In The Know: Sales tax exemptions total billions annually

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

Nearly Untouchable, Sales Tax Exemptions Total Billions Annually: Buried deep in the Oklahoma tax code is a sales tax exemption for railroad spikes. Once it got hammered into place, it never budged. The tax break was created in 1993 for the benefit of one spike manufacturer, Wellington Industries, so it would relocate from Texas to Sand Springs. Tax code reformers later targeted it for review, but it survived. Oklahoma Tax Commission officials said they weren’t able to calculate how much it costs the state today. It’s got plenty of company, though [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma Out of Drought Conditions Again: The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 85.81 percent of Oklahoma is free of any dry conditions while 14.19 percent is listed as abnormally dry. No parts of Oklahoma are listed in the remaining categories ranging from a moderate drought to severe drought, extreme drought and exceptional drought. The two parts of Oklahoma shown to be under abnormally dry conditions are in the southwest and the northwest [OK Energy Today].

Apply now to be a State Policy Fellow: Interested in helping us to shape public policy in Oklahoma or another state? Check out this great opportunity to be a part of the 2016 class of State Policy Fellows. The State Policy Fellowship places recent public policy graduates in leading state-based policy organizations to conduct research and analysis in areas like health care, taxes, anti-poverty policy, education, and criminal justice. State Policy Fellows spend two years with an influential state policy organization (such as Oklahoma Policy Institute) or with one of two Washington, D.C.-based organizations [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Regents request flat funding from Legislature: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted Thursday to request $963,412,106 in state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017, which reflects no increase from the current fiscal year. Regents then approved an addendum to the budget request that states the total amount needed to meet ongoing operating costs is $985.4 million. Keeping in mind the state could face a budget shortfall as much as $1 billion, officials decided not to seek an increase in funding, Chancellor Glen Johnson said [NewsOK].

Growing capital needs called a ‘tough sell’ on fixing the state Capitol: Full repair and refurbishment of the nearly 100-year-old building is now pegged at about $310 million, well over twice the amount of money set aside for a project to fix plumbing, electrical service, heat and air conditioning, security and the crumbling exterior. About $65 million of that amount would be for a lower-priority plan to build a parking structure and a Capitol park that could include a three-arch monument [NewsOK].

Bice continues working to revise alcoholic beverage laws: The state’s legislative session ended in May, but State Sen. Stephanie Bice’s work on Senate Bill 383 has not stopped. The Republican from Piedmont has been bringing together concerned parties to discuss how and where consumers can buy wine and cold high-point beer. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is concerned about allowing beer and wine sales on Sundays, which would increase access to the products. The group is also concerned about minors having access if the products are sold in grocery stores. Bice said both issues will be addressed in the language that is being drafted [Journal Record].

OU reaches settlement with French woman over Nazi-looted artwork: The painting, Camille Pissarro’s “Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep,” was a part of a large collection owned by Jewish businessman Raoul Meyer before the war. After it was stolen by Nazi soldiers, the painting changed hands several times before coming to OU in 2000. Last year, Raoul Meyer’s daughter, Leone Meyer, sued the university in hopes of recovering the painting [NewsOK].

Doing right by public education: When the 2016 legislative session ends in May, the future of Oklahoma public education will be much clearer. Students will have endured another year with amateur instructors – “emergency replacements” – in far too many classrooms. Districts likely will be scrambling yet again to sustain schools with state budget crumbs. And even more professional educators almost certainly will be fleeing for better pay and working conditions in surrounding states. Is this the future Oklahomans want for their children and grandchildren? [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Video show Oklahoma teachers sharing the struggles of the job: You have to watch this video. It’s only 12 minutes long. It’s a group of Moore Public Schools teachers talking about the struggles of students and of teachers. It finishes with each discussing why they stay. What breaks my heart is the student teacher who loves the district but has done the math, and has decided to leave the state. That’s a real story too [okeducationtruths].

Quote of the Day

“Although the general unemployment rate is low, low-income families still struggle with issues of significant underemployment. Low wages, underemployment, and unemployment drive need for food assistance.”

-Angie Doss, director of marketing and communications at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, speaking about a high demand for food assistance that is causing food pantries to see shortages going into the holiday season (Source)

Number of the Day


Acres of organic crops in Oklahoma in 2011, up from 2,136 acres in 2000.

Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Taken: On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console [New Yorker].

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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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