In The Know: Oklahoma Senate approves income tax cuts

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Today you should know that the Senate approved a bill (SB 1246) dropping the Oklahoma income tax rate by one-quarter of a percent if overall income tax collections increased by an amount equal to or greater than the projected cost of the tax cut. The bill includes a trigger that would drop the income tax rate further once additional revenue collection benchmarks are reached. We’ve already written about why triggers are dangerous and irresponsible. The OK Policy Blog discussed the apparent disconnect between record gross revenues collections and the General Revenue Fund’s shortfall.

OK Policy Director Gene Perry argued in favor of raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma. The Huffington Post reported that Oklahoma is passing up $1,264,000,000 by refusing to accept federal funds to extend health care coverage. A bill that would consolidate several state agencies narrowly passed out of committee. The House passed a controversial abortion bill, variations of which have been found unconstitutional in other states. Tulsa Public Schools faces an ongoing teacher shortage.

US Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Carl Levin (D-MI) wrote an editorial advocating increased production of vehicles fueled by natural gas. The State Board of Education was found to have breached the Open Meeting Act when it failed to file a change of location notice before a meeting on Thursday. Insurance agents report that more Oklahomans are purchasing earthquake insurance.

The Number of the Day is the approximate number of Tulsa Public Schools teachers who quit or retired 2012-13. In today’s Policy Note, The Health Care Blog examines as a delivery model for population health.

In The News

Senate Approves Quarter Percent Oklahoma Income Tax Cut

The state Senate approved a bill Thursday morning that would cut the Oklahoma income tax rate a quarter of a percent down to five. The bill passed on a 32-10 margin, with mostly Democrats opposing it. Minority leader Sean Burrage (D-Claremore) argued nearly 40 percent of residents won’t see any tax break, and would rather have the state pay for good schools, rather than receive less than $100 back on their income taxes. The Senate-approved plan would cut the top rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent once certified collections to Oklahoma’s General Revenue Fund increase by about $86 million.

Read more from KGOU

Oklahoma House tax cut plan includes trigger

A House leader is unveiling a new plan to cut the state’s income tax that would first require enough revenue growth to cover the cost of the reduction. Bartlesville Republican state Rep. Earl Sears says his bill will be considered late Wednesday in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Sears’ bill would drop Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, beginning in January 2016, but only if overall income tax collections increased by an amount equal to or greater than the projected cost of the tax cut. Sears says the plan is a “responsible” way to cut taxes.

Read more from the Tulsa World

The terrible thing about triggers

Lawmakers began the year promising large, immediate cuts to the income tax, but their hopes soon collided with budget reality. With state funding already falling behind Oklahoma’s needs in many areas, legislators have found no easy way to pay for income tax cuts, whether by eliminating tax preferences, reducing services, or raising other taxes. Meanwhile, new obligations are piling up, like the $100 million per year that will be needed to reform the child welfare system. Even so, a significant danger remains that we will find another way to cripple our state’s finances. Some legislators are pushing an automatic trigger that would ratchet down the income tax any time state revenue grows by a certain percentage.

Read more from OK Policy

The mystery of the disappearing revenue

The latest headlines about Oklahoma’s finances seem oddly contradictory. On the one hand, State Treasurer Ken Miller has announced gross revenue collections are hitting an all-time high. Oklahoma’s total collections of $6.64 billion dollars are $278 million higher than the same period last year. At the same time, the General Revenue Fund and other funds relied on for the state’s annual budget are facing large shortfalls. The latest estimate shows lawmakers will have $188.5 million or 2.6 percent less to appropriate than last year. But if the same percentage of gross collections were going into General Revenue as in FY 2012, this year’s GR would be almost $200 million higher through January. And legislators might not be staring at a large budget shortfall next year. So where’s the money going?

Read more from OK Policy

Oklahoma In Middle Of Minimum Wage Debate

An increase of minimum wage is one main reason why Governor Mary Fallin spent the last week in the nation’s capital. President Obama wants to see wages increase over $10.00 an hour, but Fallin feels it will hurt small businesses. Oklahoma is right in the middle of the minimum wage debate.Employees would be paid more. And while the state’s number one employer, Wal-Mart might be okay, small business owners may be faced with some tough decisions.

