In The Know: State may face another tax cut trigger

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

State may face another tax cut trigger: Oklahoma’s income tax rate appears poised to decline again, further reducing state revenue at a time when lawmakers are finding it hard to fund core state services. A bill that would have delayed the next incremental drop in the income tax rate didn’t advance in the recently concluded legislative session. Sufficient state revenue growth would trigger a rate decrease from 5 percent to 4.85 percent as soon as Jan. 1, 2018 [NewsOK]. The cost of state income tax cuts since the mid-2000s has grown to over $1 billion annually [OK Policy].

With Exams Gone, Uncertainty over School Report Cards Grows: The elimination of end-of-course tests that Oklahoma public school students take each year will throw more uncertainty into the state’s efforts to develop a new system of measuring school performance. The state’s much-criticized A through F report card system relies on students’ scores from standardized end-of-instruction exams, which were eliminated when the governor signed into law House Bill 3218 on Monday. The law is intended to preserve time in the classroom for learning, reduce what many educators say is a culture of over-testing and potentially save the state millions of dollars [Oklahoma Watch].

State Board of Education to tackle $38.2 million in school funding reductions in special meeting Friday: The Oklahoma State Board of Education is set to meet in a special session Friday to slash $38.2 million from a catch-all budget that funds everything from alternative education and remedial student services statewide to the Teachers Retirement System and Ag in the Classroom. Appropriations for the support of public school activities totaled $130.2 million at the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, but the state board has to reduce that total to just under $92 million for 2016-17. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the task is a particularly unpleasant and daunting one [Tulsa World].

State superintendent, legislators disagree on textbook funding: Students across Oklahoma likely will use old textbooks in the upcoming academic year, thanks to a lack of money in the new fiscal year. Although $33 million was appropriated for textbooks in fiscal year 2016, legislators eliminated that line item for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to a press release fromOklahoma State Department of Education, which has recommended districts delay textbook selection for a year [Enid News].

OU’s David Boren calls state education solution ‘short sighted’: State representatives who voted to cut higher education funding because they assume a penny sales tax will be passed by voters “don’t know the history of Oklahoma politics,” University of Oklahoma President David Boren said. Boren responded to suggestions that a $153 million cut to higher education was in direct response to his penny sales tax plan that aims to raise $615 million for teacher raises and state education funding [Norman Transcript].

Oklahoma Budget Cuts To Cause Small College Tuition Hikes: Smaller Oklahoma colleges say they’ll have to hike tuition prices because of recent state budget cuts. At Tulsa Community College, they’re proposing a $6 per credit hour increase for resident students. For her and roughly 28,000 students at Tulsa Community College, education is going to cost more this fall. “Tulsa Community College is boosting tuition cost by just under 5 percent,” TCC Vice President of External Affairs Lauren Brookey said [NewsOn6].

Bartlesville school board puts $19.4 million in bond issues on August ballot to offset funding cuts: The school board approved bond issues of $19.4 million for the Aug. 23 ballot aimed to divert operational costs from the district’s general fund in order to prevent more cuts to classrooms, which already have lost dozens of staff positions for the coming year due to state revenue losses. Voters will see two questions on the ballot: One seeks $17.45 million in funding for operations, along with some upgrades to school, band and athletic facilities; another asks for $1.95 million for buses and transportation [Tulsa World].

Will voter irritation last until November elections? Here’s the political question of 2016 in Oklahoma: Will voters still Feel the Burn in November? No, not that “Bern.” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is clearly at an end. The “burn” in question here is the widespread ire over the Republican-controlled Legislature’s failure to resolve the state’s most pressing fiscal problems. The sort of outrage that prompted 32 primary challenges – more than twice as many as two years ago – and spurred 60 educators or their immediate family members to seek legislative seats [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Legislature tars state’s reputation: They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but they’re wrong. In the last two weeks of the legislative session, lawmakers earned Oklahoma at least $50.9 million worth of bad press, according to figures put out by the Tulsa Regional Chamber. Three topics — a proposal to prevent the “wrong” people from using public restrooms, the state’s failure to fund schools adequately and the state budget — tarred the state’s image around the world, the chamber report shows [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Concerns come from out of state on Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture laws: A few signs emerged this week that out-of-state residents could suspend their travel to Oklahoma because of law enforcement agencies’ use of a device that seizes funds loaded on to prepaid debit cards. As Oklahoma Watch first reported Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and other agencies have portable card readers mounted on vehicles that can confiscate or freeze suspected drug-trafficking proceeds loaded on to prepaid cards [Tulsa World].

