In The Know: Oklahoma Senate panel OKs 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 our Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Senate panel OKs repeal of income tax cut trigger: An Oklahoma Senate committee has approved legislation to repeal the trigger for a cut in the state’s individual income tax rate. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday voted 32-4 for the bill [SB 170] and sent it to the full Senate for a vote. Legislation passed in 2014 provided a mechanism to reduce Oklahoma’s top tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent when tax collections increase by about $100 million annually, enough to cover the cost of the tax cut [Associated Press]. Halting the next tax cut is one of our 2017 Legislative priorities [OK Policy].

Ongoing budget collapse is destroying the foundations of state government: For the second consecutive year, the state budget has failed. Tax receipts clearly won’t be enough to fully fund the spending plan approved by the Legislature last year, the state Equalization Board learned Tuesday. That triggered $34.6 million in across-the-board state budget cuts to put the budget back in balance [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Don’t Reverse Voters’ Will on Criminal Justice Reform: Oppose HB 1482: Last year Oklahomans voted by a large margin to approve SQ 780, which changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. Voters also approved SQ 781 to direct the savings from reduced incarceration into county mental health and addiction treatment. Oklahoma voters’ choice aligns with plentiful research and experience showing felony charges and incarceration are costly and ineffective… HB 1482 would ignore the evidence and the will of the voters by reinstating felony charges for drug possession across virtually all of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and large parts of the rest of the state [OK Policy]. We formally endorsed the State Question HB 1482 would undo [OK Policy].

Gov. Brownback’s tax policies survive — barely — after Kansas Senate vote: Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policy was saved by three votes as the Kansas Senate fell short Wednesday of overriding his veto on a bill that would have generated $1 billion over two years. Brownback will spend the rest of week in Washington, D.C., as lawmakers are left to contemplate a path forward for closing the state’s budget gap, which stands at more than $1 billion through June 2019 [The Kansas City Star]. The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

There’s nothing ‘broken’ about the state’s insurance plan for employees and teachers: Sen. Jason Smalley and Rep. Michael Rogers have offered misguided bills suggesting HealthChoice, Oklahoma’s self-funded insurance plan for state and education employees, is “broken” and needs more competition from private insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the arguments in support of these measures are based on false premises put forward by one of the private insurance companies currently offered to state employees that would profit greatly from the so-called reforms. So, let’s clear up a few things [Preston Doerflinger / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma wind energy tax credit bills moved to House Appropriations Committee: Legislation to end the state’s renewable energy production tax credit will likely be heard next week at the Oklahoma Capitol [HB 2246 / HB 2272]. The credit is available for solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power generation, but wind is by far the most prevalent industry that claims the incentive. Wind energy makes up about 90 percent of all renewable resource production in Oklahoma [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Missing the point: If you ask Oklahoma lawmakers what they must do to bring the state budget into balance, fund teacher raises, and pay for other urgent priorities, they’ll answer “curb tax breaks.” They’re right. They’re just not willing to confront the tax break that’s most responsible for our budget troubles. Tax breaks for the wind industry have become lawmakers’ pet target [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Bill stemming from pipeline protests passes Oklahoma House committee: A trespassing bill prompted by pipeline protests in North Dakota cleared an Oklahoma House of Representatives committee on Wednesday. House Bill 1123, by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, specifies penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and 10 years in prison for individuals involved in actions against “critical infrastructure.” It also would provide for fines of up to $1 million for organizations “found to be a conspirator” in occupations that damage or intend to damage such facilities or inhibit their operations [Tulsa World].

Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs: Just before the start of the legislative session, the Justice Reform Task Force released a report that details the crisis in our state’s corrections system and recommends policy changes to deal with the crisis in a safe and effective manner. If passed and implemented, their proposals could be the solution that Oklahoma’s criminal justice system desperately needs to support the rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes and relieve a prison system that’s bursting at the seams [OK Policy].

OneVoice members meet with state officials, lawmakers on budget issues: Lawmakers should put all options on the table as they struggle to find solutions to the state’s budget problems, the chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber said Wednesday during a visit to the Capitol. …Between 225 and 250 members of the chamber’s OneVoice coalition met with policymakers to discuss the organization’s agenda and the issues facing the state. OneVoice is a state and federal lobbying effort spearheaded by the Tulsa Regional Chamber [Tulsa World].

