In The Know: SQ 779 impacted higher education’s historic budget 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

SQ 779 impacted higher education’s historic budget: State Question 779 — the failed penny sales tax for education — contributed to the historic cut in state funding higher education suffered this fiscal year, lawmakers said Tuesday. The state appropriation to higher education was cut nearly 16 percent, or $153 million, from the previous year. State Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, said the “disproportionately unfair cut” was the result of two things — the $1.3 billion budget shortfall and the state question to fund education [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

State’s October general revenue 10.8 percent below estimate: State general revenue receipts continued their downward spiral in October, missing projections by 10.8 percent and coming in 5.8 percent below the same month a year ago. Receipts to the general revenue fund — the state’s primary operating fund — have been declining unabated for nearly two years. State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said he was slightly encouraged that general revenue for the first four months of the fiscal year is only 1.8 percent below projections, which is within the 5 percent cushion built into state budgets [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House of Representatives chooses leadership: The Oklahoma House of Representatives has selected its leadership for the 56th Legislature. The house affirmed Tuesday that Rep. Charles McCall was their choice for House Speaker-elect. McCall was elected by the caucus in May as the House Speaker-designate. The caucus also selected Rep. Harold Wright as Speaker Pro Tempore-elect. Rep. David Brumbaugh will serve as Caucus Chairman for a second term. Rep. Elise Hall will serve as Vice Caucus Chairwoman and Rep. Katie Henke will serve as Caucus Secretary [Fox 25].

New and re-elected lawmakers take oath of office Wednesday: New and recently re-elected lawmakers will take the oath of office on Wednesday. House members will be sworn in at 11 a.m., followed by senators at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol. “It will be quite the honor and privilege,” said Carol Bush, a Tulsa Republican who was elected to represent House District 70. “It is a little surreal at this point, but an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity. I am looking forward to it.” [Tulsa World]

Election sets course for Oklahoma schools: Last Tuesday’s election set a course for public schools in Oklahoma through the defeat of a teacher pay raise package, the election of candidates that strengthen the Legislature’s openness to school choice policies, and a president-elect who could radically change the federal government’s relationship with state education agencies. The defeat of State Question 779 was Election Day’s biggest education-related headline as an effort to increase the state sales tax for teacher pay raises was rejected by nearly 60 percent of voters [NewsOK].

GOP leaders speak out for public schools: The other day, Gov. Mary Fallin said having students attend public schools only four days a week is “unacceptable.” We agree. Then we heard Rep. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, say that Oklahoma teachers deserve a $10,000-a-year raise. That’s a very big number, but there’s no doubt teachers deserve a lot more than they’re getting [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Hofmeister Seeks Community Input In Oklahoma’s Strategic Education Plan: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is asking Oklahomans for input as she creates a strategic education plan for Oklahoma schools. The new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, ultimately rolls back the federal government’s footprint in state education policy. However, the law requires each state to submit a plan for academic goals and school accountability in order to receive federal funding [KGOU].

Insure Oklahoma renewal deadline looms: The federal government has six weeks to decide whether Oklahoma can keep the Insure Oklahoma subsidy program. The public comment period ended Saturday. Insure Oklahoma’s waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is good through Dec. 31. The program has been pitched as an alternative to Medicaid expansion, as Oklahoma’s plan to make sure people have health coverage. Insure Oklahoma is predominately used as a small business, employer-based health insurance, but individuals who meet income restrictions can apply for the subsidy [Journal Record].

Adding it up: Steele’s $30 million solution: David Swope said he expects to treat more patients in the near future, as a result of new criminal justice reform. Like other mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, the Sunbeam Family Services clinical director said he’s still unsure of where and how much money will be available for patients. The agency charged with estimating savings from criminal justice reform doesn’t yet have the pieces in place for the funding formula [Journal Record].  See our fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here.

State Treasurer talks jobs, Trump and funding government services: Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller spoke Wednesday to the League of Women Voters, outlining the reasons why Oklahoma is in a recession but saying he’s still bullish on the state in the long term. After the speech, Miller talked with the World about the state’s economy, its future, the role of government in the economy and what the Trump administration will mean for Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

Appeals court rules Lockett execution was not cruel and inhumane: An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the controversial 2014 execution of an Oklahoma man, which lasted 43 minutes, was not cruel and inhumane. “Everyone acknowledges that (Clayton) Lockett suffered during his execution,” the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver stated in a 32-page ruling. However, what Lockett’s estate alleged occurred was “the sort of ‘innocent misadventure’ or ‘isolated mishap’” that the U.S. Supreme Court has excused from the definition of cruel and unusual punishment, the appeals court said [Tulsa World].

OU student ‘no longer enrolled’ after alleged involvement in online racist incident: A University of Oklahoma student under investigation for his alleged involvement in an online racist group chat sent to black University of Pennsylvania students no longer attends the college. OU President David Boren released a statement Tuesday announcing that the student, whose name was not released, “is no longer enrolled at the University of Oklahoma.” [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I do think that legislative bodies are reactionary and usually get it right once they don’t have any other choice. And so we’ve seen what happened with the state question with the teacher pay raise. It’s going to bounce back to the Legislature to do something about it.”

-Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller (Source)

Number of the Day

$154.3 million

How much Oklahoma’s general revenue in the first four months of FY 2017 is below this same time last fiscal year.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rental Assistance to Families with Children at Lowest Point in Decade: The number of families with children receiving federal rent subsidies has fallen by over 250,000 (13 percent) since 2004 and is at its lowest point in more than a decade, despite rising need. To enable low-income children to have a better chance to thrive, policymakers should substantially expand the availability of rental assistance. Demand for rental housing has risen sharply in the last decade due to economic and demographic factors, and many families with children are being squeezed financially as rents rise faster than incomes. The number of families that paid more than half their income for rent or lived in severely substandard housing rose by 53 percent between 2003 and 2013, to nearly 3 million [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: SQ 779 impacted higher education’s historic budget cut

  1. was thinking the state treasurer meant “legislative bodies are REACTIVE” rather than what he said, but on second thought, considering OK legislators, what he said is actually more accurate.

    regarding the “$30 million” needed for the recent criminal justice reforms, perhaps this cartoon should have been emphasized before the vote was taken:

    but then it rarely is until it’s too late.

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