In The Know: Oklahoma Senate Approves Repeal of Income Tax Cut Trigger

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Senate Approves Repeal of Income Tax Cut Trigger: The Oklahoma Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill to repeal the trigger that would cut the state’s individual income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent. The Senate voted 32-9 for the bill Monday, sending it to Gov. Mary Fallin who is expected to sign it. The bill would repeal 2014 legislation that provides a mechanism to reduce Oklahoma’s top tax rate when tax collections increase by about $100 million annually. Since then, revenues have plummeted and the state faces a budget hole of $878 million next year. State finance officials have encouraged lawmakers to repeal the income tax cut until state revenues stabilize [Associated Press]. OK Policy released a statement praising the passage of the bill.

Oklahoma budget crisis: Impasse over gambling sinks $400M revenue bill: An expansion of tribal casino roulette and dice games helped sink a $400 million revenue package offered to Oklahoma Senate leadership Monday. Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate offered differing accounts of what happened, but both sides of the Capitol said that the casino measure wouldn’t find support in the Senate. State Sen. Mike Schulz, the Senate president pro tem, said he opposes allowing Las Vegas-style roulette and dice games in Oklahoma. The proposal, the details of which have not been publicly released, reportedly includes a provision that could eventually allow sports betting [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Senate leader says teacher pay raise chances “slim to none” this year: As the Oklahoma legislative session heads into its final weeks, the leader of the Oklahoma Senate said it is unlikely teachers will receive a pay raise in 2017. Both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate have passed teacher pay raise bills this session, but Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz says neither bill was heard by the other side [KSWO].

House passes resolution calling on Oklahoma officials to treat abortion as murder: A resolution essentially calling on state officials to ignore U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a voice vote Monday afternoon. No discussion or debate was allowed on House Resolution 1004, by Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks. Afterward, Strohm was allowed a few minutes of personal privilege, during which he said the Supreme Court had violated the “highest law” and the nation’s founding documents by “forcing the murder of unborn babies” through abortion [Tulsa World].

Fallin Signs ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Bill Into Law: Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law that says anyone convicted of killing a police officer will now be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Law enforcement across the state say the harsher punishment could help prevent future crimes against officers [News On 6].

DA Shares Prosecution Concerns About Oklahoma’s New Blue Lives Matter Law: From an outside standpoint, the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017 may seem straightforward, but an Oklahoma district attorney is concerned the law will cause problems in the courthouse. Laura Thomas is the district attorney for both Payne and Logan counties. She is currently working on the case involving the murder of Deputy David Wade in Logan County [News 9].

Jury selection starts for Oklahoma officer charged with manslaughter: Jury selection started on Monday for the first-degree manslaughter trial of a white Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man whose car had broken down. The incident was captured on police video and viewed globally. Betty Shelby, 43, could face between four years to life in prison if she is convicted of the September 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher, who was 40 [Reuters].

Lawmakers trying to fill budget hole by raising taxes, fees: The Oklahoma Legislature faces political gridlock as lawmakers balk at legislation to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue and close an $878 million hole in next year’s budget to avoid catastrophic cuts to state agencies and services. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called for a “major overhaul” of the state’s tax system and says she is willing to veto any budget that does not include new revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — the third consecutive year the state has faced a budget shortfall [Associated Press].

‘Approaching a crisis’: OHP details budget concerns: On the eve of Halloween, a shootout capped off a terrifying manhunt for Michael Vance. The confrontation ended with Vance being gunned down by Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer Brian Costanza in Custer County. The 234-mile drive that took Costanza from his home in Okmulgee to western Oklahoma constitutes an atypical day for OHP troopers. Under an ever-decreasing budget, however, such lengthy pursuits could become a thing of the past [NonDoc].

