In The Know: Oklahoma health commissioner proposes cigarette tax increase

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 health commissioner proposes $1.50 cigarette tax increase: Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline said Tuesday he wants to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to pay for teachers and expand the Insure Oklahoma program for low-income workers. The proposed increase is being carried by state Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, as House Joint Resolution 1058, a legislative referendum that would take a vote of the people to enact. Cline said the tax increase would generate $182 million a year while driving down cigarette consumption by about 10 percent [Tulsa World].

OU board to consider $20 million in budget cuts: Oklahoma public colleges and universities are cutting their budgets in response to this fiscal year’s revenue shortfall and a projected $1 billion deficit for next fiscal year. The OU budget reduction plan includes a voluntary retirement incentive expected to yield $10 million in annual savings. Another $10 million in savings would come from the elimination of vacant faculty and staff positions and by reductions in purchasing and travel [NewsOK].

Sand Springs Public Schools administrators discuss ‘Menu of Misery’ from budget cuts and how to mitigate it: A crowd filled the Charles Page High School cafeteria Thursday evening to discuss how the inevitable budget cuts will affect the district in the wake of a $46.7 million funding cut to public education statewide as a result of the state revenue failure for fiscal year 2016. Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller said the reduced funding to public education amounts to $350,000 in cuts to Sand Springs schools so far [Tulsa World].

Balanced solutions to Oklahoma’s budget emergency: Oklahoma is facing a full-fledged budget emergency. Critical state services have already been cut deeply and repeatedly, leading to severe teacher shortages, larger class sizes, higher tuition charges and user fees, understaffed facilities, reduced payments for health care and social service providers, long waiting lists for services, and other harmful effects. The dependence on one-time revenues has created a chronic budget hole that we can’t fill even when tax collections improve [OK Policy].

OKC Council accepts Chickasaw offer to finish, run museum: Under the resolution approved Tuesday, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum will be completed by the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services, but the tribe will underwrite capital costs related to completing the center in excess of $65 million, and it will provide up to $2 million annually to cover operational deficits for up to seven years. The Chickasaws will also have the right to modify and approve the final plans for the facility based on value-engineering studies [Journal Record].

Hundreds of residents with concerns about proposed turnpike pack meeting: Plans for the $300 million turnpike project were announced at the state Capitol in October, along with five other turnpike projects. The Northeast Oklahoma County Loop is expected to require 21 miles of toll roads to link Interstate 40 and the Turner Turnpike in the area of Jones, Luther and Choctaw. Eastern Oklahoma County residents packed a meeting of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority voicing concerns that the toll road could impact their property [NewsOK].

Lawmaker proposes changes to Oklahoma’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law: Run before you shoot? That’s what a lawmaker wants to happen. Senator Kevin Matthews points to two cases where unarmed people were shot when deadly force wasn’t necessary. His bill would change the language of ‘Stand Your Ground’ to require an extra step before using deadly force – to retreat, if possible [KFOR].

Advocacy group says more than two dozen anti-LGBT bills have been filed in Oklahoma: Austin Sims says he’s proud to be a native Oklahoman as well as a transgender man. But this year, he says he is concerned about his home state legislating discrimination. Freedom Oklahoma has outlined 27 bills filed this year that the group considers anti-LGBT [Fox25].

Oklahoma City panhandling measure to get deeper look: An Oklahoma City councilman said Tuesday he plans to put off a final vote on a panhandling measure to refine the proposed perimeters of new panhandling-free zones. The measure would modify the definition of “aggressive” panhandling to include soliciting within 50 feet of a school bus stop or an elementary school’s property. Those proposed perimeters are seen as unsuitable on both sides of the equation [NewsOK].

A rational step toward criminal justice reform: Wednesday marks the launch of a new campaign and ballot initiative effort that takes a smarter approach to public safety. The campaign, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, will pursue more effective policies that reduce the prison population and redirect the savings to address the root causes of crime – and help low-level offenders turn their lives around [Kris Steele / Tulsa World].

SandRidge maxes out credit line, borrows $489 million: Including the $11 million SandRidge withdrew previously, the company now owes nearly $500 million on the credit line and has $855 million in cash on hand. SandRidge shares early Monday were down 1.4 cents, or 21 percent, to 5.3 cents a share. The stock moved to the over-the-counter market last month after the New York Stock Exchange removed it from the exchange because of its “abnormally low” share price [NewsOK].

Continental Resources slashes 2016 budget by 66 percent: Led by billionaire wildcatter Harold Hamm, Continental plans to spend $920 million this year, down from $2.7 billion in 2015. The cut comes just after rival Hess Corp and Noble Energy Inc slashed their own 2016 budgets, adding to a chorus of company executives chanting that the plunge in oil prices has made it all but impossible to turn a profit. Oklahoma City-based Continental, for instance, said it would not become profitable until oil prices return to $37 per barrel [Reuters].

New foundation backed by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb seeks to develop long-term policy agenda for Oklahoma: “The goal and the mission and the focus of this foundation is to think beyond the next election cycle and think about public policy that impacts Oklahoma for the next 20 years,” said Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who heads the advisory council of E Foundation for Oklahoma Inc., which officially launches Tuesday. Joining Lamb on the advisory council are BancFirst President and CEO David Rainbolt, former Gov. Frank Keating and energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens [Tulsa World].

OKC black neighborhood’s history erodes with sands of time: Most of the homes in the largely forgotten Oklahoma City neighborhood of Sandtown are empty and falling apart today, some of them boarded up with the furniture still inside after the last inhabitants passed away. The descendants of this mostly abandoned area in Southwest Oklahoma City claim they were in the area five years before the 1889 Land Run. Mostly based on oral history, the children and grandchildren of Sandtown say their ancestors, freed slaves of the Chickasaw Nation, settled along the banks of the North Canadian River in 1884 [NewsOK].

Lankford seeks to remove Jackson from $20 bill over Indian policies: President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830, forcing, tribes from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana to move to Oklahoma, with more than 10,000 people dying along the way. U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said he thinks the act is a black mark on U.S. history, and filed a Senate resolution earlier this month to have Jackson replaced on the $20 bill by a prominent historic woman [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“The removal policies enforced by Andrew Jackson led to the reductions of the homelands, and ultimately the deaths, of thousands of American Indians across the continent. The forced removal of American Indians by Andrew Jackson and the subsequent inhumane settlement of Indian lands represent a major blight on the proud history of the United States.”

-A resolution filed by U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) calls for replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with a prominent historic woman (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma children confirmed to have dangerously high blood lead levels in 2014.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Black and Out of Work: How the Recession Changed Government Employment: State and local governments have historically provided a pathway to stable, middle-class employment for those without many opportunities in the private sector. Following World War II and the civil rights movement, large numbers of minorities found jobs with states, cities and counties as those workforces were expanding. More recently, though, the upward mobility once offered by those jobs appears to have diminished [Governing].

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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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