In The Know: Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession

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 downturn now longer than Great Recession: Oklahoma’s tax collections were down for the 17th month in a row during July — largely due to depressed energy prices and ill-timed tax cuts — extending a losing streak that’s lasted longer than the nation’s Great Recession. State Treasurer Ken Miller said Friday that Oklahoma took in $854 million last month, $88 million less than it collected in July 2015. The decline was evident in every category, including individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes and revenue from the production of oil and natural gas. While several energy-rich states have seen tax receipts fall, Oklahoma exacerbated its situation by moving forward with income tax cuts approved when times were good [Associated Press].

Oklahoma economy slides again in first quarter: Lower oil prices and manufacturing declines dragged on the Oklahoma economy as the state posted its fourth consecutive quarterly contraction, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday. Led by losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 percent in the first quarter. The state joined 13 others with contractions in the first three months of the year [NewsOK].

Rural poverty ‘a way of life’ for numerous Oklahomans: With no air conditioning on a brutally hot summer afternoon, 19-year-old Breeze Bunch is sitting on the front porch with a half-empty Pepsi and a bottle of sunscreen. “Why don’t you go splash in the water?” Bunch tells her 2-year-old daughter, who waddles off toward an inflatable kiddie pool under a shade tree beside the house. Sharing a clapboard house with her boyfriend’s family, Bunch lives on a dead-end street north of downtown in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oklahoma. This isn’t Tulsa or Oklahoma City, or even Muskogee or Lawton. A five-minute walk could put Bunch in the middle of a cow pasture [Tulsa World]. OK Policy has examined some of the surprising causes of rural poverty [OK Policy].

Town hall attendees: 2 state questions don’t go far enough: Meagan Gaddis is a mother of two, works at a good job and is six credit hours away from graduating with her bachelor’s degree. She also is a former methamphetamine addict. “Incarceration is an intergenerational cycle,” she said. “One in four women experience a parent in prison. Three years ago, I was addicted to methamphetamine. I stole cars, committed crimes and did other drugs to feed my habit. I didn’t wake up wishing I was an addict — it just happened.” [Enid News]

Drug overdose deaths down in Oklahoma, but state isn’t doing to enough to help drug abusers get treatment: Drug overdose deaths are down in Oklahoma. Prescription drugs continue to be the cause of most overdose deaths, but there is reason to think public policy changes targeting that drug supply line have had a positive effect, which points to the need for the state to be more aggressive in dealing with drug treatment. It’s not surprising that pressure on the supply of prescription drugs has been accompanied by more drug deaths from street drugs like meth and heroin [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. 

Judge rules for former warden in lawsuit over sexual abuse of prisoners: A federal judge has ruled the former warden and deputy warden of the women’s prison in McLoud are not to blame for sex crimes there. Eleven inmates who were victimized by guards at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center sued the Oklahoma Corrections Department, former Warden Millicent Newton-Embry, former Deputy Warden Carla King and others in 2013. The judge specifically rejected claims Newton-Embry could be held liable for the sex crimes because of inadequate staffing at the prison [NewsOK].

Attorney General Scott Pruitt accused of politicizing state question resulting from 10 Commandments monument ruling: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has politicized a state question by rewording it, said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director. The issue goes back to when the ACLU of Oklahoma successfully challenged the erection of a privately funded Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds [Tulsa World].

The Never-Ending Battle over Selection of State’s Most Powerful Judges: Anti-abortion laws. A Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. An overhaul of the workers’ compensation system. Controversial rejections of all or parts of these legislative actions by the Oklahoma Supreme Court – coupled with a push by national and state conservative groups – have led to a steady march of bills over the past decade that would alter the process for choosing state Supreme Court and Appeals courts justices. The 2016 legislative session was no exception [Oklahoma Watch].

Other states have issues with ‘Right to Farm’: Opponents of State Question 777 – the “right to farm” initiative on Oklahoma’s November ballot – found some ammunition when a coalition in Nebraska announced it had dropped plans to pursue the addition of right-to-farm language to its state constitution. The language was introduced in the unicameral Nebraska legislature, but did not advance. Agricultural leaders in the state said farming interests had decided protections should not be sought through constitutional adjustment, but state statute [The Ada News].

Tax-free weekend: Shoppers can benefit, but weekend has critics: Oklahoma’s yearly sales tax holiday began one minute after midnight Saturday and ran through midnight Sunday. Oklahoma missed out on $7,299,000 in sales tax revenue in 2014 because of tax-free weekend, according to Tax Commission Records. Critics say the loss of state revenue is not worth the economic benefit [Norman Transcript]. Oklahoma could provide better targeted help that doesn’t distort consumer behavior by increasing the Sales Tax Relief Credit [OK Policy].

