In The Know: Lawmakers debate future of 25-year-old tax law

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

Lawmakers debate future of 25-year-old tax law: As lawmakers continue to struggle to find enough consensus to raise new revenue, a growing number of legislators say it might be time to ask voters to consider overhauling a law passed a quarter century ago. State Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is among the lawmakers who believes it’s time for Oklahomans to consider modernizing the 25-year-old law requiring the approval of three-quarters of lawmakers to raise new taxes. The measure also prohibits lawmakers from raising taxes in the final week of session [CNHI]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [Rep. Marcus McEntire / OK Policy]. What supporters of SQ 640 didn’t foresee [OK Policy].

The Red-State Revolt Spreads to Oklahoma: Republicans have a vise grip on power in Oklahoma, and they are in no imminent danger of losing it. In a state that gave 65 percent of its vote to Donald Trump a year ago, the GOP controls pretty much everything: the governorship and every statewide office, both U.S. Senate seats, all five House seats. The state legislature is almost laughably one-sided; Republicans have super-majorities of more than 70 percent of the seats in each chamber. But in the last four months, voters have repudiated those Republicans running in Oklahoma at the polls [The Atlantic].

Governor’s orders fail to sway far-right legislators: When Gov. Mary Fallin announced a few executive orders that would enact some conservative financial policies, she said her intent was in part to bring some of the right-most lawmakers into the fold during her push for more revenue. However, some of the faction’s most vocal members said they still oppose tax hikes, and some called the orders insulting. When Fallin held a press conference to discuss the executive orders, she said that several people argued during the special legislative session that the state needed to look into promoting efficiency and cost-saving measures before raising taxes [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

This Republican Senator Just Called His Party’s Bluff on Tax Cuts: Republicans are ideologically committed to slashing taxes on the wealthy and corporations. And they’re politically prohibited from raising taxes on most middle-class families, cutting defense spending, or reducing entitlement benefits. In practice, this means that radically increasing the national debt is a core pillar of the GOP’s economic agenda. Of course, Republicans spent the past decade claiming the very opposite [New York Magazine]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

New report examines reforms to rebuild trust between law enforcement and communities in Oklahoma: Today, OK Policy released a report, “Strategies for Building Trust Between Law Enforcement and Communities in Oklahoma,” that details the challenges facing Oklahoma law enforcement and proposes a menu of reforms that have shown promise in addressing those challenges in jurisdictions across the country. By reforming policies regarding use-of-force and the treatment of race in policing, improving and broadening training procedures, and striving to hire officers that reflect the diversity of our communities, agencies can help to build trust with the communities they serve [OK Policy].

No. 1 for 25 years. And it’s an embarrassment: Oklahoma has been No. 1 for 25 years. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with how many women we put in prison. Oklahoma’s incarceration of women has become another of those embarrassing statistics that plague this state. A Nov. 12 article by the Tulsa World’s Ginnie Graham vividly points out the problems and the heartbreaking realization that there is little hope that things will get better [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

State of Emergency: Neglected Oklahoma warns of a state on the brink of social collapse: As social justice advocate Camille Landry was sitting in her car waiting to speak to Red Dirt Report about her new book Neglected Oklahoma, she heard over the radio about another school shooting in California. “It just utterly broke my heart,” Landry said. “This is a sick nation. Our bitterness, our anger, our desperation, our selfishness, our greed, our unwillingness to be a community for each other…it all has ripples that go far beyond just cutting off the limit for food stamps or eliminating Section 8 housing programs.” [Red Dirt Report] You can order a copy of Neglected Oklahoma here.

Preliminary Review: Income tax petition for education funding doesn’t have enough legal signatures: A preliminary review has determined that a petition regarding an income tax to increase education funding does not have enough legal signatures to trigger a public vote, Oklahoma City officials announced Monday. The petition, which was filed Nov. 9, calls for a half-percent income tax on most Oklahoma City residents to raise money for annual stipends for teachers, resident-teachers, school nurses and support personnel at local public schools. The tax would expire after four years and not be levied on low-income residents [KOCO].

Do Oklahoma superintendents make too much money? Gov. Mary Fallin wants to make public schools more efficient by cutting administrative costs, although many superintendents in Oklahoma are critical of that move. On top of that, superintendents say their schools’ budgets have already been cut too much. Dr. Pam Deering, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, said long-term funding for public schools is the key — not cutting administrative costs, as Fallin’s executive order calls for — to make public schools more efficient [KOCO]. If Oklahoma somehow moved every dollar that we spend on district administration into instruction, our funding ranking wouldn’t improve by a single state [OK Policy].

Oklahoma election date on medical marijuana remains hazy: Gov. Mary Fallin has yet to set a date for a statewide vote on medical marijuana, and some groups are now pushing for the measure to be placed on the June 2018 primary ballot. The state could vote on State Question 788 in either the June primary or the November general election. The confusion over the date of the vote has been exacerbated by a leadership dispute at Oklahomans for Health, once the lead proponent behind SQ 788 [NewsOK]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Authorities announce new Highway Patrol chief after current chief retires: State officials announced Monday the promotion of an Oklahoma Highway Patrol major to chief of patrol after the current chief announced his retirement. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said in a news release that, effective Friday, Maj. Michael S. Harrell will be the chief of patrol, replacing Ricky Adams [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I understand why 640 was passed, and I appreciate why it was passed. I would like to see the threshold lowered a little. Something a little more reasonable because obviously not another tax increase has ever been passed by this body since then.”

– Sen. Kim David (R-Porter), explaining the need to reconsider State Question 640, which requires a three-quarters majority in both legislative chambers or a vote of the people to approve revenue-raising measures (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of eligible children enrolled in Head Start in Oklahoma

Source: OK State Stat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Geography of Desperation: It’s not just the economic gap between the rich and poor that has grown wider: America has seen an overlapping, and even more troubling, gap in desperation across class as well as racial and ethnic lines. Much has been made of America’s deepening opioid crisis, especially among rural and working-class whites. A recent Brookings Institution study pinpoints where poor Americans are feeling desperation the most across the country as a whole [CityLab].

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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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