In The Know: Senate Finance chairman appeals for help to stop income tax cut

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

Senate Finance chairman appeals for help to stop income tax cut: Senate Finance Chairman Mike Mazzei asked the Tulsa Regional Chamber membership on Friday to help stop a 0.25 percent income tax rate cut that went into effect Jan. 1. The cut is expected to cost the state more than $140 million during the budget year that begins July 1, and is part of the reason the state is looking at a $1.3 billion general revenue shortfall [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s schools superintendent says it’s hard to imagine students won’t suffer from budget cuts: Oklahoma schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Wednesday that the state’s budget crisis may lead to fewer teachers, bigger classes and a reduction in advanced courses. Hofmeister, who was on Capitol Hill to testify about the new federal education law, said in a brief interview, “We are in free fall economically. And it’s hard to imagine a scenario where kids are not going to suffer because of the cuts to this current semester” [NewsOK].

Two ‘no-brainers’ for fixing Oklahoma’s budget crisis: The theme of the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s third annual State Budget Summit could have been the exhortation by the institute’s outreach and advocacy specialist, Kara Joy McKee, who urged the audience, “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” The institute pulled no punches in documenting Oklahoma’s “full-fledged budget emergency” [NonDoc].

How Governor Fallin wants to fill Oklahoma’s budget hole: Governor Fallin released her FY-17 budget proposal last Monday, and the numbers are revealing. The current year’s appropriated budget (after adjustment for the revenue failure) is $6,995,206,189. In December the State Equalization Board established that only $6,050,85,3353 will be available for appropriation for FY-17. This would require a cut in state budgets of $944,352,836, an average of 13.5% if applied to all agencies across the board. And with new estimates released last week, the budget hole has now grown to $1.3 billion. [OK Policy]

Budget cuts could deny kids mental health access: Imagine a 10-year-old kid who has been abused, has trust and abandonment issues, but has been seeing a counselor from a private practice and made some great strides. That child would now have to discontinue therapy with the counselor he or she has come to know and trust. The child would have to begin seeing a new counselor with an agency. In that scenario, of course, the kid is lucky enough to live close to an agency. If children live a couple hours away from one, it is likely their treatment will end altogether [NonDoc]. 

Health Department offers buyouts amid Oklahoma budget crisis: At least 100 employees of the Oklahoma State Department of Health are expected to take a buyout that includes a $5,000 lump-sum payment as the agency looks to avoid potential layoffs amid a budget crunch, agency officials confirmed on Friday. Already, 101 retirement-eligible workers have accepted the voluntary-buyout offer that was made to 317 of the agency’s 2,258 employees, said department spokesman Tony Sellars. Another 144 employees declined the offer, while the rest are undecided, Sellars said. Employees have until Feb. 29 to accept the offer [Associated Press].

Arkansas breaks ranks on ‘Obamacare’ with some surprising results: When it comes to health, Oklahomans could find a lot better role models than their cousins in Arkansas. On the other side of the border, more folks smoke, eat and drink too much, and a lot of them die earlier than they should. And on down the line: In air pollution, chlamydia, dentists per-capita, heart attacks, infant mortality, infectious disease, low birth-weight babies, strokes, teen births, and violent crime, both states are lousy, but but we’re a little less so. Until you get to health insurance coverage [Tulsa World].

Policy makers discuss criminal justice reform in Oklahoma: Oklahoma leaders involved in criminal justice reform came together Thursday night to discuss the impact state legislation is making on the state, offenders and Oklahoma communities. Former House Speaker Kris Steele Steele said he realized that from 2000 to 2012, every discussion or decision made involving criminal justice policy was made not only in the name of increasing public safety, but was also primarily based on emotion, fear and anecdotes [Norman Transcript]. The panel discussed the failure of imprisonment without rehabilitation, saying that Oklahoma is simply warehousing offenders [Red Dirt Report].

OK County sheriff’s request highlights need for justice reform: Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel last week asked District Judge Ray C. Elliott to allow him to charge offenders $48.05 per day for the time they spend in the jail before conviction. Presently, inmates are charged $44.51 per day. The increase, Whetsel says, is needed to help him cover his costs. Yet the request comes as concerns are mounting about how costly incarceration can be for those locked up at the jail — a population made up largely of people with limited means [NewsOK].

Oklahoma advocates for criminal justice reform meet with experts: Thursday night, advocates for criminal justice reform gathered to hear a panel of experts discussing public policy regarding Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis. “Criminal Justice: A Better Way for Oklahoma” was hosted by the Charles Koch Institute and the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs. With the budget shortfall now at $1.3 billion for the state, some said Oklahoma has no choice but to embrace proven criminal justice reform measures that save money and increase public safety [Red Dirt Report].

