In The Know: Lawmakers could wind up in special session on budget

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 could wind up in special session on budget: State lawmakers could be headed into a special session with a yawning budget hole still looming. Lawmakers must adjourn by 5 p.m. May 25 and can’t pass revenue-raising measures in the last week of the session. So far, they have not passed enough measures to make a significant dent in the $878 million budget hole. Gov. Mary Fallin has said she will veto any budget that contains significant cuts to state agencies, many of which have already sustained significant reductions due to the downturn in the economy, among other factors. [Tulsa World] See OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide for more information about the budget process.

Deal, or no deal? Revenue raising measures in jeopardy: The week ends with no deal on a state budget and a shaky deal to raise revenue is on even more unstable ground. The state senate approved a measure to cap itemized income tax deductions at $17,000, but added exemptions for donations to nonprofit organizations. However that plan would fill just one hundred million dollars of the nearly billion dollar budget hole. [Fox25] On revenue options, the right choice is “all of the above.” [OK Policy]

Tell the Legislature what you think about gross production tax rates: The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association recently ran a series of attack ads urging voters to call Rep. Leslie Osborn and others to voice opposition to higher taxes on the petroleum industry. Osborn, R-Mustang, is chairwoman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee and has advocated for higher gross production taxes in a period when the state faces horrific cuts in state services because of an inadequate tax base. [Editorial Board/Tulsa World] We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy]

Cash-strapped Oklahoma again floats idea of selling water to Texas: There’s always been a heated rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners, especially on the football field. But another topic that has long stirred up an anti-Texas fervor is talk of Oklahoma selling water to Texas. David Walters, who was Oklahoma’s governor from 1991-95, has revived the controversial idea. Cash-strapped Oklahoma needs money and selling water to Texas could help the state deal with an $878 million budget deficit. [Fort Wort Star Telegram]

OIPA vs. OEPA: Oil and gas groups push competing narratives: As 2017’s Oklahoma legislative session nears its conclusion and lawmakers decide major energy industry policy questions, the vociferous lobbying features two groups that share history, membership and three-fourths of their acronyms: the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance. But on the year’s two biggest oil and gas issues — an expansion of lateral drilling opportunities and potential rollback of a gross production tax break — OIPA and OEPA hold dramatically different positions. [NonDoc]

Eight myths in service of an ideology: Like many Oklahomans, I am deeply disturbed about the deterioration of our state over the past five years, while our leaders looked away. I have lived here for more than two-thirds of the life of the state, and I have never seen the situation so desperate or the governmental response to the plight of our people so dismissive. In terms of quality of life and core government services, we are truly in a race to the bottom. [George Kaiser/Tulsa World]

A look back at Oklahoma’s fiscal year: While lawmakers and pundits argue about what gross production taxes should look like in the upcoming fiscal year, the end of this fiscal year is a mixed bag, financially speaking. The Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services has reported that year-to-date allocations are 97.2 percent of what was estimated at the beginning of the year. That leaves the state short $99.8 million. [Norman Transcript]

Senator Inhofe urges state lawmakers to make infrastructure a priority: U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe is calling on state lawmakers to make infrastructure and transportation a budget priority. Inhofe’s urging came during a press conference held Friday with Oklahoma Department of Transportation representatives in Norman. The Senator has been a long time champion of transportation in the Oklahoma, he’ll also be a point person in helping to pass and implement President Donald Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. [Fox25]

Oklahoma lawmakers could halt Medicaid privatization: Oklahoma House lawmakers will consider whether to halt progress on privatizing Medicaid for the state’s aged blind and disabled population. After receiving direction from the Legislature, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority began soliciting proposals last year from private companies who want to take over that part of Medicaid’s mission. [The Oklahoman] Push to privatize Medicaid could disrupt care for seniors and Oklahomans with disabilities [OK Policy]

Bill aims to create waste in state Medicaid system: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has a strong eligibility verification system in place that uses information from the Social Security Administration, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and many other agencies to check applicants in real time. The system isn’t broken, but we’re going to fix it, which will make a lot of money for third-party contractors. [Wayne Green/Tulsa World] HB 1270 adds bureaucratic hurdles for Oklahoma families and won’t generate promised savings [OK Policy]

Purse snatching leads to life sentence, highlights need for changes in sentencing policies:Oklahoma’s ‘tough-on-crime’ policies have contributed to the current overcrowding conditions the state is facing in its aging prison system. Advocates for reforming the policies say the state needs to do more to change the way the state locks away criminals to ensure public safety is the priority and that only the most dangerous people remain behind bars. [Fox25] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

‘Lunch shaming’ is needlessly cruel: Oklahoma schools must stop needlessly cruel acts that draw attention to students whose meal accounts aren’t paid in full, “lunch shaming” practices such as taking away hot meals and stamping students’ hands with the message “lunch money.” [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

Republicans rebuke Oklahoma rep’s proposal to turn kids over to ICE: Fellow Republicans are distancing themselves from an Oklahoma lawmaker’s proposed solution to state budget problems: turning kids who are learning English over to immigration authorities. An idea that state Rep. Mike Ritze floated this week in an interview with a local news station drew swift rebukes from members of his own party. It spurred sharp criticism from immigrant rights advocates. And it inspired a flurry of negative comments on his Facebook page. [CNN]

In Wake of Concerns, Law Approved Changing How Virtual Schools Track Attendance: Virtual charter schools will have to start tracking student attendance in accordance with a new law signed Friday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The proposal arose after Oklahoma Watch revealed in September that all five of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools reported between 98 and 100 percent attendance last year. Two reported 100 percent. State education officials expressed concerns. The schools, which enroll more than 13,000 students, were able to report perfect attendance because state statute only required virtual students to be enrolled to be considered “in attendance.” [Oklahoma Watch]

Life expectancy dips in one Oklahoma county, barely improves elsewhere, study shows: Even as people in most parts of the United States are living longer, the life expectancy in one southwest Oklahoma county has dipped over the decades, according to a new report. Nationwide, the study points to a widening gap between rich and poor regions in terms of life expectancy at birth. [The Oklahoman]

Legal challenges filed against second Fallin appointment to Workers’ Compensation Commission: A second nominee to the Workers Compensation Commission by Gov. Mary Fallin was challenged in a lawsuit filed Friday. Tulsa workers’ compensation attorney Cathy Enterline filed a challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court alleging that Jordan K. Russell did not have the required three years’ experience in workers’ compensation to be appointed to the three-member panel. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“In terms of quality of life and core government services, we are truly in a race to the bottom. As an oilman and banker, I know that we cannot attract talent nor retain our bright high school and college graduates nor generate any true economic development with poor schools, healthcare, public safety and infrastructure. We are seeing an evacuation of our best and brightest, and not just teachers.”

George Kaiser, founder of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, urging lawmakers to find a real solution to the state’s budget crisis (Source)

Number of the Day


Real average hourly wage in Oklahoma, compared to a national average wage of $26.12.

Source: Kansas City Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Poverty Changes the Brain: When a person lives in poverty, a growing body of research suggests the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways. This happens to everyone at some point, regardless of social class. The overload can be prompted by any number of things, including an overly stressful day at work or a family emergency. People in poverty, however, have the added burden of ever-present stress. They are constantly struggling to make ends meet and often bracing themselves against class bias that adds extra strain or even trauma to their daily lives. [The Atlantic]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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