In The Know: Republicans, Democrats agree that Oklahoma has a revenue problem; Tax equality needed to spur OK success; and more

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

Republicans, Democrats agree that Oklahoma has a revenue problem: Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much, but several of them agreed Friday that Oklahoma state government has a revenue problem. That Democrats think state government has been starved beyond its ability to function effectively is no surprise. The difference now is that some Republicans, including Gov. Mary Fallin and House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Leslie Osborn, are saying it, too. [Tulsa World] OK Policy agrees that the state has a revenue problem – on revenue options, the right choice is “All of the Above” [OK Policy]

Tax equality needed to spur OK success: In a year where we passed a budget that holds flat many state agencies that were in desperate need of a funding increase, the Legislature once again failed to raise the state’s gross production tax in a meaningful way. Instead, the Legislature opted to raise fees on working class Oklahomans and cut several agencies that just can’t afford it anymore. [Rep. Dennis Casey/Stillwater News Press] How much new revenue will ending oil and gas tax breaks bring in? [OK Policy]

Majority of one? Rep. Scott Biggs allowed to block criminal justice reform in Oklahoma: The recently adjourned Oklahoma Legislature was a bust. From education funding to tax equity, lawmakers were confronted with the state’s problems … and blinked. But none of the Legislature’s failures is more frustrating than its refusal to deal with five reasonable, criminal justice reform measures. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

Oklahoma House speaker says work will continue on criminal justice reform: Criminal justice reform bills that failed to make it through the legislative process last session will be worked on during the interim with a goal of completing work next year, House Speaker Charles McCall announced Friday. “Without a doubt, criminal justice reform is a priority for the Legislature because it greatly affects public safety and our state budget,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “I certainly support the goals of criminal justice reform, but several members wanted to ensure there were no unintended consequences resulting from a handful of the bills that were introduced this year.” [The Oklahoman]

Special elections to cost as much as $200,000: Oklahoma’s open legislative seats left more than 100,000 residents unrepresented during a highly contentious session, and they are going to cost the state at least $90,000 and as much as $200,000 to fill. Sex scandals, ethics complaints, private sector job offers and death removed six lawmakers from the 2017 session, as the Legislature tackled a massive budget shortfall, grappled with whether the state needed to raise taxes and attempted to address criminal justice reform. [Journal Record]

A disappointing, dispiriting Oklahoma legislative session: It is telling that the kindest evaluations of the 2017 session of the Legislature can be summed up, “It could have been worse.” While there were modest successes along the way, this session was notable mostly for dysfunction and a disturbing rise in anti-business rhetoric from many lawmakers, including Republicans. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] The budget was one of the disappointments of this session – it leaves Oklahoma services massively underfunded. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma health organizations support cigarette fee: A new cigarette wholesaler fee could effectively reduce smoking in Oklahoma, state experts and officials said. The 2018 state budget bill, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed Wednesday, will enforce a fee of $1.50 per pack on cigarette wholesalers. Multiple health entities expressed support for the legislation, including the American Lung Association and the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center. [The Oklahoman]

OSU receives grant to improve rural health care delivery: The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation awarded the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences a $2.3 million grant to support initiatives to fundamentally improve health care delivery in rural Oklahoma. $1.8 million of the grant money will go towards underwriting Project ECHO service lines for mental health and addiction medicine. The remaining $500,000 is directed to the Rural Oklahoma Network. Oklahoma consistently ranks among the worst in the nation in mental health and in substance abuse disorders. [Stillwater News Press

Oklahoma’s sole Obamacare insurer signals it may continue offering subsidized coverage: The only insurance company in Oklahoma offering subsidized health care has notified federal and state officials it tentatively intends to continue the coverage for low and middle-income individuals next year. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma did so in meeting a Thursday deadline under the Affordable Care Act for a preliminary filing of proposed rates for 2018. But the company still has until this fall to decide if it wants to drop out of the federal program because of anticipated losses that could occur due to higher rates, too few healthy policy holders and other circumstances. [CNHI]

