In The Know: Oh, Oklahoma

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

Oh, Oklahoma: Some weeks ago Oklahoma’s teacher of the year for 2016, Shawn Sheehan, dined in Washington, DC, with counterparts from California and Washington state. The mood was jolly until the high-flyers, all finalists for national teacher of the year, compared salaries. When Mr Sheehan—a young teacher of mathematics and special education—revealed his pay, his table-mates “sort of went silent”. For in state rankings of teachers’ pay Oklahoma comes 48th. Washington’s teacher of the year has since been urging Mr Sheehan to move to the West Coast. “He’s been sending me house listings,” he says, ruefully [The Economist].

House leaves $6.8 billion general appropriations bill for last day of session: How Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session ends pretty much depends on what the House of Representatives does Friday. Sometime after it convenes at 9 a.m. Friday, and more likely sooner than later, the House will take up the $6.8 billion general appropriations bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday. The House must approve Senate Bill 1616 — the general appropriations bill for the next fiscal year — prior to the constitutionally mandated 5 p.m. Friday final adjournment or create the necessity for a special session [Tulsa World].

New details: State budget agreement slashes funds for school activities and textbooks: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday learned new details about how lawmakers shifted funds to ensure the largest source of state funding for schools remains level in the 2017 budget agreement. The cuts include the entire $33 million textbook fund for local schools, $40 million of support for public school activities, such as alternative education and remedial student services, and $6.6 million for the administration of the Oklahoma State Department of Education [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Protesters continue to rally against state budget cuts, demand change at state capitol: It’s summer break for a lot of students but, instead of relaxing, some kids chose to stand up for their education at a rally. Parents and students met at Douglass High School in northeast Oklahoma City Thursday and marched to the state capitol. It was about a 2.5 mile walk, taking about an hour. The protesters’ goal was to tell lawmakers it’s not too late to do something about education funding [KFOR]. Click here to tell lawmakers to vote this budget down and come back with a better budget.

This part of the budget deal may be the greatest threat to Oklahoma’s economy: Overwhelmingly, the states where residents earn the highest wages also have the best-educated workforce. Both productivity and median wages in a state are strongly correlated with the percentage of residents with a college degree. At the same time, overall state tax levels show no significant correlation with median wages. Plenty of states — including Oklahoma — have relatively low state and local taxes and relatively low wages, but there are no states with a well-educated workforce and low wages [OK Policy].

Cuts To DHS Could Force Oklahoma Daycares To Close: The Department of Human Services is cutting back on childcare assistance and that could force some small daycares to close. The cuts won’t affect parents currently getting assistance, but it will affect new applicants. DHS says 2,000 families apply for child care assistance in Oklahoma every month – meaning, as of June 1, thousands of families across the state could go without it [NewsOn6]. Child care is getting less accessible for Oklahoma’s working parents [OK Policy].

Budget plan brings more bad news for Oklahoma seniors, children, & people with disabilities: Earlier this month, we warned that important protections for seniors, children, and Oklahomans with disabilities were crumbling because the Department of Human Services had already made “the easy cuts” and was now forced to make cuts that directly hurt our most vulnerable citizens. Now, it looks like those consequences will get worse. Oklahoma’s proposed FY 2017 budget would restore some of this year’s mid-year cuts but would leave DHS 4 percent below its 2016 funding level [OK Policy].

Proposed budget will add to the cost of mental illness in Oklahoma: Terri White, Commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), has frequently said that mental health has never been adequately funded in Oklahoma. The state ranks 44th in the nation for mental health spending per capita, and hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans aren’t receiving needed treatment for mental illness. The Legislature’s proposed 2017 budget shows no sign of bucking either trend [OK Policy].

Wine and beer bills, resolution for state question squeak through Legislature: It took a little horse trading, but legislation that could change the way beer and wine are sold in Oklahoma received final legislative approval on Thursday. Senate Joint Resolution 68, by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, won acceptance by the Oklahoma House of Representatives when a number of Democrats joined in the cause after their leadership “reminded” the majority Republicans of a promise to hear some Democrat bills [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Senate passes bill to fully fund historic Capitol repair: The Oklahoma Senate gave final passage to a bill on Thursday that will ensure full funding for a historic project to repair and refurbish the nearly century-old state Capitol. A bill to provide the final $125 million in bonding authority for the $245 million project now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin, who is expected to sign the measure. The Capitol needs exterior work to prevent water from seeping in to the building and eroding the limestone facade. Inside, the electrical and plumbing systems need major work [NewsOK].

