In The Know: In Search of a Grand Bargain: Ways to Bridge Budget Gap

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 the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

In Search of a Grand Bargain: Ways to Bridge Budget Gap: As Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session enters its fourth week, one thing is abundantly clear: Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Mary Fallin are nowhere close to a budget deal. The Legislature and governor’s office have until the end of May to sign off on a plan that closes an $878 million budget shortfall for the upcoming year. Their challenge is even more daunting given lawmakers’ goals to give teachers at least a $1,000 raise (costing an extra $52 million) and to shore up education, public safety and human services budgets for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30 (costing $48 million to $118 million) [Oklahoma Watch].

Time to Panic? Policymakers, Public Divided on ‘Dire’ Budget Warnings: Moments after explaining how another state revenue failure will require millions of dollars of mid-year budget cuts, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger issued a warning to lawmakers and top state officials. “I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now,” he said at last week’s Board of Equalization meeting, at which the group also certified revenue figures that show an $878 million shortfall for next year. “It’s not a game. We need new revenue.” [Oklahoma Watch]

Vote threshold creates high bar for Oklahoma tax increases: When Oklahoma voters approved a state question in 1992 that required all tax increase proposals receive a three-quarters approval of the Legislature, anti-tax advocates saw the measure as a return of power to the people after a series of tax-raising bills over the years. Today, as state lawmakers grapple with a budget hole and consider raising taxes and fees, the restriction approved by voters 25 years ago may actually be giving power to a minority of legislators opposed to any tax increase or Democrats seeking leverage [NewsOK].

Boost to Oklahoma tobacco tax worth supporting: State health commissioner Terry Cline said recently that it would be difficult to imagine the Legislature not approving House Bill 1841, given that it “could literally save thousands of lives, raise millions of dollars and costs nothing to implement.” Except that HB 1841 is a proposed $1.50-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax, and the Republicans who control the Legislature generally aren’t keen on tax increases of any kind. Witness the loud and swift objections to Gov. Mary Fallin’s call to extend the state sales tax to scores of currently untaxed services as a way to help fill an $878 million budget hole [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Legislative committees could vote on several proposed vaccinations bills this week: Legislative committees have until the end of the week to advance several bills targeting childhood vaccinations. The state’s top public health official warned that any reductions in the number of children receiving immunizations could be dire. “Most people of our generation don’t have any idea what those diseases were like,” said Terry Cline, commissioner of health and secretary of health and human services. “We are victims of our own success because people haven’t experienced it.” [Tulsa World]

Some anti-vaccination attacks beyond the pale: In politics, there are two basic ways to debate. One method involves marshaling facts and logic to convince others to agree with you. The other involves character assassination. It appears some people opposed to childhood vaccinations have opted for the latter, and the results aren’t pretty. Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, has filed legislation to restrict the exemptions granted for vaccination requirements. Basically, Yen argues that only true medical problems should be grounds for exemption. Otherwise, children shouldn’t be allowed to attend a public school [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Taxing services shouldn’t be all or nothing: A centerpiece of Gov. Mary Fallin’s FY 2018 Executive Budget is her proposal to expand the sales tax base on services. The Governor’s proposal, which is set out in detail in this spreadsheet, would expand the sales tax to all 164 services that are currently untaxed in Oklahoma. Based on current taxable sales, the sales tax expansion is projected to generate $940 million in new revenue in FY 2018, of which $840 million would be available for appropriation [OK Policy].

State Sen. David Holt announces run for Oklahoma City mayor: State Sen. David Holt, Mayor Mick Cornett’s former chief of staff and author of a book on the Oklahoma City renaissance and the successful effort to land an NBA franchise, said Sunday he would seek to succeed Cornett as mayor. Holt said he would build his campaign around a theme of “one OKC,” endeavoring to energize a diverse coalition of voters “not just to keep this renaissance going but to take it into the next chapter.” “I’m part of the generation that has chosen to build our lives here because of the visionary leadership of those who came before,” Holt said in a statement announcing his candidacy [NewsOK].

Six file for Oklahoma County sheriff vacancy: Four Republicans, a Democrat and an independent filed paperwork Monday to seek election as the next Oklahoma County sheriff. The three-day filing period ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The Republicans in the race are former state Rep. Mike Christian, Undersheriff P.D. Taylor, former sheriff’s supervisor Darrell Sorrels and Brett Macy, a former Oklahoma City police lieutenant and current member of the Pardon and Parole Board. The Democrat is Mike Hanson, an Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputy. The independent is Ed Grimes, a Canadian County sheriff’s deputy [NewsOK].

Bill proposes county-by-county vote on Sunday liquor store sales: A bill that would let counties vote on Sunday sales at liquor stores and another that would raise excise taxes on beer, wine and spirits are among the flurry of alcohol related measures under consideration at the Oklahoma Legislature this year. Senate Bill 211, authored by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, would allow counties to vote on whether liquor stores can open between noon and midnight on Sundays, beginning in 2018 [NewsOK].

Locals have positive outlook on medical marijuana: Though Oklahoma voters are still scheduled to vote on the issue in 2018, a Tulsa lawmaker has submitted a bill in the state House of Representatives to get medical marijuana legalized for specified ailments before the referendum. House Bill 1877 proposes the legalization of marijuana to treat HIV, cancer, severe arthritis, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder, hepatitis C, ulcerative colitis, Tourette’s syndrome, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, and has similarities to the medical marijuana ballot measure passed by Arkansas voters in 2016 [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Records indicate Scott Pruitt wrongly told Congress he never used private email for public matters: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he had always used a state email account for government business. A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“That threshold has put us in a position right now where we can’t do anything to raise revenue and fix the budget. Right now it’s so easy to cut taxes but so hard to raise revenue.”

-Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa), the author of House Joint Resolution 1003, which calls for a statewide vote on returning the threshold for tax increases to a simple majority, rather than the three quarters majority required under current law (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma K-12 students with unauthorized immigrant parent(s), 2014

Source: Pew Research Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Days May Be Numbered for the Consumer Complaint Database: A government complaint database that helps consumers resolve grievances with financial institutions is one of several services that could soon be eliminated, according to a memo by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex), which was leaked to the press yesterday. According to individuals familiar with its workings, the Consumer Complaint Database, sponsored by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), has provided useful information and assistance not only to consumers, but to businesses as well. The fate of the database was first mentioned yesterday when Bloomberg reported on a memo by Hensarling, an outspoken critic of the CFPB [Consumer Reports].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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