In The Know: Kansas Tax Cut Experiment Comes To An End As Lawmakers Vote To Raise Taxes

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

Kansas Tax Cut Experiment Comes To An End As Lawmakers Vote To Raise Taxes: Kansas lawmakers have voted to roll back a series of major tax cuts that became an example for conservative lawmakers around the country but didn’t deliver the growth and prosperity promised by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. A coalition of conservative Republicans, some of whom voted for sweeping tax cuts in 2012 or defended them in the years since, sided with moderates and Democrats to override Brownback’s veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase [NPR]. The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Psych Hospital At The Center Of BuzzFeed News Investigation Will Lose State Funding: The state of Oklahoma is taking action against a Tulsa hospital owned by America’s largest psychiatric care companies, Universal Health Services, no longer sending children and adolescents in its custody to the facility and warning that it will cut off its Medicaid funding. The hospital, Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health, was the subject of a recent BuzzFeed News investigation that revealed that frequent violence endangers patients and staff, that children as young as 5 are separated from their parents and held in dangerous situations, and that wards were repeatedly understaffed [Buzzfeed News].

Congress is trying to strip away Americans’ protections from predatory lending: Last month, Governor Fallin made the right choice when she vetoed HB 1913 – a bill that would have expanded predatory lending in Oklahoma. In her veto message, Fallin pointed out that Oklahomans frequently take out high-interest loans at a high cost to them and their families. Gov. Fallin wisely chose not to add another predatory product to the market that could trap Oklahoma families in even more debt. Predatory lending is not just an Oklahoma problem [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: What’s a revenue bill? If something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, is it a duck? In essence, that’s the question the Oklahoma Supreme Court will likely soon be asked to decide: Are several bills intended to generate several hundred million dollars in revenue to balance the state budget actual revenue bills under the terms of the state constitution? The answer is far from obvious [David Blatt / Journal Record]. The state budget is sitting on shaky constitutional foundations [OK Policy].

New Oklahoma law raises small claims court limit: The Oklahoma Legislature expanded access to the small claims court by raising limits on the amount sought by plaintiffs. The new law signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this week raises the limit from $7,500 to $10,000. Civil cases where the plaintiff is seeking a higher value will be filed in district court. Cases making their way through small claims court are generally cheaper and move more quickly, said Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma attorney Brian Bishop [NewsOK].

Despite negotiated compromise, workers’ comp remains untouched: After two years of court rulings that picked away at Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation system, lawmakers and the business community were eager for a fix. They decided on House Bill 1462 as a vehicle for the changes. Near the end, the bill was partly meant to remove or rework parts of the law that had been successfully challenged at the Oklahoma Supreme Court [NewsOK].

Six Republicans, two Democrats file for vacant House seat: Six Republicans and two Democrats have filed for the Aug. 8 special election primary for state House District 76. The three-day filing period ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday. During the same period, nine candidates — seven Republicans and two Democrats — filed for the vacancy in Senate District 45, located in the Oklahoma City metro area [Tulsa World].

Former senator sees path to prosperity: Former Tulsa State Sen. Mike Mazzei outlined education, job growth and state budget policy changes that would put Oklahoma and Oklahomans on the path to prosperity Monday. Mazzie, the honorary chairman of the Oklahoma Opportunity Project, focused on improving education, preparing the state’s workforce and fixing the state’s budget woes at the Noon Rotary meeting in the Bartlesville Community Center [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Boys learn not to mess with political rights of women: It was a viral fire spreading across social media: Oklahoma Boys State voted to eliminate the 19th Amendment. Heresy. Crazy. Disrespectful. Backwards. What? Ugh! Wait. Maybe not. “That’s not true at all,” said Executive Director Clay Ballenger. “First, a state cannot pass a law superseding a Constitutional Amendment. And second, it just didn’t happen.” [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma ranks third least safe state in the U.S. A report by Wallethub ranks Oklahoma the third least safe state in the U.S. The report lists the most and least safe states just in time for National Safety Month. The No. 1 safest state is Vermont, and the least safe state is Mississippi. Oklahoma ranked as the third least safe state, only above Louisiana and Mississippi. The report shows our state is above average for murders, assaults and people who don’t have health insurance [KOCO].

SPS Summer feeding program in full swing: Holly Lettkeman couldn’t be more pleased with the summer feeding program offered by Stillwater Public Schools. The mother of 11 brought seven of her children to Will Rogers Elementary Wednesday to enjoy a free, nutritious meal. “It is a wonderful program,” Lettkeman said. “This helps parents budget during the summer.” The program kicked off this week and runs weekdays through July 28, though no food will be served on Independence Day [Stillwater News Press].  Not having enough to eat impacts Oklahomans of all ages, but it especially affects children [OK Policy].

Extension programs help Agriculture Department maintain budget: The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry was one of the few state agencies that escaped budget cuts for the fiscal year starting July 1, largely because of last-minute funding to protect extension services. Instead of taking the 4-percent to 5-percent hit that most agencies faced, the Agriculture Department’s budget increased by about $1 million for the new fiscal year from the fiscal year ending June 30 [Journal Record].

Tulsa City Council Unanimously Approves 2017-2018 Budget: The Tulsa City Council unanimously approved the 2017-2018 budget. The $826.8 million budget includes all city funds, operations and capital funding from Improve Our Tulsa and Vision Tulsa while the general fund, used for most core services and operations, is $269.4 million of the total. A news release says the budget was approved after months of meetings [NewsOn6].

Historical site preservation efforts challenged by budget: Lack of money for preservation and management of historical sites has pushed the Oklahoma Historical Society to seek alternative funding. Kathy Dickson, director of museums and sites at the Oklahoma Historical Society, said there has always been a lack of repair funds for OHS. Legislators put money in the OHS budget for staff members and utilities but would leave little for development, repair or maintenance [Journal Record].

Inhofe celebrating advancement of new accountability and whistleblower protections at Veterans Affairs: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is celebrating Senate passage of new accountability measures and whistleblower protections within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Republican and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee cosponsored the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which passed the Senate late Tuesday by voice vote [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Now we have a source of money. Then we can work our way out of the hole that we’re in. It’s almost like you can breathe.”

– Kansas state Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence), describing state Legislature’s override of Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase, including rolling back his landmark 2012 tax cuts. Kansas faced a $900 million budget shortfall this year (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children whose parents lack secure employment (2015)

Source: Kids Count

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The People Left Behind When Only the ‘Deserving’ Poor Get Help: In the eyes of the state of Maine, Laurie Kane is an able-bodied adult without dependents, and thus ineligible for most forms of government support. In her own eyes, it is hard to see how she is going to find housing, work, and stability without help. Kane is struggling to put her life back together amid a spell of homelessness that has lasted for three years. She has a severe anxiety condition, along with other health problems, and had suffered a panic attack on the day I met her. But she had not managed to sign up for MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, because she cannot get a doctor to certify her as being disabled. That’s not because a doctor has evaluated her and found her to be fine, but because she’s been unable to get a doctor’s appointment [The Atlantic].

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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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