In The Know: Proposed budget cuts could interrupt Oklahoma’s highway projects

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

Proposed budget cuts could interrupt Oklahoma’s highway projects: State transportation officials may be forced to suspend construction on some partially completed highway projects if the Legislature follows through with a proposal to cut its off-the-top funding from income tax revenues to $320 million, says Mike Patterson, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. [The Oklahoman]

Feeling unsupported by state, student teachers bolt for better pay: Student teachers are fleeing the state at a time when Oklahoma needs teachers more than ever. The problem is there is not enough money in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education. Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation for average teacher pay, according to the Oklahoma Education Association, college students currently doing their student teaching in schools throughout the region know this, and the vast majority are opting to find work elsewhere. [Stillwater News Press]

Late revenue bills target poor, small businesses: The Oklahoma Legislature quickly and quietly passed a handful of new revenue measures through committee hearings late Thursday, and analysts said many of the bills affect poor people and small businesses more than anyone else. Local economists and political analysts said the measures, which create between $800,000 and $20 million in new revenues each, are a drop in the bucket compared to the near-billion-dollar budget shortfall for next year. [Journal Record]

Death penalty moratorium is the right choice: For over a year, I have had the honor of being one of 11 members of an independent, bipartisan commission comprised of a diverse group of Oklahomans and tasked with investigating an issue of the upmost importance to the state of Oklahoma. Given the breadth of concerns we uncovered, the commission unanimously recommends extending the current moratorium on executions in Oklahoma until significant reforms are accomplished. [Howard Barnett/Tulsa World]

Record number of Oklahomans in corrections system should be no surprise: A performance audit of Oklahoma’s prison system, conducted in 2007 at lawmakers’ request and at a cost to taxpayers of more than $800,000, makes for interesting reading a decade later as the number of people in Department of Corrections custody soars. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Educators ‘Shooting in the Dark’ When it Comes to the Budget: Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller said the district anticipates a state funding cut of 3 to 10 percent — or $500,000 to $1.5 million — but they won’t know until probably the last week of school. “We’re shooting in the dark and hoping we’re close,” Miller said. “So, we’re shooting at about 4 to 5 percent, hoping that that’s where it’s going to land, and if it lands at 10 percent, we call it ‘Plan D,’ which is plan disaster, is what we call that plan.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oil and gas leading Oklahoma’s recovery — We don’t need subsidies: We Oklahomans are at a historical fork in the road. Our elected leaders at the state Capitol will determine if the future of Oklahoma will be remarkable or become irrelevant and just occasionally driven through. I ask the oil and gas industry to help our state’s desperate revenue needs by agreeing to a fair and equal tax on all oil and natural gas produced in Oklahoma. [Dewey Bartlett/Tulsa World] We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy]

Oklahoma DHS improving on child welfare efforts, according to Pinnacle Plan report: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has started turning around the problem of maltreatment of foster children, according to the latest progress report from an oversight panel, released Friday. [Tulsa World]

Fingers crossed for Oklahoma justice reform bills: For those of us on the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, the objectives of the reform process were always clear: First, protect public safety, and second, control the growth in the prison population. We recognized that continuing to allow our prison population to grow unchecked would be fiscally irresponsible and detrimental to public safety. [Jan Peery and Roy H. Williams/Tulsa World] Attention College Students: Applications for the 2017 Summer Policy Institute are now open! Click here to apply. Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

Once poor-performing schools are making the grades: At Hilldale Elementary School in the Putnam City district, it’s all about the relationships. Children are active and engaged and want to do right by their teachers, who credit regular collaboration and lots of professional development for the school’s success. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Community Leaders Launch Effort To Reform Immigration Laws: Several of Tulsa’s community leaders announced the launch of an Oklahoma effort to reform immigration laws. They’ve started the Oklahoma coalition of the national program. is a bipartisan organization working to create what it calls a more welcoming immigration policy while still securing borders. [Newson6]

Revenue failure is not an option: The time has come for structural reform! It’s time to stop crying over low oil prices and an overreliance on one-time monies to pay recurring obligations for our essential services. Shortsighted income and sales tax exemptions, oil and gas industry tax breaks, incentives and rebates … we are giving the farm away. Billions of dollars in lost revenue have seeped away into Oklahoma’s red dirt. [Kirk Hartzler/TulsaWorld] Oklahoma’s past accomplishments teach us how to build a better budget and a better future [OK Policy]

Bill seeks study of people jailed for failure to pay fines, fees: Another criminal justice reform measure is making its way through the Legislature late in the session. It would require the state to take a look at how many people its jailing for failure to pay fines and fees. Senate Bill 342 would create a statewide task force to systematically study how many Oklahomans have faced jail time because of unpaid court fines and fees. Supporters said the bill’s success so far is a testament to the state’s shift from hard-on-crime policies to smart-on-crime ones. [Journal Record] How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans Into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting State Revenue [OK Policy]

Oklahoma tackles gap between skills workers have, skills they need to fill jobs: Despite state budget woes, Gov. Mary Fallin wants lawmakers to earmark $20 million for a new Critical Occupations Fund designed to put more people to work in jobs deemed crucial to growing Oklahoma’s economy. [The Oklahoman]

Rural-urban divide has a long history in Oklahoma politics: All one needs to know about the historical depth of the urban-rural divide in Oklahoma politics is the title of Patrick S. Nagle’s 1914 monograph, “The Interlocked Parasites of the Electric Light Towns.” All of Oklahoma’s money and power — and electric lights — were concentrated in the towns and cities, said Nagle, while rural Oklahomans did all of the real work. [Tulsa World]

The Most Practical Alternative to Quake-Causing Disposal Wells is Reusing Wastewater, Research Group Finds: The government-approved, economical way to deal with produced water is for oil companies to pump it back underground into disposal wells. But as horizontal drilling and fracking helped bring an oil and gas boom to Oklahoma in 2009, the volume of this produced water skyrocketed — and earthquakes soon followed. [StateImpact]

Quote of the Day

“Anyone familiar with the economics of drilling knows that taxes rarely determine where to drill. Most successful companies drill where the oil and natural gas is located — not where tax policy is lenient.”

– Former mayor of Tulsa and president of Keener Oil & Gas Co. Dewey Bartlett arguing for the restoration of the gross production tax to 7% (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of misdemeanor cases filed in Oklahoma district courts in FY 2016

Source: Oklahoma Supreme Court

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In the Tennessee Delta, a poor community loses its hospital — and sense of security: The demise of Haywood Park Community Hospital three years ago this summer added Brownsville to an epidemic of dying hospitals across rural America. Nearly 80 have closed since 2010, including nine in Tennessee, more than in any state but Texas. Many more are considered fragile — downstream victims of federal health policies, shifts in medical practice and the limited tolerance of distant corporate owners for empty beds and financial losses. In every rural community, the ripple effects of a lost hospital are profound, reverberating beyond the inability of would-be patients to get immediate care. Many of the best jobs in town vanish. Local leaders trying to recruit new industry face an extra hurdle. [Washington Post]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

One thought on “In The Know: Proposed budget cuts could interrupt Oklahoma’s highway projects

  1. interesting that the Oklahoman’s invoking of the 2007 DOC audit report didn’t mention its significant and substantial criticisms of the state’s drug court system and operations, its tendency to cherry-pick offenders to show high success rates and its failure to include or analyze the number of non-completers in its cheery announcements of value as a major reform. appears that the irresponsible legislators (sorry, I repeat myself) aren’t the only ones ignoring a vital component of any realistic change in the state’s criminal justice system, validating the old assessment that it’s not a system, there’s no justice, and that’s criminal.

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