In The Know: State budget could be smaller than 10 years ago

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

Decade drop: State budget could be smaller than 10 years ago: State budget writers might have less cash to spend than they did a decade ago, the Senate’s top lawmaker said Wednesday. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman told a Greater Oklahoma City Chamber legislative breakfast that dismal sales tax revenues in December and the falling price of oil are a hint that the Legislature could end up working with just $5.8 billion in spending authority. When lawmakers convene for the 2016 session in February, the governor’s office will present a budget based on a $6.06 billion estimate certified last month [Journal Record]. The state faces a mid-year revenue failure, and tax cuts now reduce revenues by over $1 billion each year.

The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma: Our northern neighbor’s economic and budget problems have been well publicized by national media. Governor Brownback’s high-flying claims followed by an equally dramatic crash no doubt helped to attract attention to his state. Oklahoma’s budget problems have not received as much attention nationally, but over the past decade, we’ve conducted an experiment in tax cuts and budget shortfalls that goes even deeper than Kansas [OK Policy].

‘Epidemic Ignored’: Oklahoma treats its mental health system without care: In present-day Oklahoma, a fractured, arguably underfunded mental health system is suffocating. But in a state that hasn’t made a sustained, significant investment in its mental health system, the majority of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders who need help do not get it [NewsOK].

Hundreds protest Dept. of Mental Health child counseling cuts: Hundreds of people packed into a conference room at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. A committee met there on Thursday to learn about proposed budget cuts. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has to cut $9.8 million because of the state budget crisis. The proposal before the committee was taking private provider counselors off the SoonerCare program [Fox 25].

Oklahoma nursing homes, rural hospitals have plan to inject federal funds: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is making plans to participate in a federal program that could provide millions of dollars in increased funding for Medicaid patients. Participation in the Upper Payment Limit program could generate up to $275 million in annual federal revenue for Oklahoma health care at no cost to the state, according to the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers [Tulsa World].

Nonprofit that backed T.W. Shannon admits breaking IRS rules: A non-partisan campaign finance watchdog, Opensecrets, said last week that the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Oklahomans for a Conservative Future has told the IRS it spent most of its money on politics, not social welfare programs as required by law [Tulsa World]. Oklahomans for a Conservative Future stands apart from other dark money groups in its dedication to backing just one candidate, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, a Republican who made an ultimately failed 2014 bid for a U.S. Senate seat [Open Secrets].

Teacher pay is front and center at Oklahoma Capitol: The top item on state Health Commissioner Terry Cline’s legislative agenda for 2016 is to increase Oklahoma’s excise tax on tobacco by $1.50 per pack. This increase would generate an estimated $182 million per year, with $120 million of that going to … teacher pay raises. To be sure, the issue of teacher pay is far outstripping all others as the session gets ready to begin next week [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

When we do not make public education a priority we sin against our children: Since arriving in Tulsa nearly three years ago, we have appreciated the level of interest and respect many people have for the Jewish community. Much of it stems from the deep Christian faith that many Tulsans espouse, and the desire to understand the Jewish foundation out of which Christianity grew. To understand Judaism truly, one must have an appreciation for education [Rabbi Micah and Rabbi Karen Citrin/Tulsa World].

A Plan to Plan to Plan: This week, State Senator David Holt announced that teachers in Oklahoma deserve a $10,000 raise. I don’t want to sound unappreciative. Of course teachers in Oklahoma deserve at least that much. It’s been a long time coming. The problem is, of course, that raises take money. And that money has to come from somewhere. … Not to sound like a downer here, but it’s hard to raise teacher salaries while cutting state revenue [okeducationtruths].

Review panel on Oklahoma tax incentives fails to meet: A panel established to review tax incentives provided by Oklahoma’s state government missed a Jan. 1 deadline to list the programs it intends to review. Lawmakers created the eight-member Incentive Evaluation Commission last year as the state worked around a $611 million budget shortfall. Oklahoma now faces a shortfall of around $900 million, and appointments are still pending from the governor and Senate president, the Journal Record reported Monday [Associated Press]. Periodic reviews generate critical knowledge of the effects of tax incentives, but further reforms are needed to ensure that tax credits are held accountable for their results [OK Policy].

State education department omits new testing administrator’s history with fired testing contractors: The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s announcement of a new deputy superintendent of assessment and accountability left out any mention of her recent work history with two testing vendors fired by the state since 2011. Kathryn “Katie” Dunlap was named to the top-ranking administrative post in a news release sent out Sunday morning [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Voters Say Economy Is Biggest Problem: An exclusive News 9/News On 6 poll shows most Oklahomans believe the state’s economy is the biggest problem facing the state today. We asked more than 1,000 likely voters to tell us what is the most pressing problem facing the state. Thirty-two percent said the economy or employment is it. Another 17 percent listed education funding as the biggest problem [News9].

AG Pruitt says his office doesn’t need appropriations for operations: Attorney General Scott Pruitt told lawmakers and the governor on Monday that he doesn’t need state appropriations to run his agency next year. In a letter, Pruitt wrote that the statewide revenue failure and budget shortfalls led him to find ways to reduce expenses [Journal Record].

2 more death row inmates await execution dates amid probe:  The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Monday to wait to set execution dates for two more death row inmates until a grand jury finishes its closed-door investigation into drug mix-ups during the state’s last two lethal injections. The court granted the stays for two convicted killers – Richard Stephen Fairchild and Jeremy Alan Williams – who have already exhausted all state and federal appeals of their convictions and death sentences [KOCO].

Acting sheriff says Tulsa Jail’s financial position improving: The Tulsa Jail’s financial situation is improving but still far from meeting its obligations for the current budget year, acting Sheriff Michelle Robinette said Monday. “We’re better off than we’ve been in quite a while,” Robinette told the citizens committee that oversees the 0.25 percent county sales tax for jail operations [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Whatever the future may bring, Oklahoma cannot look on itself with pride until provision is made for adequate care of its mentally helpless citizens.”
– National Mental Hospital Survey Committee, in a report that noted that Oklahoma would save money if it invested in its mental health system, in 1937 (Source).

Number of the Day


Annual salary before taxes needed as a living wage for a single parent household in Oklahoma.

Source: MIT.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

5 takeaways about the American middle class: Americans in middle-income households have lost significant ground since 1970, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The middle class has long been the country’s economic majority, but our new analysis finds that’s no longer true. Meanwhile, the middle class has fallen further behind upper-income households financially, which now hold a larger share of aggregate household income than ever before in the 44-year period examined [Pew Research Center].

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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: State budget could be smaller than 10 years ago

  1. Wake-up Oklahoma and exercise your option to vote. Also, call your state legislative representative. Not only should they be held accountable; some state agency leadership should be held accountable. A lot of waste, abuse and poor planning occurs within some state agencies. You can’t impact social service issues by back loading it with resources; and ignoring the early warning signs of issues.

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