In The Know: State business tax breaks more than double in four years

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

State tax breaks given to businesses have more than doubled in the last four years, and now total over half a billion dollars per year, according to Oklahoma Watch.  Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said Thursday that a flat appropriated budget could be the “best case scenario” in the next fiscal year. Tulsa’s Community Intervention Center, which works with arrested juveniles, will likely close in March because the funds required to keep it open aren’t available. Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period begins Saturday and will last through mid-February.

A judge has ruled that the Board of Adjustment must approve a wind farm development in Osage County. Ten years after Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to negotiated with tribes to operate casinos, the state has collected $900 million from the venture – well above initial estimates. Pension systems managers told a state House panel that Oklahoma’s public retirement systems are stronger than they  have been. We’ve discussed why the pension crisis is over before. Writing in his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton discussed the conflict between conservative attachment to local control and their fondness for school consolidation.

State Sen. Randy Bass (D-Lawton) says he plans to introduce a bill that would allow Oklahomans to register to vote online. Bass hopes the measure will boost voter turnout. In a series of recent blog posts, we discussed Oklahoma’s broken democracy and why people don’t vote. Some Oklahoma families whose children suffer from seizure disorders have moved to Colorado in order to get medical marijuana. In a new post in our Neglected Oklahoma series, we shared the story of a local woman’s struggle to avoid homelessness. We’ve written before about why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions for homelessness.

A new group is urging bars in Oklahoma to voluntarily go smoke-free. An annual study ranking American colleges and universities by their sexual health suggests Oklahoma institutions have a long way to go. Gov. Fallin has announced a new initiative to reduce the number of people driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. StateImpact described what Oklahoma can learn from a recently-passed municipal ban on fracking in Denton, Texas. The Number of the Day is the number of seniors who received meals through statewide nutrition sites in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News’s consumer guide on health law enrollment provides information on signing up for health insurance..

In The News

State Business Tax Breaks More Than Double, to $760 Million

Key industry tax breaks in Oklahoma have more than doubled over the past four years and are now costing the state well over half a billion dollars a year, state records show. The two dozen business tax breaks combined grew from $356 million in 2010 to $760 million in 2014. The 2014 figure is equivalent to just over 10 percent of the state’s $7.2 billion budget, and more than the state spends every year on prisons and public safety.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Prediction: Next Year’s State Budget To Be Flat

Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger warned Thursday that next fiscal year’s state appropriated budget will be flat. Doerflinger’s comments came in his monthly General Revenue Fund report. The report showed General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections in October totaled $471.6 million.

Read more from KGOU.

Community Intervention Center can’t find money to stay open

Efforts by the Tulsa Area Community Intervention Center to raise the $112,000 it needs to stay open this fiscal year have so far fallen on deaf ears at the Mayor’s Office and the Oklahoma Department of Juvenile Affairs, the center’s director said Wednesday. “Everyone says we like it and it’s great but we’ve got no money,” Jim Walker said. Walker is executive director of Youth Services of Tulsa, which operates the intervention center.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Enrollment to begin Saturday for second year of Affordable Care Act

This has been a relatively healthy year for Don Marshall, with no significant medical expenses beyond a prescription for high cholesterol and what he describes as “a little scare” with kidney stones. “It gets pretty expensive when they do those tests,” Marshall said recently, “but it could’ve been worse.” Worse medically. And worse financially.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Judge orders Osage County to approve wind farm development

Six months after the Board of Adjustment refused to grant a permit for a second wind farm development across the rolling hills of Osage County, a district judge declared Wednesday that the giant turbines must be approved after all. The county board voted 3-0, with a fourth member abstaining, to deny a conditional use permit for Mustang Run, which wants to construct 68 turbines across 9,000 acres near the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

$900 Million Collected From Tribal Gaming Compact Over Ten Years Is Above Estimate

The Cherokee Nation is marking 10 years since Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to negotiated with Oklahoma tribes to operate Las Vegas-style gaming. The Tahlequah-based tribe is preparing to mark the passage of State Question 712 at a ceremony Monday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Read more from KGOU.

