In The Know: Statewide business, civic leaders offer revenue, reform package

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 is the last day to take advantage of the early bird discount for tickets for the 2018 State Budget Summit, featuring keynote speaker Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution and a host of key Oklahoma policymakers. Ticket prices will increase from $75 to $90 on January 13th, so click here to get yours now. 

Note: In The Know is taking a break for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will return Tuesday.

Today In The News

Statewide business, civic leaders offer revenue, reform package: Frustrated by a legislative budget impasse that has stalled state progress, a statewide coalition of Oklahoma business and civic leaders proposed a comprehensive solution Thursday that would increase state revenues, fund $5,000 teacher pay raises and alter the structure of state and county government. The proposal calls for raising gross production, motor fuel and cigarette taxes, while eliminating certain individual income tax deductions and loopholes [NewsOK]. The plan faces an uphill battle [Tulsa World].

Organizations speak out about ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ revenue plan: A nonpartisan group of Oklahoma business, civic and community leaders announced their own plan on raising revenue and funding core services. Organizers say “Step Up Oklahoma” has created a plan that addresses waste and abuse through reforms and ending the boom and bust cycle of state government [KFOR]. We must end oil and gas tax breaks to save Oklahoma communities [OK Policy].

Governor, School Leaders Discuss State Of Education In Oklahoma: School leaders from around the state had some face time with the Governor, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, and some legislators. Governor Mary Fallin was the first to address the group. She renewed her commitment to a teacher pay raise even saying she would veto a 2018 budget without one. Then, Joy Hofmeister discussed her plan to what she calls “meaningful change” in Oklahoma Education [News 9].

Task force provides guide to reduce occupational licensing: A task force looking into Oklahoma’s occupational licensing policies has finished its report, and one of the state’s top officials said she hopes it creates a model for the rest of the country. Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston oversaw the task force, which included several lawmakers, state agency representatives, education officials and a policy organization. They spent about a year reviewing how Oklahoma can improve not only its licensing process but also how it evaluates potential licensing laws [Journal Record]. Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job [OK Policy].

Path to ending state’s financial woes requires compromise: When it comes to the 2018 Oklahoma Legislature, the first lines of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It Is Worth come to mind: “There’s something happening here; What it is ain’t exactly clear.” What’s happening is that legislative leaders finally appear to be coming to grips with the state’s fiscal woes – after years of mindlessly blaming shortfalls on declining oil and gas prices [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Oklahoma commission urges opioid tax, Good Samaritan law: Manufacturers, distributors and others involved in selling opioids in Oklahoma could be forced to help fund addiction treatment under a bill publicly announced Thursday. Rep. Tim Downing, a Republican who prides himself on opposing tax increases, showed the Attorney General’s opioid commission a draft of a bill that would levy a 10 percent tax on the first sale of opioids in Oklahoma — most likely to a distributor. The proceeds would go to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for opioid treatment [NewsOK].

Trial date set for May 2019 in Oklahoma lawsuit against drugmakers: A county judge set a trial date for Oklahoma’s lawsuit against major opioid manufacturers Thursday, setting the state ahead of the curve among its peers taking similar action to address the overdose and addiction crises within their borders. Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and Cephalon on June 30 [Journal Record]. 

Cherokees plan to move opioid lawsuit to state court: Cherokee Nation leaders say that since a federal judge has ruled that the tribe cannot sue opioid distributors in a tribal court, it will sue in state court. A Tulsa federal judge this week agreed with major drug distributors who said Cherokee Nation courts have no jurisdiction over them. The Tulsa World reported that Judge Terence Kern said doing business with a tribe does not make the companies subject to its courts [AP].

Modernizing health care can improve budgetary stability: In this time of budget instability and a historic deficit, we as legislators must look at all ways possible to be fiscally responsible. We must move Oklahoma forward by better managing the programs that support this fragile population, while also improving health outcomes and stabilizing our workforce. During the 2017 interim, I sponsored a study on Medicaid managed care [Sen. Kim David / NewsOK].

Group seeking ballot question on legislative gerrymandering: Picking up a torch once carried by a state lawmaker from Tahlequah, a newly created group wants to take redistricting power from the Oklahoma Legislature. Represent Oklahoma Inc. is seeking nonprofit status and has put up the website. The group wants to stamp out the practice of gerrymandering – drawing districts for the state Senate and House of Representatives, and the U.S. House, to favor a particular political party. Represent Oklahoma claims to be nonpartisan [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Oklahoma to pioneer standards in computer science education: Oklahoma may suffer from low budgets when it comes to education, but the state’s been working hard on making sure its academic standards are high. Recently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) released a draft of new academic standards for computer sciences. If adopted, Oklahoma will become only the third state in the nation to have grade-specific standards for computer science [KRMG].

Trump rebuffs Dreamers deal reached by senators: A bipartisan group of six senators has reached a deal that would shield Dreamers from deportation and make other changes to immigration laws and border security — but the framework has yet to win over the White House and other key players on Capitol Hill. The package negotiated by the senators includes $2.7 billion for border security, which includes Trump’s $1.6 billion request for wall planning and construction, as well as $1.1 billion for security infrastructure and technology, three sources directly familiar with the negotiations confirmed to POLITICO [Politico]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Police, fire budget plans are good news for OKC: The idea of permanently raising Oklahoma City’s sales tax by a quarter-cent was not something voters resoundingly embraced in September. Ultimately the proposal won with 52.3 percent of the vote, and we’re seeing the payoff in the city’s 2018-19 budget. The quarter-cent tax was promoted as a tool to hire police officers and firefighters [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

OK Dept of Health faces criticism for interim director’s salary: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is facing criticism once again for the salary it’s offering the agency’s interim director. The agency misspent $30-million, forcing layoffs of almost 200 people. However, the Board of Health is offering Interim Director Preston Doerflinger over $50,000 more than it has to according to state statute [KSWO].

Rules recommended for using wastewater for drinking: Oklahoma moved a step closer to its long-term drought plan on Thursday. A state standards advisory council recommended rule changes for using cleaned-up wastewater as a raw drinking water source. It is the culmination of years of effort to establish rules that will ensure there is enough drinking water for residents 50 years from now, said Michael Graves, vice president of Garver, an engineering firm [Journal Record].

Humphreys’ role on charter school board will change: Kirk Humphreys will remain on the John Rex Charter Elementary School Board, The Oklahoman has learned. At a special meeting of the board scheduled for Monday night, Humphreys will be seated as a voting board member by Oklahoma City Quality Schools, a nonprofit with six voting members, according to a meeting agenda [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Some state employees have not had a pay raise in 11 years. I imagine the business leaders who developed this plan would never let that happen in their own businesses. We understand the need to raise teachers’ salaries and it should be a top priority. Equally important is the need to support core services by raising state employee pay.”

– Oklahoma Public Employees Association Executive Director Sterling Zearley, reacting to a budget plan put forth by a group of Oklahoma business leaders on Thursday (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of sexual discrimination complaints in the workplace made by Oklahomans from FY 2009-2016.

Source: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Great, Overlooked Tax Policy for Getting People to Work: A few parts of the tax code remained largely unchanged during the reform process. That includes one of the government’s biggest and most effective programs to encourage poor Americans to work and to make that work worth the time and effort, with new research showing just how effective it is. That program is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which supported roughly 28 million families with an average credit of $2,440 as of 2015, pushing 3.3 million kids above the poverty line [Atlantic].

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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.

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