Read more from NewsOn6

Here’s How Much Your State Is Losing If It Didn’t Expand Medicaid

Following a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that made Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act optional for states, 20 states have opted out of the reform, rejecting billions of dollars of federal funding for low-income residents. Texas and Florida will lose more than $9 billion and $5 billion, respectively.

Read more from the Huffington Post

Oklahoma state agency consolidation bill advances

A bill to consolidate the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department into a new entity to be called the Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs narrowly passed out of a state House committee Thursday. The heads of the Oklahoma Historical Society and Oklahoma Arts Council both said Thursday that they continue to believe consolidation is a bad idea.

Read more from NewsOK

Oklahoma House passes controversial abortion bill

Oklahoma may be headed back to court over an abortion law. Two identical bills with language similar to laws that have been challenged in at least five other states advanced in the Oklahoma House and Senate in the past few days. House Bill 2418, by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, passed 73-9 on Thursday, one day after the Senate version, Senate Bill 1848, was voted out of committee. Both bills would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The measure is presented as protection for women undergoing abortions, but opponents say its real intent is to force abortion clinics out of business.

Read more from the Tulsa World

Oklahoma House Passes Abortion Legislation Requiring Providers To Have Clinical Privileges

The Oklahoma House has approved legislation requiring abortion providers to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice. The House voted 73-9 for the measure Thursday and sent it to the Senate for consideration. It is one of several anti-abortion measures filed in the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature.

Read more from KGOU

Tulsa Public Schools still shorthanded; teacher shortage continues

The Tulsa school board on Thursday continued its study of the school district’s teacher shortage and strategies to address it. Nearly 400 teachers retired or resigned from Tulsa Public Schools in 2012-13, and the district began the current academic year short-handed and never caught up. “We started the year with 49 vacancies. The lowest we dropped to was 30, and we currently have 37,” Chief Human Capital Officer Talia Shaull told the board at a special meeting.

Read more from the Tulsa World

Fill ‘er Up—With Natural GasFill ‘er Up—With Natural Gas

Not long ago, Washington was debating how to secure energy from abroad to meet our economy’s demands. Today, thanks to homegrown technological innovations like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the U.S. is the largest natural gas producer in the world, with 65 billion cubic feet extracted daily. This abundance of domestically produced natural gas has helped fuel a resurgence in American manufacturing, boosting production and investment. It makes sense to apply this advantage to other sectors of the economy, such as transportation, allowing American consumers to benefit from a cleaner and cheaper domestic fuel.

Read more from the Wall Street Journal

Insurance Agents Say More Oklahomans Are Seeking Earthquake Coverage

Very few Oklahomans carry earthquake insurance, less than 1 percent. But that’s beginning to change as the state experiences more and more temblors. StateImpact’s earthquake chart shows there were 11 Oklahoma earthquakes in 2008. In 2013 there were 291, and so far, this year has also been even more active. And many seismologists put the blame on disposal wells used by oil and gas.

Read more from KGOU

State Board of Education breaches Open Meeting Act with location change

The Oklahoma State Department of Education violated the state’s Open Meeting Act on Thursday by failing to file a change of location notice for its regular monthly meeting early enough. The law requires public bodies to file changes to the date, time or place of a regularly scheduled public meeting with the Secretary of State’s office 10 days in advance.

Read more from the Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections are at an all-time high, but funds for the state’s discretionary budget have a $188 million shortfall. The lost revenue is going mostly to transportation spending and oil and gas industry tax breaks. To a lesser extent, it’s going to individual and corporate tax refunds and business subsidies.

– OK Policy Director Gene Perry, discussing Oklahoma’s simultaneous high general revenue collections and budget shortfall (source:

Number of the Day

Nearly 400

The number of Tulsa Public School teachers who retired or resigned in 2012-13

Source: Tulsa World

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note as a Delivery Model for Population Health

There’s that line about art, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” There’s some debate about if Picasso said it first, but most of us geeks know it from Steve Jobs. Often, I see things from companies and industries outside of healthcare —processes, products, best practices —which inspire me. I like these little inspirations because they often aren’t rocket science, but nonetheless fuel some creative thoughts about their applicability in healthcare.

Read more from The Health Care Blog

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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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