In The Know: After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash

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

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash: Oklahoma paid more than half a million dollars to a company after federal regulators levied a massive fine for workplace hazards, records show. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Alfa Laval nearly $500,000 for dozens of serious workplace safety violations at its Broken Arrow site, including five repeat offenses. The fines were issued in May 2015 and the amount was eventually lowered to $348,500 in a settlement agreement. Then last year, the company claimed more than $500,000 through Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, a state-run incentive that supports companies that expand or move here [NewsOK].

States can offer a lesson as GOP proposes deep cut taxes: President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who have pledged to cut federal taxes to boost the economy might consider looking first at lessons learned in GOP-controlled states that adopted similar strategies, only to see growth falter and budget gaps widen. The situation is worrisome enough in Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana that lawmakers are now debating whether to reverse course and raise taxes. And political leaders in states that have seen expanded Republican control, such as Arkansas and Iowa, are signaling caution about any new tax-cut proposals [Associated Press]. Two-thirds of states are facing budget challenges this year [Associated Press].

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators: A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma’s bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general. His response: Put on the brakes. Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further [New York Times].

Oklahomans on Obamacare share how its repeal would affect them: Sabine Brown didn’t expect to start something when she posted on Facebook, sharing her concerns about the impact a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have on her family. But one status turned into more people sharing their stories, and that turned into a group of Oklahomans going to Sen. James Lankford’s Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices on Thursday to share with the congressman’s staff how a repeal would affect them [NewsOK].

Price tag rising for Oklahoma House on sexual harassment settlement, inquiry: The price tag for the settlement of a sexual harassment and wrongful termination claim and a subsequent investigation is rising. According to information shared by the House, legal services associated with a sexual harassment settlement — in which a fired aide and her attorneys in November were secretly paid $44,500 in state funds — and the resulting investigative panel could exceed $33,000 [Tulsa World].

Comparison Of QT Employees, OK Teacher Pay Sparks Debate: The pay of Oklahoma school teachers compared to employees at QuikTrip is causing a buzz online. It can take a teacher, with a degree, 11 years to reach QuikTrip’s starting salary for full-time employees with just a high school diploma. Let’s say a teacher with a decade of experience came to work at Eugene Field Elementary, they would make $38,000, including benefits [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma leaders say sales tax — key to police and fire protection — is slipping away to online sales: Oklahoma City receives about $500,000 per year in self-reported taxes from residents who shopped online or with catalog retailers, shopping networks and others that don’t collect local sales taxes. By comparison, the city faces a $9.2 million shortfall in sales tax revenue this year [NewsOK].

State vying for online sales tax: Local merchants and city leaders have pointed to online shopping as one of the main reasons Norman and other municipalities across the state have seen a decrease in sales tax collections. The city’s January’s receipts are 8.49 percent below last year’s in the same month. States across the country are attempting to answer the issue of lost sales tax dollars with legislation and through settlements with major online retailers. Oklahoma is no exception [Norman Transcript]. Oklahoma took a step towards collecting more online sales taxes last year [OK Policy].

Bill would raise cap on payday loan amount: Consumer lending advocates and faith leaders vehemently opposed 2015 lending legislation they said put a target on the most vulnerable Oklahomans, and they’re gearing up to fight it again. Last year’s bill and its ghost, Senate Bill 112, would make it easier for Oklahomans to take out more money in expensive quick loans [Journal Record]. If predatory lending is restricted, Oklahomans will find better alternatives [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Lawmaker Takes Another Shot At Vaccination Bill: As vaccine skeptics gain traction in the federal government, Oklahoma is again considering getting rid of the exemption that lets parents opt out. President-elect Donald Trump has discussed creating a new commission on autism, which would look into whether vaccines play a role in its development. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an environmental activist and avid vaccine critic, has told national media that Trump offered him the chairmanship [KGOU].

OKC lawmaker wants alcohol taxes spent on health care: A freshman lawmaker has proposed taking a slice of alcohol tax revenue to spend on health care. State Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, tweeted Thursday that he will file legislation to take a small portion of alcohol sales taxes and send it to services for the uninsured and underinsured. His bill targets the mixed beverage tax, which now all goes into the state’s general fund. Five percent would instead be put into an uncompensated care fund, which has been cut because of budget shortfalls [NewsOK].

Budget hearings illuminate needs of Oklahoma’s major agencies: To better inform more House members about the state budget, Speaker Charles McCall has made budget briefings by some of the major state agencies available to all House members. They’ve been held in the House Chamber with all members invited. This is a good idea, especially with the budget crisis the Legislature is facing and with 32 new House members. Usually these briefings, although they are open to everyone, are for the benefit of and mostly attended by the members of the Appropriations and Budget Committee [OK Policy].

Nowhere to go: Oklahoma experiencing foster home shortage: There is a shortage of foster homes in Oklahoma. DHS spokesperson Katelynn Burns said the state agency is fighting a never-ending battle to recruit new foster homes as others phase out of the system or hit capacity. As of November, there were 9,598 children in state custody, with 444 in Cleveland County. While it may seem like a losing battle, based on statistics from the last five years, DHS is, in many ways, turning the tide in the war to help Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children [Norman Transcript].

Coming up short: DHS pushing for foster care improvements, funding: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is hoping to approve 1,080 new foster homes by July to combat a shortage in the system. But while the agency grapples with that reality, it is also facing pressure to meet full Pinnacle Plan compliance, even as falling state revenues continue to destabilize and diminish state budgets. In 2008, Children’s Rights filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s foster care system, resulting in a 2012 settlement and the creation of the Pinnacle Plan — a seven-point initiative to improve the foster care system [Norman Transcript].

Oklahoma’s CareerTech trains both current, future workers: Producing enough workers who can do the job — today and tomorrow — is a challenge that keeps Oklahoma’s CareerTech system buzzing. CareerTech looks at workforce needs from a company perspective to make sure workers are getting the training for high-demand, high-wage jobs, Director Marcie Mack said [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Tomorrow Launches to Protect Higher Education Funding: Higher education funding was slashed 16 percent, $153 million, during the 2016 legislative session. Oklahoma Tomorrow was formed to educate the public and the Legislature about the importance of adequately funding Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. “Oklahoma Tomorrow was created to ensure Oklahomans have opportunities to aspire higher and receive degrees allowing them to compete and contribute to our economy,” said Devery Youngblood, CEO of Oklahoma Tomorrow [KSWO].

Mental health group to build on 2016 momentum: Mental Health Association of Oklahoma had a good year in 2016. Anyone doubting its successes need only talk to President and CEO Mike Brose to learn how the organization is moving ahead as rapidly as possible on mirroring Tulsa services in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma. Topping the list for the past year was a successful fundraising campaign, which raised more than $8 million in Tulsa and $2 million in Oklahoma City [Tulsa Business and Legal News].

Quote of the Day

“My medication will go from about $15 a month to about $600 a month, and I will stop buying it, and I will stop taking it. And then the disease will be unmanaged. … It’s a grim and ugly way to die.”

-Anna Holloway, a Norman resident who has health insurance through the federal marketplace, explaining that she would have no way to treat her rare autoimmune disorder without the Affordable Care Act (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of adult Oklahomans who reported their mental health was not good 14 or more days in the past 30 days, 10th highest in the nation in 2016

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Child Care Scarcity Has Very Real Consequences For Working Families: One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, “Who’s going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?” Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care [NPR]. 

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.