In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers advance revenue measures totaling $280 million

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 lawmakers advance revenue measures totaling $280 million: Oklahoma lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that policymakers say would net $280 million in tax revenue for the budget year that begins July 1. The measures would put a dent in the $1.3 billion general revenue decline projected for fiscal year 2017, but at a cost to just about every Oklahoman. Among the proposals voted out of the House and Senate appropriations committees Thursday were elimination of the state personal income tax “double deduction” ($97.5 million) and the refundable portion of the state’s earned income tax credit ($28.9 million) [Tulsa World]. 

New bill would devastate a key tax credit for Oklahoma working families: Yesterday, a letter signed by more than 150 Oklahoma clergy was delivered to lawmakers and Governor Fallin, urging them not to slash key tax credits for working families to fix the state’s revenue problems. They were joined by numerous non-profit and foundation leaders who spoke out against cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child/Child Care Tax Credit, and Sales Tax Relief Credit. Later that evening, lawmakers introduced legislation (SB 1604) that would make the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) non-refundable, slashing its benefit for working families by $28.1 million — a cut of nearly 75 percent [OK Policy]. Learn more and take action here.

Proposed 1-cent sales tax hike for education has enough signatures for spot on ballot: The office of Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge has completed the counting of signatures for State Question 779, which would levy a 1-cent sales tax support education. The revenue would pay for a $5,000 teacher raise and for programs in common education, CareerTech and higher education, University of Oklahoma President David Boren has said. The secretary of state’s office counted a total of 301,518 signatures for the proposed state question [Tulsa World]. Our statement on the ballot initiative is here

“This is an insult to teachers,” Educators furious over plan to cap health care benefits in pay raise proposal: Leaders in the state house have a plan to give Oklahoma teachers raises but not without a big cost to them. The plan would cap teachers’ health care benefits. Oklahoma educators are furious. “Teachers are frustrated. Parents are frustrated,” said Oklahoma Education Association Vice President Katherine Bishop. Oklahoma ranks 49th in teacher pay [KFOR].

Health advocates: Solution is at hand to aid Oklahoma health entities: The state is on a collision course toward catastrophe and the health of Oklahomans is at stake. Impending budget reductions threaten to close hospitals and nursing homes, leaving significant numbers of Oklahomans without access to health care. Hospitals remaining open might close labor and delivery units, meaning women may be forced to drive hundreds of miles for care potentially endangering the lives of both mother and child [David Johnson, Ronald Woodson, M.D., and Stephen Cagle, M.D / NewsOK]. The Medicaid Rebalancing Act is essential to stabilize and strengthen Oklahoma’s health systems [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Health Leaders Continue Push For Tobacco Tax: Medical professionals are facing 25-percent cuts in Medicaid provider rates because of the budget crisis. So they are backing the tobacco tax to help reduce those cuts. Otherwise, they say, hospitals and nursing homes will have to reduce services or close all together. “Further cuts to us would result in program closures and services that we would have to shut down. Significant access points for care have already been reduced because of these previous reductions,” said John Hayes, OU Children’s Hospital [News9].

Oklahoma women can’t afford wage discrimination. This bill aims to help. Women in Oklahoma are among the lowest wage earners in the US. On the whole, Oklahoma women can expect to earn $0.73 cents for every dollar paid to men, with an even wider gap for women of color. The gap exists across and within occupations, and even regardless of education level. It costs Oklahoma women employed full-time more than $6.2 billion combined in lost wages every year [OK Policy].

Protecting vital services while balancing the budget: Barring an upset of biblical proportions, Oklahoma’s Legislature will balance the 2016-17 budget on the backs of the middle class and the working poor. If lawmakers can even bring themselves to raise new revenue, it most likely will be via expanding sales taxes to services like haircuts. Whose bottom line does that most affect? Those of modest means, not the Gucci set. If the budget balancing act focuses primarily on spending cuts, you can take it to the bank the decisions will disproportionately affect services most often accessed by the least among us [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a bill creating a new criminal defense of guilty but with mental defect: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a bill creating a new criminal defense of guilty but with mental defect. The bill signed Thursday modifies the state’s not guilty by reason of insanity defense. It prohibits anyone diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder who is found guilty but with a mental illness from using the not guilty by reason of insanity defense [Daily Reporter]. This measure could result in more Oklahomans with mental illness in prison [OK Policy].

Governor signs bill to end Scenic Rivers Commission, transfer mission to GRDA: The commission is dead; long live the mission. An unlikely idea from the longtime executive director of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission has come to pass. Back in March, Ed Fite suggested to legislators that the best way to save the mission of the organization he has led for 33 years could be to disband and reorganize it under the Grand River Dam Authority. With a stroke of her pen late Wednesday Gov. Mary Fallin marked the final days of the commission by signing into law Senate Bill 1388 [Tulsa World].

National Alliance on Mental Illness celebrates passage of Oklahoma legislation: The National Alliance on Mental Illness Oklahoma on Wednesday lauded legislators for passing a bill that compels public schools to provide standard educational services for children with brain illnesses. House Bill 2969, which was signed into law in April, will ensure children who are being treated for mental health conditions are not discriminated against when they attend academic classes. Melissa Wilmot, whose son has battled mental illness, said the legislation is long overdue [NewsOK].

Insurers shun risk as oil-linked quakes soar in Oklahoma: As the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma exploded into the hundreds in the last few years, nearly a dozen insurance companies moved to limit their exposure, often at the expense of homeowners, a Reuters examination has found. Nearly 3,000 pages of documents from the Oklahoma Insurance Commission reviewed by Reuters show that insurers and the reinsurers who cover them grew increasingly concerned about exposure to earthquake risks because of heightened frequency of seismic activity, which scientists link to disposal of saltwater that is a byproduct of oil and gas production [Reuters].

Next Republican House Leader Has Roots in Southeastern Oklahoma Water: In the mid-20th century, eastern Oklahoma water warrior Robert S. Kerr was fond of calling water Oklahoma’s most important, God-given resource. Charles McCall feels the same way.“ “It’s our most precious resource in the state of Oklahoma in my opinion,” McCall says. Being a water advocate comes with representing southeast Oklahoma. That’s particularly true for McCall, whose House district includes Atoka Lake [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Area teens compete with gas workers, teachers for summer jobs: Oklahoma teens may have to compete with unemployed oil and gas workers and teachers for summer jobs. Shelley Cadamy with Workforce Tulsa said teens will have a tough time competing for summer jobs this year. Teens will be competing for jobs in retail and restaurants with workers impacted by the state’s oil and gas prices. Oil workers across the state have lost their jobs as a result of the prices [FOX23].

Quote of the Day

“Educators have not received a pay raise in over a decade. Frankly, this is an insult to teachers by saying you can give up your insurance to get a pay raise. Teachers are smarter than that.”

– Oklahoma Education Association Vice President Katherine Bishop, on a legislative proposal to give teachers a raise by capping their health care benefits (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who reported not seeing a general doctor in the past 12 months (2014)

Source: CDC

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How tax falsehoods flourish: Last week on this page, I wrote: “If facts could kill the supply-side myth, it would be dead already.” This week, I’d like to explore how, despite the lack of empirical evidence, this myth not only lives but flourishes. My last post was based on testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, part of which drilled down on this false notion that tax cuts generate anywhere near enough growth to offset the revenue they lose. While there are certainly conditions under which tax cuts can generate some degree of growth, the empirical record fails to find economically large, lasting, offsetting growth effects that occur through the supply-side channels of greater labor supply and capital investment [Washington Post]. 

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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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