Under New Bill, Corrections Interim Head Is Qualified For Permanent Job: The Oklahoma House of Representatives reversed itself Wednesday on a bill it defeated 48-44 on Monday. The new vote approves modifications of the requirements to become the head of the state Department of Corrections. Under the bill’s language, the agency director no longer needs a master’s degree or five years experience in corrections. The changes make the Department of Corrections’ current Interim Director Joe Allbaugh eligible [KGOU].

Legislators also frustrated with perception of performance: Voters aren’t the only ones frustrated with the Oklahoma Legislature. Legislators are, too. As the session approaches Friday’s mandatory adjournment, lawmakers are bristling at the public perception they haven’t been working on the budget the past four months or that they don’t care about the effects of cuts to education, human services and other areas of state government [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Legislature cuts budgets for all, except the Legislature: While schoolchildren, state colleges and the mentally ill are taking it in the neck in next year’s state budget, lawmakers have seen fit to take care of one special group: themselves. Appropriations to the state House, Senate and their shared Legislative Services Bureau will increase nearly $3.8 million in the spending plan unveiled earlier this week. Legislators managed to mask the bump by transferring their own salaries to the services bureau, thus giving the House and Senate budgets a phony 25 percent savings. The services bureau’s spending goes up a jaw-gaping 183.9 percent [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

State Subsidizing Companies That Pay No Income Taxes: Some state lawmakers are justifying their decision to curtail a tax credit for the working poor by declaring that the state shouldn’t be subsidizing people who owe no income taxes in the first place. But the state has several tax breaks on the books that do essentially the same thing for businesses. Through a combination of direct refunds, rebates and tax credit “transfers,” companies with no income tax liability are receiving cash subsidies. In some cases, the state pays the money to them directly. In some cases, they get the cash by selling credits they can’t use to taxpayers who can use them [Oklahoma Watch].

Tough Oklahoma abortion bill not dead yet: Abortion opponents in Oklahoma raced the clock Thursday in an attempt to override Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of what would become the nation’s most restrictive abortion law. The measure would strip physicians who perform abortions of their medical licenses and possibly expose them to criminal charges — essentially banning abortion except to save the life of a mother. The state legislative session ends Friday, making it the last day the bill’s sponsors can try to amass the two-thirds majority required in the state House and Senate [USA Today].

Woman tells of having illegal abortion at clandestine site in pre-Roe v. Wade Oklahoma: Grace Weber survived having an illegal abortion as a teenager in 1964 after finding Tulsa’s underground network through a nightclub owner. It involved being blindfolded, given unknown sedatives by a mystery woman and handed a card with a number to call if she later bled out. In hindsight, so much could have gone wrong. She never shied away from her experience, but she didn’t advertise it, either. It was the Oklahoma Legislature’s latest effort to ban abortion that brought it all back up [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

House passes resolution supporting lawsuit over federal transgender restroom policy: The state House of Representatives passed a concurrent resolution Thursday supporting Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s decision to participate in a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its student transgender restroom policy. House Concurrent Resolution 1021, which was adopted by unanimous consent without discussion, expresses the sentiment of House members but does not have the force of law [NewsOK].

Energy Transfer Wants Out Of Merger With Williams Companies: Energy Transfer Equity says it wants a judge to terminate its merger agreement with Williams Companies. The announcement of the merger last September rattled Tulsa leaders, especially when it was learned ETE planned to move Williams to Dallas once the deal was complete. The deal is now tied up in court and on Thursday, ETE announced it filed a counterclaim against Williams asking a judge to terminate the agreement [NewsOn6].

State Budget Agreement Brings Sharp Funding Cuts to Agencies Overseeing Oklahoma’s Environment: After months of deliberation and closed-door meetings, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate are poised to cut a deal to fill a $1.3 billion shortfall and fund government for 2017. The $6.8 billion presumptive budget agreement has been praised for preserving money for education, prisons and Medicaid, but some of the sharpest cuts are aimed at agencies that regulate industry and protect the environment [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“I think it’s crazy. In North Dakota, they’ve set away like $2 billion for something similar like this to happen and, in Oklahoma, we’ve only set away a fraction of that.”

