In The Know: ‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut

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

‘Perfect storm’ shutting down Oklahoma’s next tax cut: Oklahomans expecting an income tax cut will probably have to keep waiting. Lawmakers have approved a bill repealing the next automatic cut, which could trigger as state revenues improve. The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly supported the measure on Wednesday. It has to return to the Senate for a procedural vote before heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, but the bill’s authors expect no problems [NewsOK]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

Legislative Leader Calls For Cooperation: A major player in the state’s budget negotiations said a spending plan will be passed on time, but it will only happen if lawmakers put aside their partisan differences. “We are committed to put a bill on the floor that will solve the Oklahoma budget issue, that will both fully fund state agencies and will fund a teacher pay raise,” said Republican Rep. Jon Echols, the House Majority Floor Leader [NewsOn6].

For many at the Capitol, this year’s budget constitutes a crisis of faith: Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are pestering the Republican majority this week by asking the same two questions on just about every bill brought to the floor. The two questions are: “Does this bill contain any recurring revenue to alleviate the state’s budget crisis?” and “Does this bill have any impact on the state budget?” The answers, in most cases, are “no” and “none.” [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: Tax cut fever has broken: Five years ago this week, I turned in my first Prosperity Policy column to this newspaper. As I look back over some 250 columns on major issues affecting Oklahoma, I can see many areas where progress has proved frustratingly elusive. The state budget is in a deeper crisis. We have failed to extend health care to many who need it. Real opportunity is still unavailable for too many working families [David Blatt / Journal Record].

The Indigent Defense System needs $1.5 million to avoid another constitutional crisis: In recent weeks, the Legislature has scrambled to provide enough funding to hold agencies over until the end of the year: nearly $35 million to DHS, and over $700,000 to the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS). As we pointed out last year, OIDS has been inching toward insolvency for years, as the need for representation continues to grow but appropriations continue to decline [OK Policy].

Senate passes overdose antidote bill: Legislators are continuing the push for better access to opioid antagonists, but not everyone is on board. Narcan, and its generic form, naloxone, reverse opioid overdoses. Mental health and substance abuse workers advocate for making the drug readily available to addicts and their families, just to be safe. Bills in the past few years have made the drug easier to get. Law enforcement officers and other emergency responders can administer it without prescriptions [Journal Record].

Oklahoma’s Promise turns 25: Scholarship income limit would rise under bill: More students would be eligible for Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarship under a bill to increase the family income limit for the first time in 17 years. Senate Bill 529 by Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, and Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, would raise the adjusted gross income limit by $10,000 in two steps. The bill passed Monday out of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee by a vote of 21-1 and now goes to the full House [NewsOK]. How does Oklahoma’s Promise work—and why is it so important for low- and middle-income Oklahomans? [OK Policy]

Griffin tries again for restroom sign law: The Legislature is again considering a bill that would require restroom signs informing women about abortion alternatives, but it’s now business-friendly. In 2016, state Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, sponsored a bill that required any organization with a public restroom to hang signs detailing a woman’s options, including adoption. The business community responded with a concern after the measure passed: The signage could collectively cost more than $2 million [Journal Record].

Oklahoma falling behind in college-educated workforce, economist says: Oklahoma is not keeping up with the nation in producing the college-educated workforce needed to be competitive, an economist from the University of Oklahoma said Wednesday in a report to the State Regents for Higher Education. “Any state that doesn’t keep up is going to find itself in trouble,” said Robert Dauffenbach, senior associate dean for economic development and impact at the OU College of Business. Oklahoma ranks near the bottom for the percentage of adults who have an associate degree or higher when compared to bordering states and the nation, Dauffenbach said [NewsOK].

Retired dentist saves state science fair — for now: Four-day school weeks, inadequate teacher pay, threats to eliminate high school sports and other high-profile issues get the headlines when it comes to cutting school budgets. But there are other, less talked about but also important parts of education that are suffering. The state science fair, for example. Due to budget cuts, the Oklahoma State Science and Engineering Fair was on the chopping block [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Education crisis: State slices deep into school budgets: Financial woes continue for Oklahoma Education as the revenue failure declared by state legislators in February continues to have a direct and harsh impact on local schools. Dwindling funds have school administrators state-wide shaking their heads with worry as they work to come up with plans to offset the limited cash flow [Wagoner County American-Tribune].

