In The Know: Oklahoma oil and gas trade groups support industry tax hike

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 oil and gas trade groups support industry tax hike: Two of Oklahoma’s largest oil and natural gas industry trade groups say they support a plan to increase the state’s energy production tax as part of a broad tax plan to help fund a teacher pay raise and stabilize state revenues. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association both announced Tuesday they were backing the plan unveiled last week by a group of state business and civic leaders [NewsOK].

OEA joins Step Up Oklahoma in push for teacher pay hikes: The Oklahoma Education Association announced Wednesday that it has joined a coalition of Oklahoma civic and business leaders who are backing a package of proposals to resolve the state’s budget impasse and provide $5,000 pay increases for teachers and principals. ..OEA officials said the proposed $5,000 teacher pay raise would partially close the pay gap between Oklahoma and surrounding states. The OEA has been advocating for a $10,000 pay raise for teachers, a $5,000 pay raise for support employees and a cost-of-living increase for retirees [NewsOK].

Experts say Step Up’s tax plan raises questions: An outside group lobbying legislators for a tax overhaul announced more specifics about its income tax policy pitch on Wednesday, suggesting that updates could generate about $175 million in new revenue. Economists and policy analysts had mixed opinions on the plan, which would lower rates for several households but cap some deductions. Many said the plan, which was encapsulated in a quick-facts sheet, raised many questions: Namely, how does lowering rates lead to so much new revenue? [Journal Record]

Prosperity Policy: What’s the big deal? Last week, a coalition of business leaders proposed a significant package of state budget and government reforms. The revenue proposals from the Step Up Oklahoma coalition would generate close to $800 million to stabilize the budget and provide a $5,000 teacher pay raise. For those who thought that hell would freeze over before Oklahoma big business would support $800 million in new taxes, it’s notable that during the hour the plan was announced, temperatures plummeted 30 degrees as a cold front swept through the state [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Agencies tell lawmakers how soon their money will run out: Lawmakers have known since they passed a stopgap measure in December that three agencies don’t have enough money to get through the fiscal year. They got a clearer picture during budget hearings this week. Nearly 30 agencies testified before Senate appropriations subcommittees, detailing their organizations’ missions, giving updates on this fiscal year and making the first presentations on budget requests for next fiscal year [Journal Record].

‘I’m against tax increases’: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb rules out tax hikes as fix to state budget hole: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, campaigning for governor here Tuesday night, ruled out tax hikes as a way to plug the state budget hole and gave only faint praise to a coalition of state business and community leaders who advanced a sweeping proposal to raise revenue and reform government. At a meeting of the Payne County Republican Party, Lamb was asked about Step Up Oklahoma, which presented its plan last week in Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

OKC Mayor Mick Cornett has early lead in Republican governor’s race, but undecided voters growing: A recent poll making the political rounds suggests that Oklahoma voters are increasingly unsure about the 2018 gubernatorial race, even as the clock ticks toward the June 26 primaries. The SoonerPoll survey of Jan. 4-9 has Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in the lead in the Republican contest, at 24 percent, with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb at 18 percent and the other four GOP contenders strung out behind. The most startling result, though, is that nearly 40 percent of Republican respondents were undecided [Tulsa World].

Multicounty grand jury takes up Oklahoma Health Department scandal again: A dozen or more witnesses showed up Tuesday as the state’s multicounty grand jury resumed taking testimony about the financial scandal at the Oklahoma Health Department. The grand jury is investigating who is to blame for the financial mismanagement there. The investigation could result in criminal charges against former officials. Grand jurors first began hearing about the scandal in November. They conduct their investigations in closed sessions [NewsOK].

Campaign Funds Would Pay for Some Oklahoma Special Elections: A Republican state senator has filed a bill to take leftover campaign funds from some state lawmakers who resign, in order to offset the cost of special elections to replace them. The bill by Sen. Ron Sharp of Shawnee would send the resigning lawmaker’s remaining campaign funds to the state election board in order to help pay for the election to replace the lawmaker. The bill would not apply to campaign funds of a lawmaker who dies in office [AP].

For the Affluent, a New Way to Pay for Private School: When Congress rewrote the tax code in December, it included changes to a familiar education program for taxpayers — states’ 529 plans. The plans, or investment accounts, were created for families in the 1990s to save for college and can be used for tuition, fees, books, room and board and other college costs. In most states, there is an incentive to save. Oklahoma’s 529 plan allows a state income-tax deduction of up to $10,000 per year for individuals and $20,000 for couples filing jointly [Oklahoma Watch].

