In The Know: Senate leader confident budget will be resolved, avoiding special session

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 Advocacy Alerts, texted Action Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide

Today In The News

Senate leader confident budget will be resolved, avoiding special session: The leader of the Oklahoma State Senate said Thursday he is confident lawmakers will pass a budget by deadline. “We will get our work done,” said Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus. “We will get a budget passed. We will get it on the governor’s desk, and it will go into effect.” His comments came a day after Gov. Mary Fallin criticized lawmakers for not sending her revenue-raising bills to fill an $878 million budget hole while the clock ticks toward adjournment [Tulsa World].

We support Gov. Mary Fallin’s ultimatum to the Legislature: The good news for Oklahoma is that at least one of the principals in state budget negotiations gets it. Gov. Mary Fallin warned state lawmakers Wednesday that she will veto any budget that contains deep cuts to state agencies. That would shut down the legislative progress toward adjournment and shift the Capitol into crisis mode with the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year just over the horizon. Good for her [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Legislature 0.8 Percent of the Way to Closing Budget Gap After Senate Passes Four Revenue Bills: A day after Gov. Mary Fallin chastised lawmakers for a lack of progress in closing Oklahoma’s $878 million budget gap, the Senate sent her four bills worth a total estimated $7.4 million in new revenue next year. One of those bills given final passage by the Senate, however, won’t have an impact until 2023. House Bill 2358 ends a fuel tax discount on July 1, 2022. Senator Roger Thompson said the discount was instituted to benefit retailers doing all the administrative work [KWGS]. How would you fix the budget? With Together Oklahoma, we’ve created an online budget simulator, where you can put yourself in lawmakers’ shoes and choose how to fix the state budget [OK Policy].

Senate passes bill to add fees to professional sporting tickets: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would add fees to tickets for professional sporting events, such as Oklahoma City Thunder basketball games. House Bill 2361, by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, and Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, heads to Gov. Mary Fallin after securing approval in the Senate by a vote of 26-18. The measure would add a $1 fee to tickets under $50. It would add a $2 fee to tickets $50 and higher [Tulsa World].

Governor, DOC director troll Legislature after early-Thursday weekend adjournment: Early Thursday adjournments are not unusual for the Oklahoma Legislature, but from a public relations standpoint, this Thursday was probably not a good time to pack it in before noon. The House of Representatives let out for the week around 11 a.m. on Thursday, with the Senate doing the same an hour later. This prompted a stern, disapproving message on Gov. Mary Fallin’s Twitter account, and an all-caps reply tweet from Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Bill to study ways to make school districts more efficient headed to Oklahoma governor: A bill calling for the creation of a task force to study ways to reduce school districts’ administrative costs and make them more efficient was approved Wednesday by the state Senate. Senate Bill 514 is now headed to the governor for her consideration. The bill doesn’t use the word “consolidation” — which has been known to spark bitter debate at the Capitol — but it does ask the task force to examine several items that districts normally look at when considering consolidation [Tulsa World]. Would school consolidation boost Oklahoma teacher salaries? [OK Policy]

Tulsa Public Schools board urges Legislature to increase gross production tax: The Tulsa school board is leading an effort to urge Oklahoma state legislators to increase a tax on oil and gas production to raise more revenue for education funding. At a regular meeting Monday, the school board approved a resolution calling on state legislators to immediately pass legislation to return the gross production tax to 7 percent for all wells [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017. These continue to be the deepest cuts in the nation, and Oklahoma’s lead is growing [OK Policy]. 

Gross production tax: Lies, damn lies and estimates: As the state wrestles with one of the worst budget shortfalls in our state’s history, many in the oil and gas industry, including the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, have responded to calls to increase the gross production tax rate. In response, industry proponents claim they currently pay more than their “fair share” of taxes relative to the industry’s size and compared to what other types of businesses pay [NonDoc]. To prevent catastrophic cuts and put our finances back on a sustainable course, lawmakers must raise new recurring revenues. Part of the solution needs to include ending tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and restoring the gross production tax to its historical level of 7 percent [OK Policy].

Oil companies promote Oklahoma oil fields: Oil and natural gas companies doing business in Oklahoma continued to praise the state’s premier fields this week, announcing stronger-than-expected well results and plans for more drilling over the next year. The announcements were made while oil prices slipped this week, partially because of renewed concerns about rising production. Despite stalling prices, local executives detailed their increased drilling plans while also describing protections in case prices slump [NewsOK].