Health of Oklahoma’s public retirement systems improves

Oklahoma’s public retirement systems are financially stronger than they were just four years ago and their unfunded liability has declined by $6.5 billion, pension system managers told members of a state House panel Wednesday. The improvements reflect the impact of legislation approved by lawmakers in recent years designed to improve the financial health of the systems, including bills passed in 2011 that increased the retirement age of some state employees and required that any retiree cost-of-living raises be fully funded, said state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, author of many pension overhaul bills.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The pension crisis is over from the OK Policy Blog.

The elephant should watch its rump

In the state superintendent’s race, Republican TV ads relentlessly assailed Democratic nominee John Cox for his $141,678 salary as chief executive of a small, rural school district. The strategy was twofold. Undermine Cox’s candidacy by depicting him as a greed head filling his own bank account with tax dollars while skimping on the salaries of his district’s teachers.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Senate Rules Committee Discusses Online Voter Registration

The Democratic leader in the Oklahoma Senate plans to introduce a bill to help increase voter participation in Oklahoma by allowing citizens to register to vote online. State Sen. Randy Bass of Lawton held an interim study on the issue Thursday before the Senate Rules Committee and said afterward he planned to sponsor a bill in the upcoming session.

Read more from KGOU.

See also: OK Policy’s work on elections in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Families Move To Colorado To Get Medical Marijuana For Their Children

In a surprise move earlier this year, Gov. Mary Fallin advocated the study of legalizing a certain type of medical marijuana, concentrated oil used to help children with seizures. It is exactly what some Oklahoma families have been fighting to get for their children, and some have even moved to Colorado to get it.

Read more from News9.

Homeless in a heartbeat

Melinda Rogers is excited about her upcoming graduation from Oklahoma City Community College. She’s jumped a lot of hurdles to get there. Melinda and her sisters spent most of their childhood in foster care. “One of the hardest things about being in foster care is that when you turn 18, you really don’t have anybody. I’m on my own.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Homelessness in the Long Run: Why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions from the OK Policy Blog.

Smoke-free bars in Oklahoma? This group hopes to make it so

Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that has no regulation on a state, county or city level, regarding smoking in bars. Public health officials say this is largely because of a state law that does not allow cities to pass stricter smoking laws than the state’s law. But a recent effort started in Oklahoma hopes to change that by encouraging bars and clubs in Oklahoma to go smokefree — voluntarily.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma universities don’t perform well in sexual health, according to Trojan

Oregon State University – that other OSU – takes the top position when it comes to sexual health, according to a study sponsored by Trojan brand condoms and conducted by BestPlaces. College students have sex. No need for a big research project there. The ninth year for the Sexual Health Report Card ranks campuses based on 11 indicators such as student health center accessibility, availability and cost of contraception, HIV testing, sexual assault programs and quality of sexual health information.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Governor Announces Plan To End Impaired Driving

Gov. Mary Fallin is helping launch an initiative to reduce the number of people who drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs in Oklahoma. Dozens of law enforcement officers packed into the state Capitol Blue Room Thursday for a ceremony to announce the plan to end impaired driving in the state.

Read more from KGOU.

What Oklahoma Can Learn From a Municipal Ban on Fracking in Texas

Driven by water worries, safety questions and quality of life concerns, residents in Oklahoma and states other the country have pushed for citywide bans on hydraulic fracturing. Many of those efforts have proved successful, but, in the end, fracking bans might be more about lawyers than voters. Using local referendums, residents in states like California, Colorado, New York and Ohio have successfully banned fracking.

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“You can’t put a value on the peace of mind that I’ve had all year, knowing that I would be covered if something serious happened, which at my age is always a possibility.”

– Don Marshall, an Oklahoma man who purchased health insurance on last year. Open enrollment begins on Saturday.  (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of seniors who received meals through statewide nutrition sites in 2013

Source: OKDHS State of Change 2013.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Consumer Guide On Health Law Enrollment: Is The Second Time The Charm?

Haven’t thought about the health care law for a while? Now’s the time. Passed in 2010, the law requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. While many Americans get health coverage through their employers, starting Nov. 15 consumers who currently have insurance through the federal or state online marketplaces, or exchanges, set up by the law can reenroll. In addition, people who still need health insurance can sign up. Subsidies are available to help many people afford coverage, and some states have expanded their Medicaid programs as part of the law.

Read more from 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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