Oklahoma loses another good teacher: Oklahoma teachers leaving for greener pastures is, sadly, routine news. But the loss of former teacher of the year Shawn Sheehan and his sincere but heartbreaking farewell message he posted takes the feeling of loss to another level. It also fuels feelings of anger and disgust toward state leaders who have brought the state another budget disaster. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Youth with Promise scholarship program said to changes lives: Since 1996, the Oklahoma Youth with Promise Scholarship Fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has awarded more than $890,000 to 685 students who graduated high school while in Oklahoma’s foster care system. For the more than 8,000 children currently in foster care in the state of Oklahoma, paying for college presents formidable challenges. Fortunately, the OCCF’s Oklahoma Youth with Promise scholarship fund provides more than financial support for former foster care children in Oklahoma who are seeking post-secondary education. Just as important, it provides a source of encouragement for these children to succeed when pursuing higher education. [Edmond Sun]

New DUI law would abolish administrative appeals process: It will become illegal for a drunken driving suspect to refuse to take a breath test in Oklahoma if the governor signs a bill passed in the last week of the Legislative session. Senate Bill 643 also would abolish the civil administrative appeals process that suspects currently use to challenge the revocation of their driver’s licenses. [The Oklahoman]

Hate incidents like the graffiti on LeBron James’ home ‘happen every day,’ Tulsan says: Basketball star LeBron James’ remarks after vandals spray-painted racial slurs on the gate of his Los Angeles home this week seemed to fit into Thursday’s program for the John Hope Franklin Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Tulsa. James told reporters that racism remains a part of daily life, and he was “OK” with the incident if it opened discussions about the subject. [Tulsa World]

LGBTQ people ‘have not won a war yet,’ still fight for equality as Tulsa’s 35th Pride weekend approaches: Don’t ask Toby Jenkins about the next fight for Tulsa’s LGBTQ community — those who identify as lesbian, gay, bixseual, transgender and queer.If you do, he’ll pause just briefly enough for you to know you’ve made a mistake. Then he’ll let you know why the premise of that question is wrong. “Well, there’s not a next fight. We’re still fighting. That’s the misperception. We’ve not won a war yet. We’re still in the middle of the battle,” Jenkins said in an interview a few weeks before the 35th Tulsa Pride weekend. [Tulsa World]

New Software Company To Set Up Headquarters In Tulsa: A software company picked Tulsa over Chicago to be its new headquarters after considering other US cities, even other countries. Logistyx Technologies is a software solutions provider for transportation management. They picked Tulsa over Chicago to be home base because of the workforce and tech-climate. [NewsOn6]

Quote of the Day

“We made it OK to talk about revenue. It’s OK. We can talk about it now. We made it OK to talk about criminal justice reform. … That’s big. Some of those topics were taboo before this year.”

– Chris Benge, Chief of Staff to Governor Mary Fallin, speaking about the relatively new consensus among state policymakers that Oklahoma has a revenue problem (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahomans under age 21 enrolled in SoonerCare in 2016

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide: If you’ve used the internet at any point in the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard of Juicero. Juicero is a San Francisco-based company that sells a $400 juicer. Here’s how it works: you plug in a pre-sold packet of diced fruits and vegetables, and the machine transforms it into juice. But it turns out you don’t actually need the machine to make the juice..Juicero is hilarious. But it also reflects a deeply unfunny truth about Silicon Valley, and our economy more broadly. Juicero is not, as its apologists at Vox claim, an anomaly in an otherwise innovative investment climate. On the contrary: it’s yet another example of how profoundly anti-innovation America has become. And the consequences couldn’t be more serious: the economy that produced Juicero is the same one that’s creating opioid addicts in Ohio, maiming auto workers in Alabama, and evicting families in Los Angeles. [The Guardian]

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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.

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