Scholarship Schools Exclude Disabled Students from Discrimination Protections: Private schools in Oklahoma that offer tax-credit tuition scholarships are required to have admission policies that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin or disability. But a check of websites for more than 80 participating private schools by Oklahoma Watch found that just seven post policies saying they won’t discriminate in admissions against children with disabilities. Several schools are explicit about reserving the right to reject students whose disabilities the schools say they are unable to accommodate [Oklahoma Watch].

EPIC charter school now recruiting teachers by boasting pay as high as $106,000: Higher-paying states aren’t the only competition for teachers from Oklahoma’s traditional public schools. The state’s largest virtual charter school is now using the draw of pay ranging from $64,000 on average up to more than $106,000 for its highest earners to lure applicants to keep pace with its staggering student enrollment growth. …Through EPIC’s merit pay system, its highest paid teacher — likely the highest paid public school teacher in all of Oklahoma — made $106,324 in 2016-17 [Tulsa World].

The nurse is out: Schools have more sick kids, but fewer nurses to care for them: When the young girl walked into the small clinic at Hoover Elementary in Tulsa, Laura Burgess listened to her list symptoms and asked questions along the way. The student had fallen while running in gym class and hurt her elbow. Burgess and the school’s health assistant, Kathy Durbin, soon sent the girl off with a ziploc bag filled with ice. Burgess is a registered nurse with Tulsa Public Schools who visits eight schools each week [The Frontier].

OKC school district makeover could cost $2.1 million: Oklahoma City Public Schools continues to explore the possibility of hiring a high-priced consultant to help transform the district’s “dysfunctional” culture, The Oklahoman has learned. Superintendent Aurora Lora and Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers President Ed Allen, in a joint statement emailed to about 5,000 employees Tuesday night, said the district and its partners “continue discussions with Kotter International.” [NewsOK]

Oklahoma City to consider affordable housing around garage at convention center: The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust is set to decide next week whether to solicit development proposals to wrap housing and retail around a garage to be built next to the new convention center and Omni Hotel. The block, bounded by E.K. Gaylord Boulevard, SW 3, SW 4 and the Oklahoma City Boulevard, is currently home to the OGE Energy Corp. data center [NewsOK].

Oklahoma County jail video system not yet used by court: A small piece of equipment installed for a small price in a small room at the Oklahoma County jail could provide a big relief in transporting inmates to and from the courthouse. Yet the $3,000 camera and video system, designed for defendants who don’t necessarily need to be in the courtroom, and set up in a room the size of a closet near the jail’s receiving area, have not been used since it was installed in August [NewsOK].

New poll indicates voters would pass medical marijuana state question in Oklahoma: More than 6 in 10 Oklahomans support legalization of medical marijuana, according to a survey released last week by Forty-five percent of those questioned said they strongly support an upcoming state question that would legalize medical marijuana, and 17 percent said they somewhat support it. The issue will be on a statewide ballot June 26. Opposition to the proposal was centered among older Republicans, while large majorities of young people supported [Tulsa World]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Quote of the Day

“Every school should be taking these students. These students have a right given by our constitution to be educated.”

– Rep. Lee Denny, on the news that some Oklahoma private schools offering tax-credit tuition scholarships turn away students with disabilities. Denny authored the legislation that created the scholarship in 2011 (Source)

Number of the Day


Black infant mortality rate per 1000 live births in OK, 2013-2015.OK ranks 6th worst nationally. According to the CIA Worldfact book, developing countries with similar infant mortality rates are Saudi Arabia, Guam, Oman, and Armenia

Source: CDC

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Goodbye, George Bailey: Decline of Rural Lending Crimps Small-Town Business: Danielle Baker wanted a $324,000 loan last year to expand the peanut-processing business she ran from the family farm. She had a longstanding relationship with the Roxobel branch of Southern Bank, and she thought Southern would help fund the peanut operation she had spun off, too. But that branch—the town’s only bank—closed in 2014. A Southern banker based in Ahoskie, 19 miles away, said Bakers’ Southern Traditions Peanuts Inc. was too small and specialized, she says. A PNC bank branch also turned her down. “If you are not a big company with tons of assets and a big bank account,” Ms. Baker says, “they just overlook you.” [The Wall Street Journal]

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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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