In The Know: One-cent sales tax proposal for education clears another hurdle on way to ballot

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

One-cent sales tax proposal for education clears another hurdle on way to ballot: A statewide vote on increasing the sales tax by a cent to fund education moved a step closer to the polls on Wednesday. The Oklahoma Supreme Court in an order said the number of signatures for State Question 779 appears to be numerically sufficient to place the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. Supporters collected 301,512 signatures. The required number was 123,725. Revenue from the measure would pay for a $5,000 teacher raise and for programs in common education, CareerTech and higher education [Tulsa World]. OK Policy’s statement on the ballot initiative is available here.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Fail to Rise to the Challenge: Oklahoma’s legislative session came to a disappointing end late last week. Legislators now await Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature on a $6.8 billion budget that harms the state’s poorest residents and sets the Sooner State on an unsustainable fiscal path. Rather than delaying or canceling unaffordable cuts to the state’s income tax, lawmakers opted to rely heavily on one-time funds to fill a $1.3 billion shortfall. And despite the painful cuts being made to vital state programs, lawmakers still only managed to postpone, not solve, the state’s fiscal problems [Tax Justice Blog].

Department of Education begins planning with smaller budget: While state lawmakers said funding for common education would be flat for next year, education officials are planning for a smaller budget as some of their funding sources have fallen short. State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister said there are other line items within the budget that include cuts to education. “What the Legislature did was move some funds around,” she said. As a result, more cuts could be on the way to schools next year. “There are consequences to those cuts,” Hofmeister said [KOCO]. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

‘Running the Negro out of Tulsa’: Victims still wait for justice 95 years after Greenwood Massacre: As shocking as it must have been for you to see the title of this article, imagine the shock and horror my vibrant, peaceful, and prosperous community experienced 95 years ago today when a mob of over 2,000 Whites, under the protection of city and state law and direction of city and state officials, pillaged and destroyed the Black district of Tulsa, aka Greenwood, “Little Africa,” and “Black Wall Street.” This photo was taken as innocent Black Tulsans experienced the worst domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history [OK Policy].

Drunken drivers allowed to keep licenses due to DPS delays: Drunken drivers across Oklahoma have been allowed by judges to keep their driver’s licenses — without repercussions — because of problems at the state Department of Public Safety. In dozens of cases, judges have found in favor of drivers, ruling that the state agency took too long to conduct license-revocation hearings after arrests. Thousands of drivers are waiting months for administrative hearings on whether they will lose their licenses after arrests [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: Pat on the back or kick in the pants? How best to assess the 2016 legislative session that concluded last week? Legislative leaders and the governor were quick to pat themselves on the back for the session’s achievements. They pointed to months of hard work that culminated in a budget agreement that spared common education and Medicaid the devastating cuts many had feared. Critics – among whose ranks I candidly count myself – see things differently [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Loss of oil-field jobs hits Elk City, western parts of state hardest: Most of the companies that planned to build in a new municipal industrial park here pulled out when oil prices dropped, so the city let a local farmer plant the land with winter wheat. The Elk City labor market, which includes surrounding counties of Beckham, Custer, Roger Mills and Washita, lost 1,249 energy sector jobs over the past year, a 30.9 percent decline, according to numbers from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The data includes jobs numbers through the third quarter of 2015 [NewsOK]. Unemployment rates increased in April from March in 50 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties [Journal Record].

Oklahoma revenue bill could draw legal challenge: While the Legislature passed a state budget in the final days of session, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee resolution of the state’s fiscal challenges. In particular, some question whether all revenue measures were enacted in a way that can withstand constitutional scrutiny. The Oklahoma Constitution requires that any “revenue bill” must receive the support of three-fourths of the members in both the House and Senate. Otherwise, it must go to a vote of the people [NewsOK].

Tulsa Shelters Overflowing As Homeless Numbers Grow: Shelters for the homeless are full in Tulsa, and with the warmer weather, you may have noticed many people are sleeping on the streets. People at John 3:16 are working to turn a former school into a place where the homeless can be housed and taught life skills to re-enter the workforce. But, there’s more work to be done as the need keeps rising. It’s a sight many people drive by every day and don’t think much about – homeless men and women living on the street – and it’s a problem that’s getting worse [NewsOn6].

Hindu leader to request religious monument at Oklahoma Capitol if voters change constitution: Hindus will seek to place a religious monument at the state Capitol if Oklahoma voters repeal a section of the state constitution that prohibits using public money and property for religious purposes. Rajan Zed, Universal Society of Hinduism president, announced Saturday in Nevada that if Oklahoma voters repeal Section 5 of the constitution’s Article II, he will request that a statue of Hindu deity Lord Hanuman be erected on the Capitol grounds, according to a news release [Tulsa World].

Ballot questions cost the state money: Voters face a lot of decisions this November, and those choices cost money. So much that the state Election Board is one of few government agencies to get a budget increase to pay for an election that’s expected to involve a long ballot and a lot of voter interest. At least five questions are slated for the November ballot — they’ll show up somewhere beneath the presidential election — and that’s not including citizen-led measures that may end up there, too, such as legalizing medical marijuana [Norman Transcript].

In Oklahoma, steep rate hikes again come to individual health insurance market: Oklahomans with individual policies for health insurance can expect their premiums to rise as much as 50 percent next year, based on initial 2017 rate filings by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma for the federally run marketplace in Oklahoma. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma — the only confirmed participant for next year — filed increases ranging from 49.77 percent to 51.65 percent on three different plans. The May 11 filings were required by law under the Affordable Care Act [NewsOK].

Downtown Coordinating Council recommends walkability study: The Downtown Coordinating Council on Wednesday recommended conducting a walkability study, led by a national expert the group brought to Tulsa to speak last month. Jeff Speck, an author and spokesman for smart design, would undertake the study, and it would be one of the largest his company has performed, DCC officials said. The study, estimated to cost $70,000, would cover the entire area inside the Inner-Dispersal Loop, focusing on what can be done to make downtown more walkable by design [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“We will have to look at what remains after our statutory obligations and then prioritize based on what will affect student learning the most.”

– State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister on how the state Department of Education plans to move forward with lower overall education funding (Source)

Number of the Day

562 per 100,000

Rate of jail incarceration for women in Okmulgee County, the highest in the state. The state average is 149 per 100,000.

Source: Vera Institute of Justice

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A staggering number of people with factory jobs still need government help: Philadonna Wade works the night shift at the Detroit Chassis plant in Avon, Ohio, finishing off truck axles before they ship off to one of the big Ford factories nearby. It is heavier work than her last job, which was stocking shelves at a Family Dollar store, and Wade says it’s helping her get in shape. “I enjoy the job, I enjoy the people I work with,” she said in an interview recently. “But the thing is, when you go to a job, it’s not about enjoying the people you work with, it’s about earning more for your family.” At the plant, Wade has the sort of job that Americans often associate with a blue-collar American Dream. But she’s paid more like a low-level service worker: $9.50 an hour, with no benefits [Washington Post].

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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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