In The Know: Oklahoma officials warn cuts could affect programs for poor

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 officials warn cuts could affect programs for poor: The officials who run Oklahoma’s state agencies say they are running out of ways to insulate core programs from major budget cuts after steep mid-year revenue failures and an expected $1.3 billion shortfall next year. At risk are services to the poor, the disabled, the elderly and children. Even long-term highway projects like bridge and road repairs are in danger of being delayed amid a 7 percent budget cut through the end of the fiscal year June 30. [KOCO]

State Superintendent requests emergency supplemental funding: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education have requested $56.2 million in emergency supplemental funding. This request is an effort to, in part, to alleviate a mandated $62.3 million funding cut in the second revenue failure for the 2016 fiscal year. Hofmeister’s request today would offset cuts in three of the five affected funding streams, which include one for the funding formula and two funds that cover health insurance for teachers and support personnel [Fox 25]. Lawmakers can use up to $145 million from the Rainy Day Fund that is specifically dedicated to mid-year revenue failures [OK Policy].

Tulsa Public Schools Plans To Offer Contract Buyout To Administrators: The offer, which is pending board approval, is intended to save money on administrative costs next year. The “Employee Attrition Plan” will pay certain staff the remainder of their salary for the current school year in exchange for signing an agreement to leave. The plan is a step by the district toward a reduction of administrative and leadership jobs, and the reassignment of some staff. [NewsOn6]

Republican state senator: 1-cent sales tax increase the best option for education: For more than a decade, I have had the privilege of serving in the state Senate. My focus has been on the fundamentals of state government including the needs of public education. A quality education is essential for making Oklahoma the best state in the nation to work, to live and to raise a family. Unfortunately, despite gains in some areas, our state still falls behind in a majority of indicators, including student achievement, state spending, teacher pay and educational opportunity. This is unacceptable, and it is a path that is untenable for our future economic security. [Sen. Brian Crain / NewsOK]

Legislation targets selection process for state Supreme Court justices: Republican House leaders have pushed through a bill aimed at the selection of state Supreme Court justices, who have angered many politicians at the state Capitol. By a 58-34 vote, the House approved a bill sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hickman that would address perceived problems with the Judicial Nominating Commission, which was established decades ago in the wake of a bribery scandal among Supreme Court justices in the 1960s. [Tulsa World]

Wife of slain state official launches mental health campaign: Cathy Costello is on a campaign to help other families avoid the type of tragedy that shattered hers. Last August, her mentally ill son, Christian, killed her husband, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, in a knife attack at a Braum’s store in Oklahoma City. She is partnering with Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak to educate people about mental illness, and about insurance options for people who are battling it. [Tulsa World]

Why the big business attempt to ‘opt out’ of workers compensation was found unconstitutional: Oh, the irony. The ruling business interests in Oklahoma have had the court system in the crosshairs since they gained the advantage in the legislative and executive branches. While legislators and governors are inclined to “dance with those that brung ’em”, the courts are here to make sure even the wallflowers are not left behind when it comes to their rights under the law. [OK Policy]

Royalty Owners Sue Chesapeake, SandRidge and former SandRidge CEO Tom Ward: Even though federal prosecutors dropped their bid-rigging case following the death of Oklahoma oilman Aubrey McClendon, private landowners are stepping in and seeking their own justice. A group of oil and gas royalty owners, led by the Dallas,Texas law firm of Burns Charest LLP filed a civil class-action lawsuit this week in Oklahoma City federal court against others allegedly involved in the conspiracy that resulted in a federal grant jury indictment of McClendon on Monday. The 14-page suit accuses Chesapeake Energy, SandRidge Energy and former SandRidge CEO Tom Ward of violating federal antitrust laws by rigging the bids for leases on their land in Oklahoma. [OK Energy Today]

What is the Oklahoma renaissance?: In the wake of Aubrey McClendon’s death, he has been hailed as the leader of the Oklahoma renaissance. Various journalists, businesspeople and elected officials have credited Aubrey with single-handedly transforming Oklahoma into what it is today. … I am not here to talk about Aubrey. I am here to talk about how Oklahoma City is not the bustling, thriving, enlightened place everyone seems to think it is. For the married white man working at a downtown PR firm and driving a Lexus, life is great. But there is far more to Oklahoma City than what we probably come across in our daily life. [Madi Alexander]

Ex-prisoner reentry non-profit says McClendon’s death will affect budget: American Energy Partners LP founder Aubrey McClendon left his mark around the city, including on the budgets of some nonprofit organizations. His death on Wednesday will be felt financially by one nonprofit organization, but others have already braced for lower donations because of a downturn in the oil industry. The Education and Employment Ministry Executive Director Kris Steele said McClendon frequently contributed to the organization, which helps transition people from jail to the workforce. He said McClendon had an open-door policy, and that anytime TEEM needed something, Steele was invited to ask. [Journal Record]

A year after racist chant, OU students lead the way in talking about race, inclusion: The large-scale conversation about race at the University of Oklahoma didn’t begin last spring when an anonymous source shared a video depicting members of the now-shuttered Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chanting racial slurs. In late November 2014 after news broke that a grand jury didn’t indict a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, nine people who would later become the black student group OU Unheard met to discuss what they could do to incite change on their campus. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“There won’t be a comprehensive solution go through the Legislature to address the lack of education funding, and there will not be money in the budget to allocate enough to it. Therefore I am supporting the penny sales tax and I urge all Oklahomans to do the same.”

-Sen. Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of the 669 traffic fatalities in Oklahoma in 2014 that involved alcohol-impaired driving.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why We Need Parental Leave for the Public Workforce: When it comes to offering paid leave time for new parents, the United States lags behind nearly every other industrialized nation: A meager 12 percent of U.S. private-sector workers get paid parental leave, according to the Department of Labor. But change is coming. Companies of all sizes in the tech, manufacturing, media, finance and retail sectors are starting to offer generous paid leave plans. Much the same is happening in the public sector. [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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