Tulsa city councilors, school board members meet to discuss district’s massive budget cuts: Massive budget cuts are once again facing Tulsa Public Schools, and city leaders met with board of education members to show that they’re not making these tough decisions alone. The Tulsa City Council and Mayor G.T. Bynum held a joint meeting with members of the board of education at Central Library in downtown Tulsa. Councilor Anna America said this public meeting should serve as a public show of support for the district because these cuts affect the entire community [KJRH]. The Tulsa Public Schools’ middle school athletic programs may not have to be consolidated after all. TPS Director of Athletics Gil Cloud said $80,000 in athletic department funds could be applied to prevent combining 10 of the district’s 11 middle school athletic programs into multischool programs [Tulsa World].

Walls falling in: Education in the time of Gist: I called Deborah Gist, Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, last week—she’s held a thousand or so interviews lately—to talk not so much about it, but about her. She’s from Tulsa, a graduate of Memorial High School, earned a bachelor’s from the University of Oklahoma, a doctoral degree in education leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, and came to us in 2013 after spending six years in Rhode Island as education commissioner. “Do you regret it? Are you disillusioned?” [Barry Friedman / Tulsa Voice]

American Indian health fund launched: A tribal health group is teaming up with an area nonprofit to raise $3 million to improve the health of Southern Plains American Indians. The effort, announced by the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and Community Health Charities, seeks to raise $3 million in the next three years. Drive proceeds will be used to support and create programs to improve American Indians’ health and to cover funding gaps for existing programs that aren’t being addressed [NewsOK].

Oklahoma health collaboration receives funding to address factors behind poor health outcomes: A collaborative of Oklahoma health departments, health care providers and social service agencies announced new federal funding Wednesday to address the drivers of poor health outcomes and high costs. The Route 66 Coalition received a $4.5 million grant form the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create an Accountable Health Community where social issues and needs, including those beyond medical needs, are addressed to improve health [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Is Not Ready For A Statewide Health Emergency: The National Health Security Index has released its 2017 findings and Oklahoma is unprepared to handle a statewide health emergency. With 6.4 out of a perfect of 10, Oklahoma ranks just below the 6.8 national average of overall health preparedness. The index uses 130 different measures to determine each state’s and the country’s level of preparedness, such as flu vaccination, number of hospitals to people covered by wireless 911, and hazard planning for public schools [News9]. The full report is available here.

Water and sewer rate hikes likely on way again, but they’re less than anticipated: The average Tulsa household would pay $5.37 more per month for water and sewer next fiscal year under a proposed fee increase presented to the City Council on Wednesday. While the fees would go up, the proposed increase is actually less than previously planned. A long-term plan by the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority that began years ago to meet growing infrastructure needs had called for annual rate increases of 7 percent for water and 9 percent for sewer [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“I wish for all of my teachers to get raises, of course, but what concerns me is there is no mechanism to pay that. If they put that burden on us (the schools) … added with all the budget cuts already … it’s really going to cause a struggle for us. The reality becomes this: we’re going to give everyone a pay raise, but at almost $200,000 to afford that the first year, I would have to let at least four teachers go. We’re going to have to make the tough decisions, not the state, and honestly, I haven’t given up hope. There are some good ideas proposed by the Democrats to help pay for this, so I hope good ideas prevail over bipartisan politics.”

– Wagoner Public Schools Superintendent Randy Harris (Source)

Number of the Day


Opioid overdose deaths as a percentage of all drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma in 2015. The US average was 63%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

We Should Be Paying A Lot More Attention to Community Colleges: Community colleges are doing more heavy-lifting than we think. So hints a new snapshot report from the National Student Clearinghouse, which found that half of all students who completed a bachelor’s degree in 2015-16 had enrolled at a community college at some point in the previous 10 years. As expected given the de-centralized nature of American higher education, there’s considerable variation across states. In some states, particularly in the Western and Southern U.S., the vast majority college graduates interacted with the community college system somewhere along the way. And among these students, about half of them earned their bachelor’s degree within three years of attending a community college. 80 percent of 4-year graduates who had enrolled at community college had done so in the past 5 years. Essentially, those who had gone to community college had done so relatively recently [Demos].

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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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