In The Know: Oil, Gas Producers Ask Oklahoma Legislature to Increase Tax

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

Oil, Gas Producers Ask Oklahoma Legislature to Increase Tax: A group of small oil and natural gas producers in Oklahoma have formed an alliance and are asking the Legislature to increase the gross production tax back to 7 percent, saying the industry is committed to helping solve the state’s budget crisis. The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance announced Monday it plans to ask lawmakers to get rid of a generous tax cut on oil and natural gas production that was approved by the Legislature in 2014. That bill dropped the tax rate from 7 percent to 2 percent for the first few years of production, when oil and gas wells are most profitable [Associated Press].

44 more districts mull shorter school year amid cuts, state survey shows: A new statewide survey shows that Oklahoma public schools are anticipating budget cuts that will increase class sizes and decrease advanced coursework, arts, athletics, staffing and school days. The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and Oklahoma State School Boards Association survey also found at least 19 districts fearing they may not have enough cash to pay all their bills for the fiscal year that ends June 30 [Tulsa World].

DHS supplemental funding bill heads to governor’s desk: The state Senate on Monday sent Gov. Mary Fallin a $34 million supplemental appropriation for the Department of Human Services. House Bill 2342 passed by a vote of 33-13. The measure would tap the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund for nearly $30 million and the currently empty Rainy Day Fund for $4.2 million. It was learned last week that officials borrowed from the Rainy Day Fund to cover cash flow problems. The state is experiencing a revenue failure, causing cuts to state-appropriated agencies [Tulsa World].

House Republicans still favor tax cuts, just not now: Republicans on the House Appropriations and Budget Committee did their best Monday to explain why more reductions in the state income tax rates would be a good idea, just not right now. Former A&B Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, and Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, dueled over the issue during discussion of Senate Bill 170, by Rep. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. After more than a decade of reductions have dropped the top personal income tax rate from 7 percent to 5 percent — and five years in which the amount certified for appropriation has dwindled by about $1 billion — SB 170 seeks to eliminate a 0.15 percentage point cut that is set to kick in at the first whisper of a recovery [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers will try to hold education harmless, but it will be difficult: Legislative leaders last week said they hope to hold common education harmless in the budgeting process. Lawmakers expect to have nearly $900 million less to spend in crafting a fiscal year budget for 2018. In addition, a revenue failure was declared for the current fiscal year, requiring cuts to state-appropriated agencies. Schulz, in his weekly meeting with reporters, was asked what kind of cut common education could expect [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma has led the nation in cuts to general state aid since 2008 [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

Bleak picture of Tulsa’s future predicted if education funding is not prioritized: After the Tulsa school board approved an amended budget that takes state aid reductions into consideration, Superintendent Deborah Gist painted a bleak picture of the city’s future if more money is not invested in education. “Unfortunately, action is not likely before we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” Gist said. The school district will present a preliminary plan for budget reductions at a special board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday [Tulsa World].

SB 478​ would roll back autism coverage, allow worthless plans disguised as insurance​: For years, families caring for ​children with autism fought for a state law that would require insurers to cover the necessary treatments for their child. Last year, with the passage of HB 2962, Oklahoma became the 44th state to require meaningful autism coverage with HB 2962. Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), the bill’s author, called it a “life-changing law” and said he was “happy to have played a small part in helping these families access the vital autism therapies and treatments their children need.” [OK Policy]

Runoff to decide three spots on Oklahoma City school board: Talk of school closures in the Oklahoma City district has overshadowed Tuesday’s runoff election to determine two and possibly three new board members. Six people are seeking three spots, including Paula Lewis and Stanley Hupfeld, who emerged last month from a crowded primary and will appear on the ballot for board chair [NewsOK].

Agency won’t release records from facility where juvenile died: State officials have refused a request by The Frontier for reports detailing serious incidents at a Muskogee juvenile facility where a 16-year-old hanged himself in December, citing a law allowing the Office of Juvenile Affairs to withhold “agency records.” The reports contain personal information involving children and the facility’s staff, said Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hunter. The Frontier asked that all names and other identifiers of juveniles be redacted from the reports but Watkins said the AG’s office was still advising OJA not to release the records [The Frontier].

Tulsa County to redesign, rebid family justice center contract: Tulsa County commissioners formally hit the reset button on construction of a new family justice center Monday by canceling its contract with the builder and amending its agreement with the architect designing the facility. Commissioners say the reboot is necessary to bring down the cost of the center to meet available revenue of roughly $41 million. The move is expected to delay the start of the project, which is already behind schedule, by eight to nine weeks [Tulsa World].

Bill would allow public safety costs to move to property tax funding: The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a logical change in state tax law that could bring some much needed stability to local government. House Bill 1374 would permit local creation of public safety districts, which would — if approved by voters — fund police and fire protection with up to 5 mills of residential property taxes. Currently, cities are completely dependent on sales tax revenue for operating expenses. As Tulsa and other cities have seen repeatedly in recent years, money for essential services is completely tied to a diminishing and unreliable revenue source [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma County sheriff’s candidates differ in law enforcement experience, plans for overcrowded jail: The four Republicans and two Democrats in the Oklahoma County sheriff’s race differ widely in law enforcement experience and their plans for the overcrowded and deteriorating county jail. They do agree that change is needed at the troubled sheriff’s office. And each has said he is the one to bring back integrity to the position. Three have run for sheriff before [NewsOK].

Reform measures aimed at aiding Oklahoma’s incarceration quagmire: Unless lawmakers soften their “tough on crime” approach, officials are warning legislators they soon may be paying almost as much to keep Oklahoma’s prisons running as they currently pay to fund public schools. Since 1991, the state has held the dubious distinction of incarcerating the most women in the nation. Oklahoma also boasts the second-highest overall incarceration rate in the nation. The state’s prison population, meanwhile, is expected to grow another 25 percent in the next decade [Norman Transcript]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

State Capitol Lobby Day Planned by Sierra Club: The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club is planning a lobby day tomorrow to encourage state legislators to do more to promote solar energy. In an email invitation, chapter president Johnson Bridgwater said a presentation will be held Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the “Blue Room” of the capitol. Afterward, Sierra Club members will visit with their legislators to discuss energy legislation [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“I oppose this bill [HB 1913] because I’ve seen what it has done to a widow at my church. It has kept her strapped for money. She has not been able to get ahead because of these companies that charge her ridiculous fees for a small amount of money. I served nearly 21 years in the U.S. Regular and Reserve Army and I know that the military does not allow its service members to use these lenders. If the Army cares enough to protect its service members from such a practice why doesn’t our state government demonstrate the same level of concern for its citizens?”

-Davison, one of many Oklahomans who shared their experiences with the debt traps created by predatory lenders (Source)

Number of the Day


Total retail sales for prescription drugs filled at pharmacies in Oklahoma in 2015

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the federal budget process works: The annual United States government budget, which these days runs over $4 trillion, takes 17 months to draft, 12 subcommittees to review and is covered in countless fingerprints. Journalists may be thankful that the process happens only once a year. But it is not inscrutable. And because the budget governs all federal spending, it’s a constant story. In this overview, we describe the different players and the data sources available to journalists and curious citizens alike. We also look at how Washington can punish state and local municipalities that don’t abide by controversial directives [Journalist’s Resource].

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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.

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