In The Know: Legislature looking at $188 million budget hole

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

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Today you should know that the Oklahoma Legislature will have about $188 million less available this year to spend on state services, an even deeper hole than was initially projected. Plummeting corporate income tax collections incomes are contributed to the shortfall. A Senate committee approved SB 1246 to further reduce Oklahoma’s top income tax rate. The tax cut would be partially paid for by eliminating a “double deduction” of state income taxes, which OK Policy previously explained here.

Senator Kyle Loveless unveiled a plan to complete the American Indian Cultural Center by using $40 million from Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund. The OK Policy Blog showed that while nearby states decriminalize, Oklahoma’s marijuana laws are the harshest in the nation. A city councilman in The Village, an Oklahoma City suburb, wants to allow residents to possess small amounts of marijuana in his city.

New York City is turning to experts from Oklahoma on implementing high-quality early childhood education. KJRH investigated how some Oklahoma parents can say they are homeschooling their children without any accountability or proof that kids are learning. Senator Anthony Sykes proposed shifting the school calendar to avoid May tornadoes.

A House committee approved a bill that would allow people to bring concealed firearms into the State Capitol. The House defeated a bill that would have prevented state agencies from hiring contract lobbyists. NewsOK shared an animated visualization of the increasing number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Two companies have been selected to enter into negotiations to purchase a state-owned rail line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The Number of the Day is the projected decrease in Oklahoma’s corporate income tax revenue this year compared to FY 2013. In today’s Policy Note, new FBI data shows that violent crime rates are continuing a historic decline, even while states release prisoners early and end marijuana prohibition.

In The News

Okla. Legislature looking at $188 million budget hole

The Oklahoma Legislature will have about $188 million less available this year to spend on state services than last year, an even deeper hole than was initially projected, a state panel determined Tuesday. The Board of Equalization, headed by Gov. Mary Fallin, certified $6.9 billion in available revenue for the Legislature to spend on state programs for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That amount is $188 million less than the Legislature appropriated for the current fiscal year, and $17 million less than what was projected in December to be available.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle.

See also: Low corporate income tax collections hit Oklahoma’s budget from NewsOK

Oklahoma panel clears income tax cut

A plan to reduce the top personal income tax rate beginning Jan. 1 has cleared a Senate committee, and the sponsor of the bill says the measure will recoup some of the estimated $172 million in lost revenue from the cut. The Senate Finance Committee voted 8-2 on Tuesday for the bill by Oklahoma City Republican Sen. Kyle Loveless. It next heads to the full Senate. Loveless says his plan is to offset some of the lost revenue by eliminating the “double deduction” for state income taxes.

Read more from NewsOK.

SB 1246 on the OK Policy bill tracker

See also: Closing the circle on the state income tax deduction from the OK Policy Blog

Senate unveils plan to fund American Indian Cultural Center

Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund would be tapped for $40 million to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum under a proposal confirmed Tuesday by the state Senate. The plan will be presented to the state Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration on Wednesday and could be presented to the full Senate for consideration as early as next week, said state Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, co-author of the Senate Bill 1651.

Read more from NewsOK.

While nearby states decriminalize, Oklahoma marijuana laws are among harshest in the nation

This session, Senator Connie Johnson has introduced Senate Bill 2166, which would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use and the cultivation of up to five marijuana plants. This bill proposes a similar course of action for decriminalizing marijuana as in Colorado and Washington state. Even compared to states that have not decriminalized the drug, Oklahoma’s marijuana laws are the harshest in the nation.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma councilman wants his city to become safe haven for marijuana users

A local city councilman would like his city to become the first in Oklahoma to allow residents to possess marijuana in small amounts. The Village City Councilman Jerry Broughton proposed the ordinance idea at last week’s city council meeting but he received no support from his peers. Broughton says jails and the court system are unnecessarily clogged with young marijuana users who are not dangerous to the community if they use a small amount of the drug in their own homes.

Read more from KFOR.

