In The Know: Oklahoma schools now shorted $93 million this year in state aid as revenue misses expectations again

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.

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Today In The News 

Oklahoma schools now shorted $93 million this year in state aid as revenue misses expectations again: Public schools learned Wednesday that their monthly payment from the state of Oklahoma would be shorted by an additional $6.8 million, bringing the total reductions since January to $93.4 million. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools notifying them that state revenue collections continue to fall short of expectations in both the 1017 Fund and the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund [Tulsa World]. A proposal to consolidate five schools in southwest Tulsa is part of the budget reduction recommendations Superintendent Deborah Gist plans to present to the school board at a special meeting Thursday evening [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Legislature Departs From Trump Plan on Tax Deduction: A bill putting Oklahoma among the first states to decouple from the federal tax code in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tax reform proposal is on the governor’s desk following Senate passage. The legislation separates the state’s standard tax deduction from the federal standard tax deduction. It was sent May 8 to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) following Senate passage May 4 by a 39-6 tally [Bloomberg BNA].

Charitable giving concerns halt plan expected to generate $166M: Lawmakers listened to concerns raised by nonprofits, former Sen. Tom Coburn and the business community Wednesday, after they all spoke out against a bill that would cap Oklahoma’s itemized tax deduction. House leadership confirmed that the bill was pulled primarily because of worries that it would affect charitable giving. House Bill 2347 would be a two-year, $17,000 cap on itemized deductions [NewsOK]. Itemized deduction reform is a promising state budget solution [OK Policy].

On revenue options, the right choice is “All of the Above”: With less than three weeks left in the legislative session, there is still no overall budget agreement. Facing a budget hole of close to $1 billion, a bipartisan consensus has emerged at the Capitol on the need for substantial new revenue to avert budget cuts that could have a catastrophic affect on Oklahoma communities and families. There is not yet, however, a firm consensus on which revenues to raise [OK Policy].

Legislature rolls the dice on revenue: One thing stood between the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate striking up a tentative revenue package worth $430 million: A portion of the Senate Republicans’ views on gambling. President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, said during a Monday press conference that he had a moral objection to it because people were going to the casino instead of taking care of their children or buying food at the store to generate sales tax [Journal Record].

Republican Group Announces Plan To Fill State Budget Hole: A consortium of conservative Republicans say they’ve identified a billion dollars worth of savings and new revenue that could fill the state budget hole and provide teachers raises, without raising taxes. The 22-member Republican Platform Caucus said there’s still plenty of fat to trim for the budget before dipping into taxpayers wallets. Tops on the list, the group said, is to eliminate all non-essential, non-instructional employees in higher education. They said that would save $328 million [News9].

Small oil companies fight drilling bill: Independent oil producer Mike Cantrell is fighting legislation that many in the sector support. The chairman of a new industry trade group and his members are trying to defeat a bill that would allow drillers to make longer horizontal wellbores. He said the measure would hurt him and about 3,000 small oil and gas producers’ ability to participate in larger wells [Journal Record].

Criminal justice reform advocates converge on the Oklahoma Capitol: Another advocacy group converges on the Oklahoma State Capitol in a last ditch effort to reach lawmakers. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform rallied in the Capitol’s fourth floor rotunda May 10, urging legislators to advance the remaining 10 justice reform bills recommended by Governor Mary Fallin’s criminal justice task force. Those leading the charge say “less prisons, more treatment programs” is a concept many Oklahomans find reasonable [FOX25]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Oklahoma women can’t wait for justice reform: It’s no secret Oklahoma has long had the nation’s highest female imprisonment rate, now at more than double the national average. Oklahoma women are not more criminal than other women, yet Oklahoma has locked up our women at astronomical rates for low-level crimes for more than 20 years. And it’s getting worse. The female prison population is expected to grow a shocking 60 percent in the next 10 years [Rep. Carol Bush and Sen. A.J. Griffin / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma moves to consolidate juvenile detention centers: Two bills pushed by the Juvenile Affairs Office would let the agency consolidate its higher-security beds and expand lower-security community intervention centers. Gov. Mary Fallin has received Senate Bill 228, which would reopen the intervention center program after budget cuts at Juvenile Affairs [NewsOK].

Upcoming Forum: What the Budget Crisis Means for Children: Oklahoma Watch will host a public forum on Tuesday, May 23, in Oklahoma City on how the state’s budget challenges could affect the wellbeing of children. The “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum, titled “What the Budget Crisis Means for Children,” will feature state Sen. AJ Griffin; Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and Lisa Smith, director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma lawmakers propose consolidation of small disability agency: The director of the Office of Disability Concerns said a proposed consolidation of his agency with another would “neuter” the state’s ability to serve the disabled community. Doug MacMillan also said the office already operates on such little money that he doesn’t reimburse himself for travel across the state [NewsOK].