– Matthew Mcquistion, a 14-year-old who marched for better education funding on Thursday as part of the third Let’s Fix This rally (Source). During the oil boom, North Dakota invested oil and gas tax revenues in a conservatively-invested sovereign wealth fund that could be used to shield the state from the effects of economic downturns.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s share of total U.S. spending on Medicaid in 2014

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The tremendously good news about the young that we’ve been ignoring: For Americans of a certain age, recent news has been grim. …Together these studies have spawned dozens of investigations and essays trying to understand what’s ailing middle-aged America. But it’s important to remember that things haven’t been getting worse for everybody. In fact, there’s a lot to be optimistic about if you look at the big picture, says Janet Currie, a professor of economics at Princeton. “There has been so little attention paid to some really huge declines in mortality, especially among young people and African Americans,” Currie says [Washington Post].

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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.

3 thoughts on “In The Know: Oh, Oklahoma

  1. I believe the Governor and the State Legislature have failed in their constitutional requirement to provide for the common education of our children. They have fiddled while Rome burns agonizing over legislation opposing the Federal mandate opening the use of restrooms to trans-gender children and passing a resolution directing the state’s congressional delegation and attorney general to seek the impeachment of President Obama. They wasted countless hours on a bill to ban abortions and criminalize the doctors who perform legal abortions under the Supreme Court ruling, Roe V. Wade. Then, to top it all off, they give themselves a 16% budget increase!!! There are ground for impeachment here. They have failed to do their constitutional duty. They have failed to care for the “at risk” population of Oklahoma. The young, the old, the mentally ill and countless millions who need and deserve our help and charity. This is an outrage. Where are the young people of this state? Where are the socially-minded men and women who should be screaming bloody murder over this travesty? Where is the young attorney with fire in his or her belly to sue these bloated, irresponsible, sad excuses for public servants? IMPEACH THEM NOW! Sue them in Federal Court for failing their constitutional responsibilities and wasting the tax payers time and money. It’s up to us Oklahoma! Obviously our duly elected representatives are too busy having lunch and dinner with lobbyists and kow-towing to the RNC to take care of their own constituency. SHAME. SHAME on you bastards. It’s time to take to the streets. AUX BARRICADES and throw these bums OUT!

  2. ““This interim director is qualified. He will do, in my view, a wonderful job, a great job. He will make the tough decisions that won’t be made, frankly, by what you would call ‘qualified’ directors but frankly need to be made,” Ownbey said.

    In the past, Allbaugh has said the agency needs a “manager,” not someone with previous corrections experience.

    Allbaugh has years of management practice. He previously worked as the campaign manager for George W. Bush’s campaign for Texas governor and served as Bush’s chief of staff after a successful election. Later, Allbaugh managed Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. The Oklahoma native also acted as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2001-2003 and formed Allbaugh International Group LLC, an international security-consulting group.”

    IOW, all future DOC directors will be spin-masters who can be counted on to spew BS for whatever governor needs whatever BS. Granted, amongst all the other crap this legislature has done this year, this is small potatoes now. But future lawsuits, riots, inadequate staffing, and higher recidivism may bring greater overall costs. But no worries. All that can be spun by well-qualified spin-masters, too.

  3. I think it was James Madison, expressing his greatest political fear in that before a King he feared most a government that becomes the “tyranny of the majority”– What is most concerning is the obvious–trimming taxes for the upper income earners and shifting the tax burden to the lower incomes—huge reductions in our public education system while not touching any thing close to the same with corporate tax credits Not a nickel’s worth of “shared cuts across the board equally –we all took a % haircut” the Okie GPO has been shooting shots the Kansas Koolaid and chasing it with Texas altar wine.

    Maybe Oklahoma, home of progressive people, home of Woody —-could we start a people’s “pitchfork” grass roots move to make our state a leader in public education instead of “good ole 48th” — a well educated population earns higher incomes–pays more taxes (duh!) the other side of that is a smarter educated voter will not put up with this corruption in government (donors buying tax breaks!) ( where are these good Christians so worried about the unborn—an no concern for the disabled, the poor seniors, the mentally ill???) Pogo was so spot on “we have met the enemy and he is us!”

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