In The Know: Oklahoma lawmaker questions lack of action on budget

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 lawmaker questions lack of action on budget: Faced with a record $1.3 billion budget hole, ongoing revenue failure and the potential loss of state jobs and programs, the Legislature on Thursday began its second consecutive four-day weekend. Some lawmakers, employee organizations and policy groups say there appears to be a lack of urgency in trying to solve the financial problems plaguing state government [NewsOK].

Internal Emails Raise Questions About Oklahoma Corrections Head’s Resignation: Internal Oklahoma Department of Corrections emails obtained by BuzzFeed News are raising new questions about whether outgoing Director Robert Patton left his position voluntarily or was “forced out” following a failed execution attempt in September. Officially, Patton, who had only been on the job 22 months when he resigned in December, left the department to “spend more time with his family” [Buzzfeed].

David Boren speaks at Tulsa town hall meeting about getting 1-cent education sales tax on ballot: Dozens of teachers, other educators and education advocates filled the lobby at the Jazz Depot on Thursday evening to listen to University of Oklahoma President David Boren speak about his proposal for a statewide penny sales tax to supplement education funding. Those attending the town hall meeting were urged to sign a petition to get State Question 779 on the ballot in November [Tulsa World]. Our statement on the proposed ballot initiative is here.

Fred Morgan: Oklahoma hospitals must new sources of revenue: Hospitals are businesses. While some people view health care delivery as a governmental service like education or public safety, health care is a business. It is the largest private industry in the state, employing approximately one out of ten Oklahomans. This is especially true in rural Oklahoma where health care is often the largest employer [Tulsa World]. Rejecting federal funds to expand health insurance coverage is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City superintendent calling on lawmakers to permanently fix budget crisis: Teachers and parents across the state are bracing for impact after the Oklahoma City Public School District announced that millions are being taken from the district’s budget. On Wednesday, Oklahoma City School Superintendent Rob Neu announced that $30 million is being taken from the district over the next two years. At this point, 208 teachers are losing their jobs, which will save the district $8 million [KFOR].

Vision education projects a ‘creative’ way to address Tulsa schools: Projects in Vision Tulsa’s tax package show a local commitment to teachers despite barriers that keep city taxes from affecting state obligations like salary, Tulsa education leaders said Thursday. A question that has often reached city leaders throughout the several years spent on developing the Vision tax package is: Why spend tax money on anything but teacher salaries? [Tulsa World]

This gas tax fix could level Oklahoma’s revenue rollercoaster: Many Americans have reason to celebrate when gas prices drop. In states that aren’t as dependent on the oil and gas industry for jobs and tax revenues, low prices can help the finances of regular families and boost the economy as a whole. Those benefits also come to energy-dominated states like Oklahoma, but the downside is much greater [OK Policy]. Here are five other balanced solutions to Oklahoma’s budget shortfall. 

RAISING ROOFS: Oklahoma will need to raise more roofs by 2020: Oklahoma will need new homes for the equivalent of two more Edmonds — or three Moores, or 10 Mustangs — by 2020, according to the first comprehensive statewide housing needs study in 15 years. That’s 66,821 housing units, including 43,942 owned and 22,879 rented, according to the study, commissioned by the state Commerce Department and the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency [NewsOK]. The Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment is here.

Tulsa City Council starts digging into budget for savings: The Tulsa City Council on Thursday began to publicly review and scrutinize proposed cuts from city administration to address a widening budget hole. City finance officials estimate the city will fall about $8.5 million or more behind budget estimates by June 30, the end of this fiscal year [Tulsa World].

Cuts to child abuse prevention program impact 700 Oklahoma families: After the state of Oklahoma’s recent revenue failures, several state programs are on the chopping block. This includes the Department of Health’s child abuse prevention program. On July 1, the Department of Health will be eliminating the Start Right program. In an effort to prevent child abuse, this program provides in-home support programs to new parents who may lack resources and parenting skills [KOCO].

Legalized marijuana, school cuts and squandering state resources: Two seemingly unrelated news stories this week help depict the plight of Oklahoma 2016. First, the U.S. Supreme Court declined in a 6-2 decision to hear the state’s (and Nebraska’s) proposed lawsuit challenging Colorado’s laws that legalized marijuana. Then, Oklahoma City public schools announced elimination of 208 teaching positions next year, part of $30 million in cuts over a two-year period necessitated by the Legislature’s woeful mismanagement of state finances. Rocky Mountain high and draconian school cuts? Where doth the twain meet? At the intersection of public policy and public dollars, of course [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Woods County wildfire burns more than 600 square miles in Oklahoma, Kansas: A wildfire continued to rage across more than 600 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas on Thursday, destroying homes and threatening towns in its path. Although lighter winds on Thursday afternoon gave crews a chance to try to contain the blaze, strong winds and critical fire danger conditions are expected to return to the state on Friday [NewsOK].

Metro area population grows by 11,000 in past year: The Tulsa metro area population grew by nearly 11,000 people in the past year, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Tulsa metropolitan statistical area population grew 1.1 percent, from an estimated 970,107 to 981,005 from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015. It was the largest one-year increase in population this decade in the Tulsa metro area [Tulsa World].

The People Stuck In the Middle Of the Fight Over Southeast Oklahoma’s Water: Sardis Lake, in southeastern Oklahoma, is at the heart of a battle between state and tribal governments over control of water. Debate has raged over whether to pipe to north Texas, Oklahoma City, or western Oklahoma ever since it was built in the early 1980s. Stuck in the middle are the people who call the Sardis area home [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Residents still cleaning up storm damage a year after Sand Springs-area tornado: On March 25, 2015, Maria Cook and her husband were in Arkansas visiting Cook’s father-in-law. The couple planned to return to their Sand Springs-area mobile home around 3 p.m. that day, but Cook said her father-in-law saw the threat of severe weather and talked them into spending the night. As a result, the Cooks avoided being caught up in an EF2 tornado that touched down west of Westport at 5:25 p.m. that day [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“The worst is yet to come and we have another $22 million to go.” 

– Rob Neu, Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, on $30 million in budget cuts. OKCPS announced on Wednesday that more than 200 classroom teaching positions would be eliminated, generating $8 million in savings (Source)

Number of the Day


Deaths in Oklahoma due to injury per 100,000 of the population. The US median is 74.

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Low-Income Programs Not Driving Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Problem: Low-income programs are not driving the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, contrary to the impression that a narrow look at federal spending during the Great Recession and the years that immediately followed might leave. Lawmakers should bear this in mind as they consider proposals that may emerge in coming months or next year for deep cuts in this part of the budget [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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.

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