Bill to expand eligibility for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships would be a win for all Oklahomans: The Oklahoma Legislature is close to passing a bill (SB 529) to make Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships available to more students. Available since 1996, these scholarships cover the cost of tuition for in-state students at an Oklahoma public college or university if students complete a series of college-readiness requirements before high school graduation and maintain a passing GPA once in college.Expanding access to the program is necessary if Oklahoma wants to compete in the new economy where most high-paying jobs require advanced education [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Suspension Rates Drop: Oklahoma City Public Schools data shows the district is on track to suspending fewer students than last year, but is still suspending more minority students than white students. The district reports a nearly 55 percent reduction in out-of-school suspensions as of April 28 compared to last year. The data shows black students accounted for 41 percent of total suspensions, Hispanic students accounted for 36 percent of total suspensions and white students accounted for 13 percent of suspensions [Associated Press].

Fallin vetoes shameful small loan legislation: Gov. Mary Fallin did the right thing when she vetoed House Bill 1913, a proposal to create an expensive new form of payday lending that could charge customers up to 204 percent annual interest. Shame on those in the Legislature who voted for the measure. Concerned about the prospect of federal regulation of its other products, the small loan industry is pushing hard for the new form of lending, installment loans of up to $1,500 at up to 17 percent interest a month [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

The other side of the fence: New law restricts protests, ACLU considers challenge: After Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law that critics said limits protests, a civil rights group is revving up to do something about it. House Bill 1123 went into effect immediately after Fallin applied her signature last week. It increases the punishment for trespassing on sites with what it calls vital infrastructure, such as water treatment plants or oil and gas pipelines. If there is property damage, the penalties are even stricter. Critics said the measure is intended to cut down on protests, such as the ones that took place in North Dakota last year. However, supporters said that the measure protects not only protesters but also site employees and anyone nearby from possible injury [Journal Record].


The pleasure and pain of going nonprofit: Robert Lorton’s family owned the Tulsa World for a century before selling the newspaper to Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group in 2013. Lorton, the daily’s publisher for eight years, went to work at a bank, but he missed the family business. So in 2015 he founded The Frontier, a local news site devoted to enterprise and investigative reporting. To avoid the advertising sinkhole, Lorton began by charging readers $30 a month for subscriptions and up to $5 for access to individual stories. “What we’re trying to sell is the value of having someone in your community being a watchdog,” he said in April 2016. He viewed going nonprofit as a back-up plan, but was determined to try the for-profit model first [Columbia Journalism Review].

Oklahoma Auditor Gary Jones to run for governor in 2018: Republican Gary Jones, the state auditor and inspector who has been a thorn in the side of leaders from both parties over Oklahoma’s tax and budget policies, confirmed Monday that he’s running for governor. Jones, 62, said he will formally launch his campaign in the fall, but that he will seek to replace Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who can’t run again because of term limits [Associated Press].

Oklahoma towns miss their prisoners: The consolidation of 15 prisoner work-release centers across the state has deprived Holdenville of a valuable resource and increased costs to taxpayers, Mayor Beverly Rodgers said. A dozen prisoners on loan from the state Department of Corrections each week helped keep the town trash-free, she said, while giving them the opportunity to learn employable skills, earn a little money, and interact with the community. The city has taken a financial hit since department Director Joe Allbaugh restructured the public works program about a year ago, Rodgers said, at a cost of $25,000 each to hire two municipal employees [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“The repeal of this tax cut is a milestone. After years of promises that income tax cuts would pay for themselves, a majority of lawmakers have finally begun to recognize the cost. We cannot afford more tax cuts that have drained resources from our communities without paying off in economic growth.”

-From OK Policy’s statement on the passage of SB 170, which repealed an income tax trigger (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who spent a night in a hospital in the past year, 2015.

Source: SHADAC

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Work Requirements: Who’s At Risk? While the American Health Care Act (AHCA) has collapsed, adding work requirements to Medicaid continues as a key theme in conservative health reform efforts. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma sent a letter to state governors offering greater flexibility in approving Medicaid Section 1115 waivers, including those with work-related proposals. … This update describes the people who could be affected by the Medicaid work-requirement provision as drafted in the AHCA, which applied to both traditional and expansion populations [Health Affairs].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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