Oklahoma asset forfeiture reform faces stiff opposition: An Oklahoma legislator who wants to restrict when police can seize cash and other assets from people they suspect of drug-trade involvement — even without a conviction — fears his colleagues won’t have a chance to take up his idea this session. The bill by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Loveless says efforts to reach chairman Sen. Anthony Sykes have gone unanswered. He’s turned to his constituents to help plead his case, asking them to call the Senate leadership to request that his bill be heard [Associated Press].

Superintendent Hofmeister testifies before Congress on No Child Left Behind Act replacement: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister went to Washington on Wednesday to testify before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Last year President Obama signed a replacement for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which starts in the 2016/2017 school year. Lawmakers wanted to know what teachers and administrators need from the U.S. Department of Education as the law goes into effect, and Hofmeister said local control is key [KGOU].

Plenty of ideas but not much money for education in this year’s legislative session: The bill-tracking service e-Capitol lists almost 450 active education measures for the current session of the Oklahoma Legislature. Committee and floor deadlines will winnow that number considerably over the next few weeks, but it does nevertheless indicate just how much education is on the minds of state lawmakers [Tulsa World].

‘Yes All Daughters’ Pushing For Better Sex Education In Oklahoma: A grassroots victim’s advocacy organization is pushing for better sex education in Oklahoma. The group believes two newly introduced bills are the key to better education targeting not only students, but their parents as well. Yes All Daughters calls Oklahoma’s current sex education inadequate. They say too few students are informed and not enough parents are talking to their kids about their relationships [News9].

Guns in the wrong hands connected to half of domestic violence homicides in Oklahoma: For the past three years, Oklahoma has ranked in the top 10 among states with the highest number of women killed by men. A large portion of that figure comes from the number of fatal domestic violence cases in the state, according to the most recent report from the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. Of the 32 women killed by men in 2013, more than 50 percent were the suspect’s wife, ex-wife or dating partner. A firearm was the cause of death in about half of Oklahoma’s domestic violence homicide victims [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma rattled by state’s third-largest earthquake; 5.1 recorded near Fairview: The third-largest earthquake in recorded state history rocked parts of western Oklahoma on Saturday morning near the site of other large, recent temblors. The quake registered a magnitude of 5.1 and was recorded northwest of Fairview at 11:07 a.m., according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey. A 3.9 aftershock followed about 10 minutes after the earthquake, according to the USGS [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“My granddad says this: There’s no such thing as a spare Oklahoman. No such thing. He says that our communities are at their best and at their strongest when everyone’s able to contribute to the greater good.”

-Former House Speaker Kris Steele, calling for Oklahoma to take a smarter approach to criminal justice sentencing and rehabilitation that allows ex-inmates to participate in the workforce and rebuild their lives (Source)

Number of the Day


Average starting teacher salary in Oklahoma in 2012-2013, which was $4,535 below the national average.

Source: National Education Association

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Regulators Should Let Banks Get Back to Small-Dollar Loans: The payday loan market is past due for reform. Implemented correctly, new regulatory standards will help payday loan borrowers by making these loans safer and more affordable, as well as pave the way for better, lower-cost installment loans from banks. Consumers are eager for this change. Surveys show that most borrowers who have turned to payday lenders want reforms that will result in smaller payments and lower prices. They overwhelmingly favor stronger regulation of the market [Pew Charitable Trusts].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Senate Finance chairman appeals for help to stop income tax cut

  1. Speaker Steele has been a blessing for a state that has looked other directions, one of the few state leaders who have recognized that prison is to public safety what flamethrowers are to pest control. What the Speaker has failed to recognize is that he in good faith expects a system, participants, and thinking that caused to the problem to be able to solve the problem, something Einstein got quoted about that’s even more relevant than his “if you keep doing the same thing . . .” quote (which unfortunately also applies to OK’s prison policies). The reforms being proposed are not bad in themselves and made sense 20-30 years ago when first proposed. But they are now just band-aids on a hemorrhaging aorta in a body now also beset with cancers, viruses, and infections, as the billion-dollar deficit and its being addressed with the same “within the system” proposals indicate. The major change that is needed will have to come from outside a system whose actors and their power, perspectives, and professions will be badly damaged by anything significant. One possibility introduced for possible change within a few years in MD can be found here:

    Hopefully Speaker Steele will hear about it soon. He’s one of the few in OK who would understand it.

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