In The Know: Schools stand to lose $40 million from SQ 766 tax exemptions

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that public schools statewide stand to lose about $40.4 million this year because of new tax exemptions created by SQ 766 that have primarily benefited telecommunications companies, utilities and railroads. The okeducationtruths blog added context to our post about problems with Oklahoma’s A-F grades for schools. The Oklahoma Democratic Party is making a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the study that was used to justify House employee raise.

The OK Policy Blog shared the story of an Oklahoman with a seizure disorder who is unable to find employment without a car. The New York Times reports on how experts are eyeing the oil and gas industry as the cause for earthquakes shaking Oklahoma. Time Magazine reports on how Oklahomans are beginning to take California-style precautions against earthquakes. A court ruled that Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and its Oklahoma-based Kerr-McGee unit may have to pay as much as $14 billion for environmental cleanup and health claims that it tried to spin off into a separate company, which then went bankrupt.

CNBC reports on how Oklahoma is positioning itself as one of the future hubs of the commercial drone industry. The House easily approved a bipartisan budget deal that would avert another government shutdown next month and ease sequestration cuts. Three out of five members of Oklahoma’s House delegation voted for the deal. Sen. Tom Coburn is teaming up with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a push to end the federal mandate that corn-based ethanol be blended into gasoline.

OK Policy is hosting a State Budget Summit on Thursday, January 16th, featuring a panel of state leaders, a national speaker on the federal budget situation, and an advocacy training. The Number of the Day is the percentage jump in the number of unemployed Oklahomans between 2006 and 2012. In today’s Policy Note, Education Week examines political and policy difficulties facing Chiefs for Change, a group including Oklahoma Superintendent Janet Barresi that has been pushing similar education policies across the nation.

In The News

Schools stand to lose $40 million as impact of SQ 766 tax exemptions

Public schools statewide stand to lose about $40.4 million this year because of new tax exemptions that have primarily benefited telecommunications companies, utilities and railroads, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s latest estimates. Passed by Oklahoma voters in fall 2012, State Question 766 extended the intangible property tax exemption that locally assessed companies enjoyed previously to centrally assessed corporations. The Tulsa World sought the names of the corporations after the Tulsa school board was recently told at a public meeting that AT&T had been the biggest beneficiary of the change in state law.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

About the OPI Ranges

During the last eight days or so since I last posted, one of the things I’ve most enjoyed reading has been the Oklahoma Policy Institute article on our A-F Report Cards. Gene Perry provides a measured discussion of the ways in which the formula stacks the deck against high-poverty schools. Perry mentions some of the flaws with the way growth points are calculated for the report card. I want to add a little bit of context to the discussion.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Previously: How Oklahoma’s A-F grading system discriminates against high-poverty schools — and how to fix it from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma Democrats request copy of study behind House staff raises

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is processing a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the internal study that was used to evaluate Oklahoma House of Representatives staff employee salaries and retention rates. This study was cited as the reason it was okay for Speaker Shannon to handout $280,000 in raises to only a few employees–some salaries increased by as much as 30 percent. Speaker T.W. Shannon’s spokesman, Joe Griffin, has stated, These salary increases are controversial because legislative leaders previously delayed action on pay increases this year while they waited on a $200,000 independent study on employee compensation.

Read more from the Ardmorite.

She’s got no ticket to ride

Shereen Hickman is proud of her independence. She has always believed that there is nothing she can’t do – even if she has to work harder at it than other people. She has had a seizure disorder since infancy and cannot drive. She studied hard, got good grades in school, and left her home in a small town in eastern Oklahoma to attend the University of Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma City and found a good job. Six months ago Shereen lost her job after her employer reorganized and laid people off. “No problem,” she thought. “I’ve always had a job. I’ll find another one soon.” She watched literally dozens of job prospects fall through due to lack of transportation.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Experts eye oil and gas industry as quakes shake Oklahoma

Mary Catherine Sexton has been rattled enough. This fall her neighborhood in the northeastern part of this city has been shaken by dozens of minor earthquakes. “We would just have little trembles all the time,” she said. Even before a magnitude 4.5 quake on Saturday knocked objects off her walls and a stone from above her neighbor’s bay window, Ms. Sexton was on edge. “People are fed up with the earthquakes,” she said. “Our kids are scared. We’re scared.”

