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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that lagging income tax revenue continued to drag down Oklahoma’s general fund in May, leaving revenues more than $250 million short of expectations with one month left in the fiscal year. The state recorded no corporate income tax collections in May after paying out refunds. It was the third month this year that corporate tax refunds exceeded collections. OK Policy released the new FY 2015 Budget Highlights report, with a bullet point summary and charts illustrating different aspects of the state budget.

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-1 to proceed with negotiating a $3.5 million incentives agreement with sporting goods chain Cabela’s despite criticism from city councilman Ed Shadid that the retailer is using extortion-style tactics to win millions in subsidies. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Oklahoma’s move to roll back Common Core standards was bad for kids and education. Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham wrote that lawmakers hacked apart literature for political gain during the debate over Common Core. The OK Policy Blog previously explained how Sen. Josh Brecheen severely mischaracterized a classic novel by Toni Morrison that is a Common Core recommendation for 11th graders. 

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board may be left in a bind this upcoming school year because the law that created it may not give the board any authority to hire staff or maintain a financial account. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened a fraud inquiry involving Epic Charter Schools, which operates an online virtual school in Oklahoma. Epic is accused of using falsified records “to fraudulently receive payments from the Oklahoma Department of Education.”

The Tulsa County Sheriff is stepping back from a stance that the county jail would no longer accept inmates who aren’t facing state charges unless costs are covered. Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, said he plans to conduct a legislative study on expanding Oklahoma’s execution law to allow the firing squad, hanging or the electric chair. Pawnee’s water supply has dropped so low that leaders are worried how their town will make it through the summer. Due to the continuing drought, 80 percent of Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop this year is rated poor or very poor.

The Number of the Day is how many West Nile Virus deaths occurred in Oklahoma during 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a report by In The Public Interest describes how outsourcing public services sets off a downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits can hurt the local economy and overall stability of middle and working class communities.

In The News

State’s general revenue 5.3 percent below estimate for May

Lagging income tax revenue continued to drag down Oklahoma’s general fund in May, leaving the state’s primary account $251.8 million short of expectations with one month left in the fiscal year. Although the general fund is 4.8 percent below projections for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, the shortfall is unlikely to cause major disruptions in state services because a 5 percent cushion is built into the state’s budget every year. May was the fourth straight month in which deposits to the general fund failed to meet projections.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State Collects No Corporate Income Taxes in May

State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger reported Tuesday morning that the state recorded no corporate income tax collections during May, exacerbating a year-long shortfall that caught state officials by surprise. Doerflinger said May was the third month during the 2014 fiscal year in which corporate income tax refunds exceeded collections, leaving the state with a net balance of zero for the month. Corporate income tax collections apportioned to the state’s general revenue fund for the first 11 months of the fiscal year totaled $246.4 million, far below the original $482 million estimate used to determine the 2014 appropriated budget.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

FY 2015 Budget Highlights

OK Policy’s annual Budget Highlights issue brief is one of the most informative and accessible ways to track Oklahoma’s public spending. Today we’ve released the FY 2015 Budget Highlights, which include a bullet point summary of the state budget, six charts illustrating different aspects of the budget, and a table showing appropriations for every state agency going back to 2009.

Read more from OK Policy.

Oklahoma City Councilman calls Cabela’s incentives deal ‘extortion’

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to proceed with negotiating a $3.5 million incentives agreement with sporting goods chain Cabela’s despite criticism the retailer is using extortion-style tactics to win millions in aid from cities nationwide. Cabela’s confirmed last week it intends to build an 80,000-square-foot store later this year as part of the Chisholm Creek retail development at Western Avenue and Kilpatrick Turnpike. The chain has successfully obtained incentives from cities across the country and is seeking a $3.5 million incentive from Oklahoma City that would be based on a 1.2 percent performance of the store’s sales.

Read more from NewsOK.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says politics led to Gov. Mary Fallin’s repeal of Common Core academic standards

On Feb. 21, Gov. Mary Fallin defended Common Core academic standards for schoolchildren and expressed frustration over misinformation about the issue. Thursday, she did an about face and signed a bill repealing the standards. “So what changed?” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked in a White House briefing Monday. “Politics changed.” The political tide turned in a big way against the rigorous math and English standards. They became increasingly linked to the notion of federal overreach, even though they were developed in 2009 in a state-led effort through the National Governors Association, an organization Fallin now heads.

