In The Know: S&P lowers Oklahoma’s bond rating amid revenue failure

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

S&P lowers Oklahoma’s bond rating amid revenue failure: Two years of revenue failures, budget shortfalls and the use of one-time funds to close budget gaps led one of the nation’s major ratings agencies on Wednesday to downgrade the Oklahoma’s bond and appropriation debt rating. S&P Global Ratings issued a report that lowered the state’s general obligation bond debt rating from AA+ to AA. The agency also lowered its rating on the state’s appropriation debt from AA to AA- [Associated Press].

School Vouchers Effort Appears Dead This Legislative Session: A divisive school-choice proposal that would create state-funded education savings accounts allowing students to attend private schools is off the legislative agenda, at least for now. Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, pulled Senate Bill 560 from consideration on Wednesday, which appears to eliminate the possibility of school vouchers becoming law this session. The move was a bit of a surprise [Oklahoma Watch].

With reduced funding, DHS reviewing possible service cuts: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is maintaining a high level of child abuse investigations even against a bad economy and reduced state budget, department spokeswoman Sheree Powell said. That’s a silver lining due, in part, to a court settlement. A dark cloud hangs over DHS’ other services [Journal Record].

House committees plow through legislation ahead of Thursday deadline: House committees churned through stacks of legislation Wednesday, trying to beat a Thursday deadline that will leave a major share of this session’s bills and joint resolutions on the cutting room floor. Measures without committee approval by the close of business Thursday go by the wayside; those that do got approval begin jockeying for position on the floor calendar in the coming weeks [Tulsa World].

Teacher raises a top priority, business leader tells Oklahoma City Council: Winning teacher pay raises is this year’s leading legislative priority for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the city’s leading business organization, the group’s chief executive officer told the city council on Tuesday. Roy Williams, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said business leaders realize raising teacher pay “isn’t going to be an easy process in the current budget environment.” [NewsOK]

Where teacher raises are needed most: If there’s one thing Oklahoma citizens and political leaders of both major parties agree on, it’s that our state’s teachers need a raise. Republican leaders in the House and the Senate both say a teacher raise is at the top of their priorities in the coming session, and Democrats in both chambers have filed bills to increase teacher salaries as well. Even the most vocal opponents of the SQ 779 teacher raise plan insisted that they believe teachers need a raise but disagreed with how SQ 779 would pay for it [OK Policy].

On visit to Oklahoma, economist touts benefits of raising cigarette tax: Oklahoma would raise millions in new tax revenue and save thousands of lives by raising the cigarette tax to $1.50 per pack, a tobacco taxation expert said Tuesday. Frank J. Chaloupka, an economist who has extensively researched tobacco taxation, said during a presentation at the Stephenson Cancer Center that, if the state raised its cigarette tax, Oklahoma could raise $184 million in new tax revenue, stop 28,200 children from taking up smoking and encourage 30,400 adult smokers to quit [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House votes to expand nurses’ ability to practice alone: The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday that lets nurse practitioners cut ties with doctors and practice alone. House Bill 1013 would eliminate the need for advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners to contract with a physician. The agreements are designed to give the doctor the ability to supervise the nurse’s prescribing authority [NewsOK].

Moms push back against gun bills in Oklahoma Legislature: A group of individuals promoting responsible guns laws met with lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss a host of bills they say will jeopardize public safety. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America pushed back against measures that would allow guns on college campuses and the carrying of guns without a permit [Tulsa World].

Tahlequah 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 Ada News].

Oklahoma Supreme Court to decide eligibility of new justice: An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday attacked the residency of Oklahoma’s newest Supreme Court justice, arguing before a referee for the court that Justice Patrick Wyrick does not live in the southeastern Oklahoma district where he claims to reside. “There is a wrong here. There is a public interest wrong,” Brady Henderson, the ACLU’s legal director, said while outlining the basis for a lawsuit filed by two southeastern Oklahoma residents who have challenged Wyrick’s appointment last month by Gov. Mary Fallin [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Who are we? Who are we as a nation? That’s the question many Americans are asking these days as the new Trump administration introduces a raft of policies that challenge long-standing practices and principles. One example is the release last week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly of two memoranda addressing border security and immigration [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Legacy of a lawsuit: 30 years after Cabazon decision, state tribes harvesting economic benefits: Lindsay Robertson started his law career working on business development. He was familiar with laws regarding tribal sovereignty, but he was asked to combine the two areas starting in 1987. On Feb. 25, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in its lawsuit with the state of California. The decision ultimately allowed tribes to have gaming operations, even where states were given criminal jurisdiction over Indian tribes [Journal Record].

Release of further Oklahoma AG records blocked: The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s chief justice agreed Tuesday that the new attorney general does not have to release any further records to a left-leaning watchdog group for the time being. Chief Justice Douglas Combs issued — without explanation — an emergency stay of an Oklahoma County judge’s order about the records [NewsOK].

Republicans’ alarming proposal would end Medicaid as we know it: Congressional Republicans and President Trump want desperately to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that would take health insurance away from as many as 32 million Americans over the first decade if there is no replacement plan. These efforts have garnered national attention, with crowds of outraged constituents dominating town hall meetings. But what Trump and the GOP are trying to do below the radar might even be more alarming — ending Medicaid as we know it by imposing a “per-capita” cap or block grant [Henry Waxman / Washington Post].

Restroom access not a problem at Oklahoma’s state universities, officials say: The Trump administration’s action to rescind an initiative letting transgender students use the restrooms of their choice won’t have much impact on Oklahoma universities, officials said. “I do not see any changes in our policies,” said David Macey, who works in academic affairs at the University of Central Oklahoma [NewsOK].

USGS: Oklahoma, Kansas Have Significant Potential For Damaging Earthquakes In 2017: New United State Geological Survey maps have identified potential ground-shaking hazards in 2017 from both human-induced and natural earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., known as the CEUS. This is the second consecutive year both types of hazards are forecasted, as previous USGS maps only identified hazards from natural earthquakes [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“A recent cut to the state’s personal income tax rate and tax breaks for the oil industry during periods of price declines have compounded the state’s revenue shortfall.”

– S&P Global Ratings, in a report lowering Oklahoma’s bond rating on Wednesday. The agency also lowered its rating Oklahoma’s appropriation debt (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of confirmed cases of child abuse and/or neglect in Oklahoma in 2016

Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

HSAs: ‘Tax-Break Trifecta’ Or Insurance Gimmick Benefiting The Wealthy? They are just three little words — “health savings accounts” — but they are generating a lot of buzz as Republicans contemplate plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Expanding the use of such accounts, based on a long-held conservative view that consumers should be more responsible for their health care spending, is part of almost every GOP replacement plan under consideration on Capitol Hill. Here’s the theory behind HSAs: Making consumers bear a bigger up-front share of medical care — while making it easier to save money tax-free for those costs — will result in more judicious use of the health system that could ultimately slow rising costs [Kaiser Health News].

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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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