Read more from the New York Times.

Oklahoma adopts California-style quake precautions

It’s become a predictable routine at Matt Pryor’s insurance agency: An earthquake rumbles through Oklahoma, rattling dishes and nerves. Then the phones light up with calls and text messages from desperate residents asking if it’s too late to buy a policy to cover any damage. Business at Pryor’s Oklahoma City office has been brisk following a pair of temblors that struck recently near the city of Edmond, a bedroom community where residents are more accustomed to watching the sky for tornadoes than bracing for the earth to move. Decades have passed with little seismic activity in this region, but earthquakes have become more common in the last several years. And a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests they are here to stay.

Read more from Time Magazine.

Anadarko’s Kerr-McGee held liable over attempt to shed environmental cleanup liabilities

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and its Kerr-McGee unit acted improperly in the 2005 spinoff of Tronox Inc. and may have to pay as much as $14 billion related to environmental cleanup and health claims, a judge ruled. The case stems from Kerr-McGee’s spinoff of its chemicals business and old environmental liabilities as Tronox beginning in 2005. About three months after that transaction was completed, Anadarko offered to buy Kerr-McGee’s oil and natural gas assets for $18 billion. Burdened by environmental debts, Tronox filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sued Anadarko and Kerr-McGee the same year.

Read more from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Oklahoma’s big bet on commercial drones

Oklahoma is positioning itself as one of the future hubs of the budding U.S. commercial drone industry. The buzz around commercial drones grew after Amazon Chairman Jeff Bezos discussed the possibility of delivering Amazon packages by drone. A lot needs to happen before a viable, commercial drone business is established in America. The Federal Aviation Administration needs to create rules regulating drone flights and applications. That process is not slated to begin until September 2015. Meantime, the FAA is expected to name six test sites around the country for preliminary experiments on commercial drone applications. And Oklahoma is vying for one of those sites.

Read more from CNBC.

Federal budget deal easily clears House and heads to Senate

The House easily approved a bipartisan budget deal Thursday that would avert another government shutdown next month and beef up spending for the military and domestic programs that were slated for more cuts. The vote was 332-94, with a majority of both parties in support. Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore; James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City; and Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, voted for it. Reps. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, and Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, both freshmen, voted against it. The Senate is planning to vote on the deal next week, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

Read more from NewsOK.

Sen. Tom Coburn seeks to kill ethanol mandate

Sen. Tom Coburn, who fought to end the tax subsidy for ethanol production, is now pushing to kill the federal mandate that corn-based ethanol be blended into gasoline. Coburn, R-Muskogee, has teamed up with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., his ally in the fight against ethanol subsidies, on a bill to end the mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard for using corn ethanol in gasoline.

Read more from NewsOK.

Join us for the State Budget Summit

OK Policy is pleased to host our first State Budget Summit Thursday, January 16th at the Oklahoma History Center. You can click here to register for the event. With the theme of “Navigating the Perilous Fiscal Waters”, the summit will offer important perspectives on budget and tax issues shaping the fiscal future of the state and nation. The event will have three parts:

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

“The impact is expected to grow in the coming years as more companies claim exemption status and as our economy becomes more service- and technology-centered.”

-Trish Williams, Tulsa Public Schools chief financial officer, on the new tax exemption for intangible property created by SQ 766. The exemption is estimated to cost schools more than $40 million this year. (Source:

Number of the Day

29 percent

The percentage jump in the number of unemployed Oklahomans between 2006 and 2012

Source:  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Chiefs for Change confronts political, policy tests

A group of state schools chiefs that has cast itself as an anti-establishment force in education may be at a crossroads, as its policies become more widely adopted and, at the same time, subject to the challenges of implementation. The membership of Chiefs for Change has dropped from nine in early 2012, when the last chief joined, to six at the end of 2013. Its most prominent recent departure was Tony Bennett, who resigned as Florida education commissioner in August amid a controversy related to A-F school accountability—one of the group’s favored policies—during his previous job as Indiana’s state chief.

Read more from Education Week.

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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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