Read more from NewsOK.

Shame on lawmakers for hacking apart literature for political gain

This may be a shocker. At least one Oklahoma state lawmaker doesn’t get the complexity of literature suggested by Common Core standards and took a passage out of context for political gain. I’m not taking a stand for or against Common Core. I’m taking a stand for thinking critically and reading to understand the world outside my experience. I’m taking a stand for encouraging literature that challenges our preconceived notions. This is about appreciating good writing, even if the stories make people uncomfortable, angry or sad. Literature shouldn’t be hacked up in ways the writer never intended.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Read This: The Bluest Eye on the OK Policy blog.

Virtual Charter School Board Faces Staffing, Funding Bind

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board may be left in a bind this upcoming school year due to unclear language in the bill that created it. The bill calls for the State Department of Education to provide staffing until the end of this year but gives no indication as to whether the board has the authority to hire new staff or contract with the department for its current staff thereafter. Moreover, the board faces the challenge of being unable to finance the virtual charters it sponsors starting next month because of its lack of a financial account.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation opens fraud inquiry into Epic Charter Schools

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened a fraud inquiry involving Epic Charter Schools, which operates an online virtual school in Oklahoma, officials confirmed Monday. Epic is accused of using falsified records “to fraudulently receive payments from the Oklahoma Department of Education,” said Gary Perkinson, assistant agent in charge of the OSBI. “Right now, agents are conducting interviews and poring over records.” The investigation was requested by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office in October.

Read more from NewsOK.

Glanz steps back from jail charge plan

It appears Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz is stepping slightly back from a stance that as of July 1 the county jail would no longer accept inmates who aren’t facing state charges, unless costs are covered. After the plan was hammered out by suburban city and police officials as a late-day budget-buster, Glanz tried to smooth the waters Friday, saying he will work with area police chiefs to ensure the new booking policy won’t put undue strain on their budgets.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma GOP lawmaker eyes firing squad option

A Republican state representative from Oklahoma City says he plans to conduct a legislative study on possibly expanding Oklahoma’s execution law to allow the firing squad, hanging or the electric chair. Rep. Mike Christian said Tuesday that he’s formally requesting an interim study on death penalty procedures in response to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. Christian is a former Oklahoma Highway Patrolman. He says he believes the firing squad would be the most logical second option after lethal injection.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Green Country Town’s Low Water Supply Leads To State Of Emergency

One Green Country town has declared a State of Emergency because of their water supply. Pawnee’s dwindling water supply has dropped so low, leaders are worried how their town will make it through the hottest, driest part of the summer. In Pawnee, a quarter-million dollar solution was on the table tonight. Pawnee has been trying to avoid the problem; the city has been under strict water rationing for several weeks. It’s to the point now, where the town’s only water source is so low, that city leaders feel their community’s health and safety may be at risk.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Drought Hammers Winter Wheat Across The Plains

Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. In Nebraska, a full quarter of the winter wheat crop is rated poor to very poor, and Nebraska farmers are doing comparatively well. More than 40 percent of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60 percent in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80 percent in Oklahoma.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“Morrison wrote provocative novels about poverty, racism and violence against women, children and oppressed people. Tough passages are in each of her books, but a person must take in the entire story to understand the greater meaning. Brecheen did not do this or attempt to explain the context for the portion he read. It was simply to inflame others to vote his way against Common Core.”

-Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham, taking on Sen. Josh Brecheen’s (R-Coalgate) mischaracterization of the Toni Morrison novel “The Bluest Eye” during the Senate debate over Common Core standards (Source: http://bit.ly/1s5lFr0)

Number of the Day

75

West Nile Virus deaths in Oklahoma during 2013, down from 161 deaths in 2012.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Health.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class

As state and local governments outsource important public functions to for-profit and other private entities, what happens to the quality of life for the workers who provide these services, and the communities in which they live? A growing body of evidence and industry wage data suggest an alarming trend: outsourcing public services sets off a downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits can hurt the local economy and overall stability of middle and working class communities. While corporations rake in increasing profits through taxpayer dollars and CEO compensation continues to soar, numerous examples in this report show that workers employed by state and local government contractors receive low wages and few benefits.

Read more from In the Public Interest.

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