In The Know: Oklahoma’s budget options should include delay of tax cut, GOP leader says

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’s budget options should include delay of tax cut, GOP leader says: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei said Monday that Oklahoma’s “financial management options” should include suspension of the 0.25 percent reduction in the state income-tax rate that went into effect Jan. 1. Mazzei last week filed Senate Bill 1073, which voids the reduction approved by the state Equalization Board in December 2014 and specifies such a reduction cannot occur in a fiscal year in which a revenue failure has been declared. SB 1073 also raises the requirements for triggering a rate cut from 5 percent to 4.85 percent [Tulsa World].

It’s been clear for months that the oil economy is hurting, but will Oklahoma see an 1980s repeat?: George Nigh well remembers the last time the Oklahoma oil economy tanked — and the day that seemed to signal hard times ahead. It was July 5, 1982. The former governor was in the midst of running for re-election, heading to a campaign event when the phone rang in his car. It was his campaign treasurer calling to deliver the news that federal regulators had just closed the Oklahoma City shopping center bank that had come to symbolize the oil boom and the go-go lending of the late 1970s and early 1980s [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s oncoming budget shortfall could be worse than the Great Recession: According to State Treasurer Ken Miller, last month’s gross tax receipts were the smallest for the month of December since 2010. In December 2010 we were in the midst of FY-2011 which was a budget year with a shortfall that approached $1 billion. But the 2010 legislature had the benefit of $540 million in federal stimulus money to help relieve the shortfall [OK Policy].

Crowd fills House chamber at Oklahoma Capitol hearing to discuss increase in earthquakes: Lawsuits and insurance questions took center stage Friday at a town hall meeting at the Capitol over Oklahoma’s spike in earthquakes and the links to saltwater disposal wells used in oil and natural gas production. Concerned residents packed the House chamber after the meeting was moved from cramped nearby committee rooms. The Capitol meeting followed a similar one Thursday evening in Edmond [NewsOK].

Lawmaker proposes fees for wastewater disposal: Michael Root said he’s not sure if the oil and gas industry would support his proposal to add fees to wastewater disposal, but at least one lawmaker said he plans to move the idea forward. Root is a petroleum geologist whose Edmond home was damaged by two strong earthquakes on Dec. 29 and Jan. 1. He can cover the cost of the repairs, at least $6,400. But he said he’s concerned many Oklahomans can’t afford to fix damaged bricks and mortar or replace broken windows. Earthquake insurance deductibles range from 2 to 10 percent of the property value, and can be upward of $40,000, Root said [Journal Record].

Marginal wells could lose tax exemption: Oil and gas producers that have low-volume wells might end up paying more in taxes than they earn in profit. Because of this disparity, producers can claim a tax exemption to keep the well from going underwater. State Sen. Mike Mazzei, however, has filed legislation to put the exemption on hold for the next two years. Mazzei said that an early estimate shows that there could be $90 million in exemptions this year, because the claims have been building up [Journal Record].

Justice Safety Valve Act motion filed: For what is likely the first time in Cleveland County District Court, a local defense attorney filed a motion to use the Justice Safety Valve Act, a new piece of Oklahoma legislation that went into effect Nov. 1. Spencer Schambron, 22, of Norman entered a guilty plea Thursday for a felony count of false declaration of a pawnbroker. Since Schambron has been previously convicted, the range of punishment is 2 years in prison to life in prison. The motion called the minimum mandatory sentence an “‘injustice’ based on the facts as they currently are” [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]. Oklahoma has numerous mandatory minimum sentences that are far harsher than most other states [OK Policy].

Gov. Mary Fallin commutes sentences for 2 state inmates: Gov. Mary Fallin has approved shortening the prison sentences of two state inmates — the first commutations she’s authorized since 2012. Donnie Daniel’s life without parole sentence will be commuted to life with the possibility of parole, and William Wood Jr.’s 117-year-sentence will be shortened to time served. Daniel was sentenced under the state’s three-strikes law, which, until 2015, mandated a life without parole sentence for drug trafficking after two drug convictions [Enid News & Eagle].