New housing study highlights major needs in Oklahoma: Affordable housing is more than just shelter. To the extent that housing is affordable, it determines if people have money left over at the end of the month to provide for food, utilities, and other needs. It determines if your children can grow up in a safe neighborhood. Rising housing costs can mean instability if you have to move. It determines if you live in a safe home with running water and secure shelter in a storm. Even though Oklahoma is considered an affordable place to live, housing costs are still unaffordable for many lower wage earners [OK Policy].

12 children remain at soon-to-close Laura Dester Children’s Center: The staff at Laura Dester Children’s Center hopes to close that institution in October. The State of Oklahoma is closing its children’s centers under the theory that the kids will be better off in a family environment. The Dester Center has a beautiful north Tulsa campus that has gotten a lot quieter since last year when they had more than 100 residents [KTUL].

Speed of Capitol renovation work concerns some lawmakers: Authorizing an extra $125 million for Capitol renovations is a difficult vote to defend, given the bright yellow barriers and rusted, ramshackle scaffolding that greet visitors to Oklahoma’s seat of government, a state lawmaker said Thursday to a panel overseeing the project. Now that lawmakers have authorized $245 million in total funding on repairs to the nearly 100-year-old building, Rep. Mark McBride said he expects to see work on the project beginning in earnest [Enid News]. 

Sallisaw lawmaker resumes criticism of Islam with request for interim study on radicalization, Shariah law: A Sallisaw lawmaker who in the past has called Islam “a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” is again targeting the religion. Rep. John Bennett is seeking a legislative interim study on radical Islam. The Republican also wants the study to cover Shariah law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process. “This will be a study of the current threat posed by radical Islam and the effect that Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist indoctrination have in the radicalization process in Oklahoma and America,” according to Bennett’s interim study request, which is posted on the House website [Tulsa World]. 

Oklahoma Farmers Wrap Up Rain-Delayed Wheat Harvest as Drought Hints at Return: Heavy rains delayed the 2016 wheat harvest in Oklahoma, but the yield could be better than recent years. Many farmers, however, are still making up losses from a drought that climatologists warn could be returning. It’s a hot, dry and relatively windless day south of Altus in southwest Oklahoma. Eight to 11 inches of rain has fallen in the area over the last few weeks, and Fred Schmedt is on his cell phone trying to keep large trucks and tractor-trailers off his field [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“We have to get rid of that trigger. We will be anemic when we come out of this terrible economic situation. We can’t allow it to kick in. It would be a disaster.”

–  State Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee), on an income tax cut that, if triggered, could come into effect as soon as January 1, 2018. Legislation to alter the trigger was introduced in the last two weeks of the legislative session, but contained a drafting error that could not be fixed before session adjourned (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults who have been told by a doctor that they have diabetes.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

At Risk: While driving to a visit in Adair County on an early afternoon in the rolling hills of a northeastern Oklahoma winter, Shari watches the softness of the landscape: green even when it’s brown. Different from the TV conception of country, hard-bitten Appalachian hollers, and different from the starker wind-blast of western Oklahoma or the open roll of central Oklahoma. The landscape tucks away poverty. Shari’s grown to resent poverty because she faces it all the time: it’s the common thread between the families she sees. Families come to Child Protective Services from DHS because they don’t meet DHS’ standards of need. Teachers notice bruises; neighbors see wandering toddlers [This Land].

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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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