In The Know: Oklahoma attorney general seeks to bypass state, select own auditor

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

Oklahoma attorney general seeks to select own auditor: A dispute has arisen between the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office and State Auditor Gary Jones over whether the state attorney general’s office should be allowed to select its own independent auditor. Jones said attorneys in Pruitt’s office apparently were upset by comments Jones made to a reporter for The Oklahoman, who asked him questions about the attorney general’s office adding dozens of new employees and moving into expanded and higher-priced office space in a time of state cutbacks [NewsOK].

When other county assessors don’t do their job, it robs from local school kids: The state Board of Equalization has put county assessors on notice — it’s time to do the job right or face the consequences. An Oklahoma Tax Commission performance audit shows that 16 of the state’s 77 county assessors aren’t living up to legal standards for setting property values for tax purposes. After the latest report, the Tax Commission put the 16 assessors on notice that if the problem isn’t fixed, they could be subject to having their paychecks suspended and their offices taken over by the state [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Transportation Department preparing for effects of revenue failure: The state’s revenue failure means the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will lose money for a fund supported by personal income taxes. The Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety — or ROADS — fund was set up in 2005. Each year, it typically receives the same funding as the previous year plus about $60 million, up to a cap of $575 million. ODOT expects to cut $13 million from the fund, which Director Mike Patterson said will likely delay new projects [KWGS].

Debt rating service Moody’s gives Oklahoma negative outlook: Moody’s late last month issued the new credit outlook just days after Oklahoma revised its revenue projections downward for the current fiscal year and estimated a 13 percent decline for fiscal year 2017. In an analysis of Oklahoma’s credit characteristics compared to other energy states, Moody’s notes Oklahoma is below average in its ability to raise revenue, but that its general fund is less reliant on oil revenues than those of other energy states [Tulsa World].

In Oklahoma, doors to health care shut for working families: Since the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions have come into effect, uninsured rates across the US have dropped precipitously. The nationwide uninsured rate is now below 10 percent. However, these gains have been uneven – in the 20 states that are still refusing federal dollars to cover low-income residents, uninsured rates remain significantly higher than the rest of the country [OK Policy].

State orders injection well reductions in response to Edmond earthquakes: The orders issued Monday afternoon affects five operating Arbuckle disposal wells within 10 miles of the center of the earthquake activity in question. The Commission’s plan calls for one well within about 3.5 miles of the activity to reduce its disposal volume 50 percent while the other wells, within 10 miles of the activity, will reduce volume 25 percent [OK Energy Today].

Edmond investigates electrical systems after quakes: Edmond city engineers are working to determine if they can prevent future electrical outages caused by earthquakes, said spokesman Casey Moore. A magnitude 4.3 quake on Dec. 29 caused two relays to touch each other, which resulted in power outage for about 4,400 of the city’s 38,000 customers. Three days later, a magnitude 4.2 quake again caused an outage for 4,400 customers [Journal Record].

Oklahomans confused about earthquake insurance coverage: In December, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak asked insurance companies to send out a letter to those with an earthquake endorsement to clarify what was covered under their policy. But commission spokesman Buddy Combs said the process ended up causing more confusion when everyone with insurance ended up getting the letter instead [KOCO].

McAlester representative wants higher fines, jail time for going around barricades: After heavy flooding in eastern Oklahoma led to swift-water rescues of several motorists, a state lawmaker from Pittsburg County wants to increase the punishment for people who remove or drive around road barricades. Democratic State Rep. Brian Renegar of McAlester said Monday he plans to introduce a bill that would make violations a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $1,000. A motorist transporting children could face a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail [Fox25].

Diploma in hand, many college-bound students must backtrack: Each year, thousands of Oklahoma students graduate from high school with the understanding that they are fully ready to pursue a college degree. They have passed end-of-instruction exams in math, science, English and social studies. Many earned A’s or B’s in classes. Months later, a reality check: Many will be told they aren’t ready for college after all. They will have to take and pass one or more remedial courses [Oklahoma Watch].

Quote of the Day

“I believe that according to statutes we have an obligation to audit them. Because he got his feelings hurt over a comment in a newspaper article does not provide an excuse over him being audited.”

-State Auditor Gary Jones, speaking about Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s attempt to contract with a private auditor rather than being audited by the state. Jones had previously questioned the attorney general’s office for adding dozens of employees and moving into higher-priced office space in a time of state cutbacks (Source).

Number of the Day


Number of captive roosters in Oklahoma (2012).

Source: USDA Census of Agriculture

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How states can reduce tax incentive risks: In many cases, the cost of specific state tax incentive programs has increased quickly and unexpectedly by tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. As a result, lawmakers have been forced to make difficult choices between raising taxes and cutting spending to keep budgets balanced. Yet these problems are not inevitable [Pew Charitable Trusts]. 

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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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