Measure to make Oklahoma Real ID-compliant passes Senate panel after legislation put on a fast track: The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed a bill to implement the federal Real ID Act. House Bill 1845 passed by a vote of 34-9 after lengthy discussion. The measure, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus, heads to the Senate floor, where it is expected to secure approval. “With committee passage of this bill, the Senate is addressing an issue the vast majority of Oklahomans want us to quickly resolve,” Schulz said [Tulsa World].

Collaboration lacking among Oklahoma GOP leaders: Republicans dominate Oklahoma government, holding the governor’s mansion, the lieutenant governor’s office, and supermajorities in the state House and Senate. Yet this unified control of state government has existed with little indication the major players are all on the same team. In many ways, Oklahoma government today operates as it has for decades [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Judge orders governor’s office to turn over documents related to executions: Dozens of pages of unreleased and redacted documents related to two state executions must be made public by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office, a judge has ruled. The ruling, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Tulsa World and a former editor, gives the governor’s office two options for the unreleased and redacted documents: Provide the judge the documents for review within 10 days, or release them publicly and unedited within 30 days [Tulsa World].

The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry: As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday. The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health [The New York Times].

Mick Cornett says he will not seek re-election as mayor of Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday he will not seek re-election next year. Cornett, 58, is Oklahoma City’s first four-term mayor and has been the face of the city’s renaissance for a decade. The mayor played a central role in bringing the NBA to Oklahoma City, giving the city its first major sports franchise and creating its identity as a “big-league” city. His decision to depart when his term ends in April 2018 comes at a crossroads for the city [NewsOK].

Tulsa City Council approves ordinance for commission on African-American affairs: The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday evening to create a commission focused on the needs of Tulsa’s African-American community. The Greater Tulsa Area African-American Affairs Commission will advise Mayor G.T. Bynum and the council on matters such as identifying ways to assist black residents, instilling a better understanding of the black community, and developing programs and initiatives that promote education and employment opportunities for Tulsa’s African-American residents, according to the ordinance proposal [Tulsa World].

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas holds town hall in Sapulpa without incident: Four years ago when 3rd District Congressman Frank Lucas held a public forum here, scores of people confronted him about reports the federal government was buying up the nation’s supply of rifle ammunition. On Wednesday, Lucas was met by several dozen people, mostly older, concerned about health care and the president of the United States’ Twitter account. …The implication, as things developed, is that more people in and around Creek County are concerned about the federal government taking their guns and ammunition than their health insurance [Tulsa World].

Tulsa immigrant families prepare for deportations following Homeland Security memos: Tulsa immigrant families are preparing for the worst in fear their families could be ripped at the seams at any given moment. Two new memos released by the Department of Homeland Security have undocumented parents making emergency arrangements to protect their children. The department has expanded the number of people considered priority for deportation and many undocumented immigrants said they feel like they are in limbo, waiting for mass deportations, raids, and the destruction of their families [KJRH].

Seven Osage County residents sue oil companies for damages from Pawnee, Cushing earthquakes: Seven Osage County residents filed a lawsuit in state district court Wednesday against several oil and gas companies, seeking monetary damages after two of Oklahoma’s top five earthquakes in history took place in 2016. Notably, the 51-page tort claim names specific disposal wells, which goes beyond other lawsuits simply naming companies. The petition cites government data to assess how much saltwater each defendant injected during a two-year span into wells that state regulators tightened restrictions on after each of the quakes targeted by the litigation [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“If you turn off the existing system, we might leave as many as 32 million people without insurance. If we turn it off instantly, you don’t have a way to protect those people.”

– U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Cheyenne), speaking against repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it at a town hall meeting in Sapulpa on Wednesday (Source). Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place would spell chaos for Oklahomans’ health care [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Per pupil revenues for rural school districts in Oklahoma (FY 2014), which was 4.6% more than $8,633 per pupil going to urban school districts.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Racial Wealth Gap Is a Policy Problem, Not a Behavior Problem: From slavery to redlining, it’s pretty clear that the country’s racial wealth gap comes from layers of intentional public policy, compressed over the years like sedimentary rock. But that’s not always understood in a culture that tends to forget a still (very) present history of racism and credit individual acts — i.e., going to college, working full-time — with the accumulation of wealth. Today, a paper titled “The Asset Value of Whiteness” from Demos and the Institute for Assets & Social Policy explores some of the “popular explanations” for the gap between white, African-American and Latino earners. It seeks to show that “changing individual behavior in areas such as education, family structure, full- or part-time employment, and personal consumption habits would not reverse the economic harm done by structural racism,” according to a release [Next City].

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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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