth of 3 percent or more each year with passage of the package. Many economists, regardless of their economic leanings, say that prediction is unlikely to play out, but Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said it makes sense to him [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s Hearing To Be Next NASA Head Today: President Trump’s pick for the next head of NASA, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine has his Senate nomination hearing Wednesday. The congressman, who is a Republican, serves in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. He was elected to Congress in 2012 and currently serves on House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee [NewsOn6].

By the skin of his teeth: learning to walk again without health insurance: In the weeks after professional bull rider Joseph Dewey suffered an injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down, an outpouring of support kept him buoyed above the undertow of hopelessness and despair. …Now two years after his injury, Dewey is without health insurance. After being dropped by one provider while he was still riding, he relied on Oklahoma’s state Medicaid program to pay for his hospitalization and treatment, only to have it cancelled and denied once it was up for renewal [The Guardian].

Quote of the Day

“We’ve got to be bold and stop getting paralysis by analysis. (Otherwise,) the naysayers are correct — we’ll never get a pay raise. They’ll never be one because we’ll be afraid of our own shadow. Eventually, we’re going to need to prioritize how we spend state dollars.”

– House Majority Leader Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) speaking in favor of a proposed $1,000 teacher pay raise, which some education advocates said wasn’t enough to be meaningful (Source)

Number of the Day


State and local property tax collections per capita in Oklahoma, 49th in the US

Source: Tax Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The New Reality of Old Age in America: Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass. “I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour. Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip — a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America [Washington Post].

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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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