Tuttle has little control over new center-of-town gas plant: Linn Energy is building a natural gas compression plant in the middle of Tuttle and there isn’t much City Manager Tim Young can do to regulate it. The new construction project provides a boost to local businesses, but oil development in general puts a strain on the city, Young said. A 2015 state law prevents municipalities from restricting an operator’s ability to drill or construct processing plants within city limits. Since drilling began in Tuttle in July 2015, Young has fielded residents’ concerns about noise from operations and about heavy truck traffic [Journal Record].

DHS cuts funding for 211 helpline: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services says it has cut funding for the 211 Helpline program effective immediately. The Community Service Council says DHS blamed the decision on cuts in state funding to the Department. The Council said the cut results in a loss of just over $300,000 based on 2015-16 funding. The Council said 211 Helpline continues to operate and serve its 37 county area in spite of the cut. The cut is about 30% of the program’s total budget [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma DHS pays $250,000 to settle sexual abuse victim’s lawsuit: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has paid $250,000 to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a girl who was repeatedly sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. The lawsuit blamed five DHS workers for the abuse, saying they failed to protect the girl. DHS workers never fully investigated complaints made between 2007 and 2009 that the boyfriend was a registered sex offender and was staying with the mother, according to the lawsuit [NewsOK].

Program Cut Spurs Norman Parents to Push for Charter School: Parents upset over the axing of a Norman Public Schools language program are driving an effort to create what could be the state’s second charter school allowed outside Oklahoma City and Tulsa under a new law. A group of parents is asking the district to sponsor the school, which would continue the mission of a French immersion program that was eliminated in the spring at Reagan Elementary School to save the district $400,000. The charter school, Le Monde International School, also would offer Spanish immersion [Oklahoma Watch].

Stars not aligned to accomplish much in special session: One has to wonder where Governor Fallin is headed with the announcement that she is considering a special session of the legislature. The purpose of the session would be to give a pay raise to teachers using the funds that were withheld from all state agencies, including schools, due to an anticipated revenue failure. In addition, the governor said “other funds” could be made available. Since about every bookkeeping maneuver available was used to deal with this year’s shortfall, presumably the “other funds” would come from some sort of tax increase [OK Policy].

Here’s a story you probably didn’t see in this morning’s newspaper…: Perennial all-star mathematics teacher, Ms. Roshelle Eastcreek, signed a contract extension with the Sand Springs Sandites on Thursday, ending speculation that has run rampant since fellow high school math teacher, Kevin DeLozier, departed for the Waco school district in Texas earlier in the summer. If Kevin’s departure from the Sand Springs District was one of the darker days in Sandite history, Eastcreek’s announcement yesterday may be one of the brightest. The district office did not disclose terms of the deal, but sources told Rachel Snyder at the Sand Springs Leader Newspaper that the new contract is potentially worth $112,000 over the next three school years [A View from the Edge].

Quote of the Day

“We can spend $15,000 for failure or $6,000 for success. States that have done this — addressed the root of the issue — have decrease their crime rate.”

-Former House Speaker and a leader of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Kris Steele, who said Oklahoma spends on average $15,000 per year to incarcerate someone and $6,000 for treatment and community supervision (Source).

Number of the Day


Share of U.S. oil and gas rigs being operated in Oklahoma, June 2016.

Source: Kansas City Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The wrong state to have an accident: In December 2014, Donnie Gene Rippy fell off a roof while shooing away ducks, breaking his back and too many bones to count. He underwent four surgeries to fix his shoulder, wrists and vocal cords. Rippy, a brick mason, had the misfortune to be uninsured. But his bad luck was compounded by where his accident happened. If he had lived about 50 miles north—that is, anywhere over the Kentucky border—he wouldn’t have to rely on ibuprofen and occasional cortisone shots from a local health department for his persistent back and knee pain [Politico].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma downturn now longer than Great Recession

  1. The importance of the county criminal justice fund created by the coming state question and discussed in the Enid article is the precedent it supports for set allocations to counties for their criminal justice activities. The counties and their officials historically have had the state’s credit card to pay for the counties’ criminal justice decisions, and we know what happens when you turn that kind of power over to people who don’t have to pay the eventual bills. One of the very best and quickest ways to reduce state prison populations would be to develop a similar allocation system for each county’s access to state correctional services with set amounts that could not be extended within the fiscal year. This would force each county to prioritize and triage its criminal justice decisions and live within its means, means which could be limited more effectively by the state than it currently does. The major objections to this sort of system, which has been used successfully for better outcomes and efficiencies elsewhere, such as MN’s juvenile justice system, are the difficulties of implementation and the lack of sufficient precedent for use. Those objections will be weakened significantly with passage and successful implementation of this question.

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