House Trumpcare measure fails primary test — First, do no harm: By a narrow margin, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the American Health Care Act, the long awaited “repeal and replace” alternative to “Obamacare.” The bill eliminates one of the least popular elements of “Obamacare,” the individual mandate, which was enforced by tax fines, but replaces it with a provision that allows insurance companies to penalize customers up to 30 percent if they do not maintain continuous coverage. Perversely, that moves from an incentive to become insured to an incentive to remain uninsured [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. The House Republican health bill would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care [OK Policy].

Report: Oklahomans losing over $2,000 per year due to poor roads: A new report shows that Oklahoma drivers are losing over $2,000 a year due to poor road conditions. Oklahomans spend nearly 50 hours a week on the road. According to a report by the research group TRIP, 40 percent of major roads and highways in Oklahoma City are in poor condition with nine percent of bridges structurally deficient [FOX25].

Office space reallocation could cost Oklahoma taxpayers millions, attorney says: In a move that could cost Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has been told to move its employees out of the Will Rogers Building by Feb. 1. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services wants the space so it can consolidate some of its own operations there [NewsOK].

Voters pick Republican for vacant Oklahoma House seat: Voters east of the Oklahoma City metro area have sent Republican Zack Taylor to the Capitol. Tuesday’s special election drew just 2,419 voters in House District 28 in Seminole County, less than 20 percent of the number who voted in November. Taylor edged Democrat Steve Barnes by just 56 votes [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House Democrats choose Steve Kouplen as next leader: Democrats in the Oklahoma House have selected Rep. Steve Kouplen of Beggs as the leader of the chamber’s minority party when Democratic Leader Scott Inman completes his final term in office next year. Democratic spokesman Mike Ray said Wednesday that Kouplen, a rancher from east-central Oklahoma, was elected on Monday by the House’s Democratic caucus [KJRH]. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, was elected caucus chair to succeed Rep. Steve Kouplen who is the Minority Leader-elect of the House Democratic Caucus [Norman Transcript].

City Council looking for ways to help ‘food deserts’ other than grocery store moratorium: City Councilors discussed a proposed moratorium on grocery stores in Tulsa’s “food deserts” Wednesday, opting to look for other ways to bring healthier food choices to areas of need. The problem, as discussed Wednesday, is that full-service grocery stores may be getting stifled out of the market in food deserts due to the prevalence of grocery or convenience stores that offer only basic food items without fresh produce [Tulsa World]. Food deserts are a big reason behind Oklahomans’ poor health [OK Policy].

Mayor imagines how self-driving vehicles will alter Oklahoma City: Mayor Mick Cornett put on his near-futurist hat Wednesday, giving the audience at the Mayor’s Development Roundtable a glance at how autonomous vehicles will affect the city. Cornett said he expected autonomous — computer-controlled, driverless — cars, trucks and buses to start showing up on Oklahoma City streets in the next four to five years. Cornett acknowledged the difficulty in grasping that fact, after presenting a slide on the testing of autonomous cars, currently under way in Pittsburgh [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Budget cuts of this magnitude mean that district leaders must make extraordinarily difficult decisions to balance the budget and keep our doors open to the 40,000 children we serve. The best interests of our kids must always come first, but the unfortunate reality is that nearly a decade of chronic underfunding of public education in Oklahoma has put us in a position where any decision we make will impact our students, teachers, and schools.”

– Excerpt from an email sent to parents, teachers, and staff of the five southwest Tulsa schools Superintendent Deborah Gist plans to propose consolidating as part of the budget reduction plans to be presented at a special school board meeting Thursday evening (Source)

Number of the Day

$157.7 million

Oklahoma’s revenue loss due to itemized income tax deductions compared to if everyone took the standard deduction.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Raising the Gas Tax Is No Longer Taboo In Many States: While raising the gas tax is still a politically treacherous idea in Washington, lawmakers in state capitals are increasingly coming around to it. Already this year, governors in California, Indiana and Tennessee signed laws to raise fuel taxes, meaning a total of 22 states have passed laws imposing higher gas taxes in the past five years. Chances are also good that the list will grow even longer this year. “It is such an unusual thing to see nearly two dozen states boosting taxes in such a short amount of time,” says Carl Davis, the research director for the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). But the reason so many states have gone ahead with fuel tax increases is because of support from business groups. “They’re viewing [gas tax hikes] as economic development initiatives,” he says [Governing].

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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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