Study Links Pulse of Oil-field Wastewater to Oklahoma’s Strongest Earthquake: The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma may have been triggered by oil and gas activity that started and stopped years before the shaking, newly published research suggests. The new findings, published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, on the 5.8-magnitude September 2016 earthquake add to a growing body of research linking the energy industry’s practice of pumping toxic wastewater from oil and gas production into underground disposal wells to an unusual rash of earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Misguided budget concerns are endangering criminal justice reform: This year’s legislative session started with high hopes for the strong reform proposals that came out of the Governor’s Justice Reform Task Force (JRTF). While most of the bills sailed through their first tests of support, many have been severely weakened in recent weeks as legislators grow concerned with their budget implications. But lawmakers should be more concerned about the looming costs of inaction and resist dubious claims that court debt reforms will endanger critical services [OK Policy].

Point of View: It’s time to fix a 25-year-old mistake in Oklahoma: It has been 25 years since Oklahoma voters approved State Question 640 to amend the state constitution to require either a majority vote of the people in a general election or a three-fourths vote of both legislative chambers to approve any tax increase. Because it’s nearly impossible to get three-fourths of the Legislature to agree on anything controversial, it is time to repeal SQ 640 to give our duly elected government the necessary flexibility to help solve our state’s long-term revenue problems [Jeff Berrong / NewsOK].

Oklahoma governor, Congressmen speak about healthcare bill: In a major victory for President Donald Trump, the House has voted to dismantle the pillars of the Affordable Care Act and make sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system. The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces daunting challenges because of the same ideological splits between conservative and moderate Republicans that nearly killed it in the House [KFOR]. If enacted, the House Republican health care plan would decimate historic health coverage gains in Oklahoma, leave the state on the hook for millions in Medicaid funding, and effectively double the uninsured rate by 2026 [OK Policy].

$75,500 donated to Hofmeister defense fund: The special committee created to help Joy Hofmeister pay her legal bills in a criminal case has raised $75,500, its first report shows. …The state schools superintendent was charged in November with four felony counts involving her 2014 campaign. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August in Oklahoma County District Court to determine if prosecutors have enough evidence for a trial [NewsOK].

Students Sometimes Face ‘Lunch Shaming’ When They Can’t Pay: In schools across the nation, including in Oklahoma, children whose school meal accounts aren’t paid in full sometimes face embarrassment in the cafeteria line. Some schools take away their trays and give them an alternative meal, like a cold sandwich. Others put a stamp on their hand that reads “lunch money” as an alert to parents but also visible to peers. Practices such as these, called “lunch shaming,” have triggered parent backlash in some districts, including at least two in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch]. Hunger in Oklahoma was the focus of an “Oklahoma Watch-Out” public forum [Oklahoma Watch].

‘Wellness Score’ in OKC reflects positive trend: A comprehensive, communitywide effort to improve health in Oklahoma City is showing positive results, public health officials said Thursday. The Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s 2017 “Wellness Score,” a measure of mortality rates, showed a 4.1 percent overall improvement since 2014. “These results are very encouraging,” said Gary Raskob, chairman of the Board of Health [NewsOK].

Tulsa’s finances: How one American city is coping with a broken state budget: Dan Zielinski, director of the planetarium at Jenks High School in Oklahoma, whizzes through his greatest hits. First he projects onto its dome a 3D image of a human heart; next comes the Sistine Chapel, then the solar system. The planetarium is an impressive asset for a high school, as is its aquatic centre, with an Olympic-size pool and grandstand seating. But there is a hitch, says Bonnie Rogers of Jenks Public Schools: filling the new buildings with teachers is much harder than erecting them [The Economist].

Quote of the Day

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that we, the members of the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education, joining with voices from all sectors and throughout the state, hereby do call on members of the legislature of the State of Oklahoma to immediately pass legislation to return the Gross Production Tax to the historic rate of 7% to be effective for all wells on July 1, 2017 and thereby put us on the path for an adequately funded public education system with the resources to pay our teachers an honorable wage and support the most important of our work as a State: preparing every student for the greatest success in college, careers and life.” 

– Concluding paragraph of a resolution urging the legislature to raise the gross production tax passed by Tulsa Public Schools on May 1, 2017 (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of victim protective orders filed in Oklahoma district courts in FY 2016

Source: Oklahoma Supreme Court

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Child Care Enriches Mothers, and Especially the Sons They Raise: As many American parents know, hiring care for younger children during the workday is punishingly expensive, costing the typical family about a third of its income. Helping parents pay for that care is expensive for society, too. Yet recent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children –  and even their grandchildren. It has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay. It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults [The Upshot / The New York Times].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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