What a difference a mile makes: William is a 7th grader who attends a suburban middle school. His school has well-equipped classrooms staffed by certified teachers. Every child has the appropriate textbooks and school supplies. William’s cousin Christina lives about a mile away – just far enough to be in a different school district. There are few supplies in the cupboards. An armed police officer is on permanent duty in the school. Teachers ask Facebook friends for assistance in purchasing books for English class, supplies for the chess club, or awards for dedicated students [OK Policy].

Budget Cuts ‘Worst Financial Crisis To OK Schools In Decades’: Green Country school superintendents describe the state’s most recent round of budget cuts as the worst financial crisis facing Oklahoma schools in decades. In total, $47 million is being cut, and superintendents all over the state are searching for solutions. They say it will impact school lunches, buses, professional development, and extracurricular activities – nearly every area in education [NewsOn6].

More bilingual teachers needed in OKC public schools: More bilingual paraprofessionals in the Oklahoma City Public School system are training to become certified teachers as the Hispanic student population continues to grow. The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools recently started the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Project which helps train bilingual paraprofessionals to become certified teachers [KOCO]. Research shows that bilingual classes helps children learn English significantly more than English-only classes [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City Council considers expansion of panhandling-free zones: Just weeks after a controversial measure to curb panhandling took effect, the Oklahoma City Council will take up new limits intended in keep panhandlers away from schoolchildren. The proposed expansion of panhandling-free zones also would amount to a pre-emptive strike against soliciting in the MAPS 3 downtown park [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Republican Party Vice Chairman steps down: The vice chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party is resigning to accept a job with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The OCPA is a conservative think tank that was created in 1993 as a public policy research organization focused primarily on state-level issues. Hernandez served as the state party’s interim chairman following the resignation of Chairman Randy Brogden resigned in September after just five months as chairman [Associated Press].

Special elections reveal Republican vulnerabilities: It was one race under unusual circumstances, but Democrat J.J. Dossett’s victory in last week’s state Senate District 34 special election hit Oklahoma Republicans like a bucket of ice water. And it got Oklahoma Democrats thinking maybe they are a factor in state politics again. A cascade of circumstances that include free-falling oil prices, budget failures, parents and teachers up in arms about school funding, and solidly Republican neighborhoods shaking to man-made earthquakes have put the GOP in an unaccustomed spot [Tulsa World].

David Boren says he’d support son for governor, but wishes he’d postponed announcement: “I’m very proud of him, of course,” David Boren said in response to a high school student’s question at a Tulsa Town Hall event Friday morning. “I think he rendered excellent service in Congress. But the governor’s race is three years off. A lot could happen between now and then. … There’s plenty of time between now and 2018 for him to make up his mind.” One of the things happening between now and 2018 is the elder Boren’s attempt to get a 1-cent sales tax dedicated to education on the November general election ballot. He has been trying to put together bipartisan support for the proposal [Tulsa World].

Legislator files libel lawsuit against founder of advocacy group: A state legislator who also is a lawyer has filed a libel lawsuit against the founder of an advocacy organization created to expose problems in nursing homes. Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, is asking an Oklahoma County judge to prohibit Wes Bledsoe from contacting his clients and from attempting to further defame him. He also is seeking thousands of dollars in damages [NewsOK].

Legislative staff moves into renovated offices: The first piece of a massive project to repair and refurbish the nearly century-old state Capitol is done. A total of 36,000 square feet of legislative staff space on the first and third floors has been improved at a cost of $7.2 million, said Trait Thompson, project manager. Staff members began moving in Friday [Times Record].

Quote of the Day

“Given the financial stress the state faces, we should consider a number of financial management options, one of which is a delay in the reduction from 5.25 to 5 percent in the top tax rate”

-Senate Finance Chair Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, who has filed a bill to void Oklahoma’s 2016 tax cut in a fiscal year in which a revenue failure has been declared (Source).

Number of the Day


Percent change in Oklahoma’s teen birth rate, 2011-2014, from 47.8 to 38.5 births per 1,000 women age 15-19.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Treatment Courts Can Reduce Crime: States have come up with all manner of creative solutions to route people out of the prison pipeline and into alternatives—drug treatment, therapy, community service, home supervision, graffiti abatement, anger management, consequential-thinking classes, intensive interventions for alleged domestic batterers, supportive services to help individuals escape sex work—you name it, there’s a program for it. And, yet, millions of people are still going to prison [The Atlantic].


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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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