In The Know: Tax ruling expands Oklahoma’s budget options

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

Tax ruling expands Oklahoma’s budget options: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that upheld the automobile sales tax could give lawmakers an easier way to raise revenue. The court defined the difference between creating a new tax, which requires a supermajority vote, and modifying a tax exemption, which only needs a simple majority to pass. Vehicle sales have historically been exempt from sales tax, but the Legislature removed part of the exemption in May [NewsOK]. Read our statement on the ruling [OK Policy].

Rep. Jim Bridenstine nominated as next NASA administrator: U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine has been nominated to be the next administrator of NASA, the White House announced Friday night. Bridenstine, a 42-year-old Tulsa Republican, had taken the unusual approach of making clear his interest in the job. Bridenstine’s nomination will now head to the Senate for confirmation [NewsOK]. Florida’s senators voiced opposition to the appointment [Politico]. It’s unclear whether a special election will be held to replace Bridenstine [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s 2018 ballot will include state questions: Each year, Oklahomans get a chance to vote on state questions that make both minor and major changes in law. Already, there are three that could be put on the November 2018 ballot. Voters will decide whether to approve medical marijuana. A petition drive last year narrowly gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot, but organizers of the campaign finished too late to secure a 2016 vote [NewsOK]. 

A detrimental ideology: Although the constitutionality of the revenue measures has taken most of the public’s attention since the session ended in May, it’s still a Band-Aid on a wound that needs a tourniquet. Republican legislators have become so averse to raising revenue they’re creating more problems than they’re solving. This year, most went through the session as though they were trying to hold their breath long enough that their mothers would give up and stop trying to give them their medicine [Editorial Board / Journal Record].

What it will take for Oklahoma to avoid becoming a third world state: Twenty-eight years ago, amidst a crisis in the Oklahoma economy, parents, teachers, business leaders and others told Oklahoma legislators that to make Oklahoma’s future better they would need to make Oklahoma’s schools better. Education experts told legislators to make schools better it would take good teachers teaching children who are ready to learn in smaller classes with the latest textbooks and technology [OK Policy].

Access, money, education stand between Oklahomans, oral health: Your teeth matter. That’s the message Dr. Jana Winfree, the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s dental director, wants to spread. Poor oral health impacts social, mental and physical health and is associated with diabetes, depression, heart disease, stroke and other health problems. And Oklahomans are struggling gaining access to consistent, affordable and available dental care [CNHI News].

OKC moves forward on criminal justice reform: By greenlighting a centerpiece of local criminal justice reform, elected Oklahoma City leaders have taken another step toward trimming the incarceration rate, bolstering diversion programs and reducing recidivism in Oklahoma County. On Aug. 29, the city council approved its participation in an agreement between the county, Edmond and Midwest City to form the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, a collaborative body committed to implementing systemic changes that would cut the jail population and increase alternatives to incarceration [NewsOK].

Unpaid wages? OK Department of Labor will pursue payment for citizens: Our state’s motto, “Labor Conquers All,” indicates the importance our state places on the worker and the realization that a successful workforce creates a prosperous state. As labor commissioner, I am tasked with preserving, protecting and promoting the welfare of the wage earner. Oklahoma’s workers are our state’s greatest asset, and each has the right to work in an environment that is fair, equitable, healthy and safe [Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston / NonDoc].

Tulsa undocumented youth wait anxiously for White House decision on their futures: Tulsa resident Jordan Mazariegos has an accounting job waiting for him after he graduates from Oklahoma State University in the spring. It’s a chance beyond what he once dreamed. Now, he’s preparing for the worst. He may not only lose the job, he may also be at risk for being deported to a country he doesn’t know. Ten state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, have given President Donald Trump a Tuesday deadline to make a decision whether to keep the Obama administration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, or face a court challenge [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

Lankford: U.S. Doesn’t Hold Children Accountable For Actions Of Their Parents: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) joined several other GOP members of Congress in breaking with President Donald Trump over reports that he plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In a statement released Monday, Lankford said the U.S. “must confront the nation’s out-of-date” immigration system, but that children shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of parents who immigrated to the U.S. illegally [Talking Points Memo].

Cherokee chief uses State of the Nation address to promote healing after freemen decision: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s voice choked with emotion on Saturday as he addressed the descendants of Cherokee freedmen descendants during his State of the Nation address. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma said on Thursday it will not appeal a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that states freedmen have the same rights to tribal citizenship as “native Cherokees” under an 1866 treaty [Tulsa World]

10 things you can do to help dismantle systemic injustice: Gross manifestations of white supremacy and neo-Nazism like the recent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, challenge who we are and what we are becoming as an American democracy. Troubling as they may be, such flagrant displays cause less worry than the persistent disparities and inequities they overshadow and too often mask. For many African Americans, it is less about abject, in-your-face racial bigotry and more about the death-by-a-thousand-cuts agony wrought by institutions and systems seeped in racism [Hannibal Johnson / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma School Voucher Program Grows: The growth of an Oklahoma school voucher program for disabled children is fueling the expansion of private schools that offer specialized education. The Oklahoman reports during last school year, 528 students used state funds for private school tuition through the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program, an increase of 73 students over the previous year [Public Radio Tulsa].

Opponent faults Lamb in Oklahoma revenue crisis: Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson has taken an interesting line of attack on presumed frontrunner Todd Lamb. Richardson says if Lamb, as lieutenant governor, had been running the state Senate the past few years, he could have headed off the revenue-raising measures Richardson and others have challenged in court. The state constitution does indeed specify the lieutenant governor as the chief officer of the state Senate, just as the U.S. Constitution designates the vice president as the president of the U.S. Senate [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma cannot save its way to prosperity. If ever the truth of the cliché about it taking money to make money were evident, it is now in Oklahoma. The no-tax monomania is proving to be as deadly for the state as was Ahab’s obsession as the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor of our state continue to suffer the consequences.”

– The Journal Record Editorial Board (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initial applications approved for Oklahoma residents as of March 2017

Source: US Citizenship and Immigration Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Julián Castro Bet on 4-Year-Olds to Transform San Antonio: Jennifer Martinez Young’s 8-year-old daughter, Addison, blitzes through books: Lisa Yee’s DC Super Hero Girls novels, the Rainbow Fairies and Mariella Mystery series. Just starting third grade, she’s reading at almost a sixth-grade level. This year, at Addison’s former elementary school, fifth-graders will read a story she wrote last year, as a model. Addison’s mother credits her pre-school, San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA North Education Center, for inspiring her love of reading. Addison is still pen pals with Mrs. Ashworth, her preschool teacher [Politico].

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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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