In The Know: Lawmakers divided on oil and gas tax increase

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 Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Lawmakers divided on oil and gas tax increase: Tempers flared Thursday and budget talks — at least briefly — collapsed as lawmakers remained deeply divided on whether to increase taxes on the oil and gas industry. As several purported bipartisan revenue-raising compromises have collapsed in the final days of session, lawmakers exchanged barbs about whether their counterparts on the other side of the aisle were negotiating in good faith . Meanwhile, the political showmanship ramped up as protesters crowded into the Capitol [Stillwater News Press]. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy]. Learn more about how to ask lawmakers to end the special tax breaks for oil and gas producers.

Big Oil is set to make a lot more money in Oklahoma, why can’t it pay more taxes? The critical issue behind all of the recent turmoil at the state Capitol — and one of the keys to a revenue solution for Oklahoma — is the gross production tax. That’s the tax the state applies to natural gas and oil, and, despite its critical place in the current political climate, it’s not well understood [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

1,000th abandoned well site cleaned up in Osage County, Oklahoma: Osage County landowners Vicki Hayward and James Wright soon will be able to let their grandchildren safely play on their property after crews this week began clearing out a nearly century-old abandoned oil field site. “It’s a dream come true,” Hayward said of the cleanup effort. “It’s beyond our expectations. It means so much to us to see the land restored.” [NewsOK]

Political courage needed from Legislature: It was no small matter that 51 members of the Oklahoma House – all Republicans – voted to raise taxes this week. The state is in dire fiscal shape, of course. Specious tax cuts and credits failed to produce the promised tsunami of new revenues, yielding instead years of deep budget cuts that imperil vital services, from public education to roads and bridges. Still, 51 anti-tax party votes in favor of higher taxes? [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Justice reform battle intensifies at Oklahoma Capitol: The battle over criminal justice reform efforts is heating up at the state Capitol as House lawmakers prepare for possible key committee votes Friday on measures that seek to lower the state’s incarceration rate by decreasing penalties for nonviolent crimes. Proving to be particularly contentious is House Bill 2281, which seeks to decrease the number of people incarcerated for low-value property crimes by making the theft of items valued at less than $1,000 a misdemeanor rather than a felony [NewsOK]. Just before the start of the legislative session, the Justice Reform Task Force released a report that details the crisis in our state’s corrections system and recommends policy changes to deal with the crisis in a safe and effective manner [OK Policy].

Impact of Sessions’ memo will be worth watching: Corrections reform advocates are among those concerned that a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to U.S. attorneys across the country will essentially halt efforts to take a smarter approach to crime and punishment. Here’s hoping that’s not so. Oklahoma City U.S. Attorney Mark Yancey doesn’t believe it will be, saying the Sessions memo “is not going to fundamentally change” the way his office operates [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Lethal injection drug bill headed to Oklahoma governor’s desk: Even though Oklahoma’s once-busy death chamber has been quiet for more than two years, the state Legislature continues to prepare for the return of executions. A bill allowing Oklahoma Department of Corrections staff to handle drugs, like those involved in lethal injections, sailed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday. House Bill 1679 now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Senate approves tax amnesty program: The state Senate voted Thursday to approve a tax amnesty program and eliminate the discount that businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales and use taxes as lawmakers continue to chip away at the state’s $878 million budget hole. Both bills will now go to Gov. Mary Fallin for her consideration. Lawmakers hope to raise $14.6 million through House Bill 2380, which authorizes a tax amnesty program [NewsOK].

Running government on the cheap not paying off for Oklahoma: I joined the Tulsa World in 1979 as a sports writer. That same year, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation began widening Interstate 35 from its intersection with Interstate 40 to the Canadian River. During my 13-plus years in sports, I made the drive from Tulsa to Norman countless times, watching the expansion project crept southward, and wondering if it would be finished in my lifetime [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Budget impasse causes slowdown in road construction contracts: When Duit Construction Co. won the state Department of Transportation’s contract to repair the interchange at Interstate 240 and I-35, a metaphoric clock started ticking. The job was high-profile, Jim Duit said, because the area has a history of vehicle accidents [Journal Record].

Bad news budget: Services cut in anticipation of lower appropriations: As school administrators watch the Legislature’s budget negotiations unfold, they have their fingers crossed, but they said they realize that’s not enough. Several schools are waiting to fill empty positions, and some are even cutting programs ahead of lawmakers’ final budget [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years [OK Policy].

Emotional last day at west Tulsa school targeted for consolidation: Students and teachers across Tulsa Public Schools were busy Thursday afternoon packing up books, school supplies and projects that have accumulated in their lockers and classrooms over the school year. But saying goodbye on the last day of classes was extra emotional for students and staff at two neighborhood elementary schools and an early childhood development center about 2 miles of one another in west Tulsa [Tulsa World]. 

Legislature’s failures force TPS choices: The Tulsa school board voted Monday night to consolidate five west Tulsa schools and cut teaching positions as strategies to deal with inadequate state funding. Consolidation is a painful choice, and it isn’t surprising that supporters of the schools involved were upset with the plan [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

All OKC school district students will eat free in 2017-18: Oklahoma City Public Schools students will eat for free when they return to school in August, district officials announced Thursday. With the Eugene Field Elementary School cafeteria serving as a backdrop, officials said the district will serve breakfast and lunch free of charge to 44,000 students during the 2017-18 school year. The meals will be funded through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that subsidizes meals for schools and school districts in low-income areas [NewsOK]. Community Eligibility Provision can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free [OK Policy].

After Shelby verdict, Tulsa lawmakers call for improved training: Hours after a jury delivered Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby a not-guilty verdict on a manslaughter charge, Rep. Monroe Nichols stood outside a Tulsa Regional Chamber luncheon at the Oklahoma State Capitol and pondered his identities: black man, father, lawmaker. “When something like this happens, you feel incredibly powerless. You feel incredibly frustrated. You feel angry,” said Nichols (D-Tulsa) [NonDoc].

Black leaders to Tulsa: Act on pledges of racial harmony: Tulsa community leaders say the acquittal of a white Oklahoma police officer who killed an unarmed black man ripped open a long-festering wound. From the mayor’s office to schools and churches, race relations have been terrible in Oklahoma’s second-largest city for well over a century. So black community leaders on Thursday welcomed Mayor G.T. Bynum’s mention of racial disparities on the day after a jury of Tulsans found officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of manslaughter [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“We knew that (lawmakers) were acting a lot like the passengers of the Titanic (who) started rearranging deck chairs while the ship was sinking, ignoring the reality that the ship was sinking. …We wanted to give them a visual representation. We don’t have to hit that iceberg. We actually have a choice.”

– OK Policy Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator Kara Joy McKee, who along with other organizers of the Save Our State Coalition wore bright orange life vests with a cardboard cutout of the Titanic as part of an effort to convince legislators to end oil and gas tax breaks (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of all women and girls in Oklahoma living below the poverty line, totaling about 338,690 people.

Source: 2015 American Community Survey via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Child poverty in the US is a disgrace. Experts are embracing this simple plan to cut it: Most rich countries besides the US have hit on a surprisingly simple approach to reducing child poverty: just giving parents money. This idea, known as a child benefit or child allowance, exists in almost every EU country as well as in Canada and Australia. In many countries, the payments are truly universal; you get the money no matter how much you earn. In others, like Canada, the payments phase out for top earners but almost everyone else benefits. France has a weird scheme where only families with two or more children get benefits, as an incentive to have more kids. But the core principle is the same in every system: Low and middle-income families are entitled to substantial cash benefits to help them raise their children [Vox].

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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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