New York gets tips from Oklahoma on effective pre-K education

Oklahoma is recognized as a national leader in early childhood education, so much so that even New York City has turned to the state for its expertise in the subject. Studies show that children in high-quality early childhood education programs do better in school and are happier and more successful later in life. Last week, Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa County and a major player in Oklahoma’s early education program, testified before the New York City Council about Tulsa’s and Oklahoma’s successes.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Hiding behind home schooling: The reason some Oklahoma children are missing out on an education

The 2NEWS Investigators are taking a deeper look at home schooling in Oklahoma where there are no formal regulations for in-home education. There are no tests, diplomas or requirements, and some kids could be left behind. Mom Angela McGinnis told 2NEWS she used home schooling to teach all three of her kids at one point during their education. “I know so many parents who home school and do such an amazing job. And they don’t need the testing and they don’t need the state requirements, but there are so many on the other side that do,” said McGinnis. She said those parents and families hide behind the freedoms provided by Oklahoma laws.

Read more from KJRH.

Senate bill suggests Oklahoma school calendar shift

Building shelters to withstand the storms is one solution, but the Moore School District asked what if it could avoid the peak of tornado season and end school before May even begins. Sykes’ bill recommends a shift in the school calendar. The bill has passed through committee and now awaits the senate floor. Sykes’ bill would let school districts reformat their school calendars to August 1 through April 30. State testing requirements and facility training all take place during April and May, so reformatting the calendar is easier said than done.

Read more from NewsOn6.

House panel approves guns in Capitol bill

An Oklahoma House committee on Tuesday approved measures designed to expand gun rights, including legislation that would allow residents with concealed weapons permits to bring their firearms into the State Capitol. The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-6 for the measure and sent it to the House floor for debate and a vote. But opponents questioned the wisdom of authorizing residents to bring weapons into a building that is frequently the site of impassioned debate over public policy issues. Firearms are currently banned from the Capitol except for those carried by law enforcement officers.

Read more from KRMG.

House defeats bill limiting state agency lobbyists

The state House of Representatives on Monday soundly defeated a bill that would have prevented state agencies from hiring contract lobbyists to try to influence lawmakers. The bill was defeated by a vote of 64 to 30. Murphey’s bill would have applied to state agencies that don’t receive state appropriations, as well as those that do. It also would have prohibited lobbyists from going to work for the state within two years of the time they were registered as lobbyists.

Read more from NewsOK.

A timelapse of Oklahoma earthquakes

It’s no secret that the ground beneath our feet has been shaking a bit more in recent years. Yesterday NewsOK reported that Oklahoma had 222 earthquakes in 2013 that registered as 2.5-magnitude or greater—more than any other year in state history. As of Feb. 17, there were 63 earthquakes that were 2.5-magnitude or greater already in 2014. Here’s a timelapse of all the 2.5-magitude or greater earthquakes to shake Oklahoma since 2004. The radius of the circle indicates a greater magnitude.

Read more from NewsOK.

Officials to discuss rail line sail with BNSF, Watco

BNSF Railway Co. and Watco have been selected to enter into negotiations with the state to purchase the Sooner Sub rail line between the state’s two largest metro areas. A final decision is expected in May. State officials decided to explore the sale of the line in 2012 after officials from BNSF Railway and others expressed an interest in purchasing it. Speaking after a meeting of the Tulsa City Council’s Passenger Rail Task Force, Van Schaick said Watco, a short line freight hauler,— would do what it could to provide passenger service along the Sooner Sub line should the company reach a purchase agreement with the state.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

We’re inspired by what’s happened in Tulsa and Oklahoma more broadly. The idea of significantly ramping up universal pre-K is a way to give all our kids a chance and level the playing field.

-Brad Lander, a member of the New York City Council. New York is looking to Oklahoma as a model while the city considers implementing its own universal pre-K program (Source:

Number of the Day

$76 million

Estimated decrease in Oklahoma’s corporate income tax revenue this year compared to FY 2013, a 17 percent drop.

Source: Oklahoma State Board of Equalization

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Even with reductions in prison population and end of pot prohibition, crime rates continue historic decline in 2013

As reported in this New York Times piece, the “Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that violent crimes, including murders, fell by 5.4 percent in the first six months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, continuing a long reduction in violent crime across the country. These wonderful new data provide still further evidence that direct causal links between incarceration rates (or drug war reforms) and national crime rates are hard to establish. As regular readers know, the national prison population has declined a bit in recent years and there have been a wide array of reforms to sentencing laws and corrections policies that have resulted in significant numbers of early prisoner releases.

Read more from Sentencing Law and Policy.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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