The Weekly Wonk: Additional federal support would provide relief | Paths to funding Medicaid expansion

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Additional federal support would provide relief to Oklahomans: Our nation is struggling under the enormity of the pandemic’s weight. The impacts are felt at every level – in our homes, our communities and our state. A Tuesday report in the Journal Record detailed how Oklahoma cities have been hit hard, towns like Tonkawa which is bracing for a 30% cut in revenue this year. As Ponca City’s city manager noted, recently released federal relief dollars are not undoing the damage but it is giving cities “a little more time as we move through the process.” Time and resources — that’s what all Oklahomans need to get through the current storm. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Possible paths to fund Medicaid expansion (Capitol Update): It is good news to see that most of the legislative leadership who have spoken have said the legislature is now obligated and will find a way to fund the state match for Medicaid expansion, despite the narrow margin of victory for State Question 802. It is likely that legislators saw the need for Medicaid expansion, but many felt obliged to follow what they knew were the wishes of a clear majority of their constituents. [Capital Update / Steve Lewis]

Upcoming Opportunities

Deadline, This Friday: Fall 2020 Internships with OK Policy: Oklahoma Policy Institute is now accepting student applicants for internships in public policy, Open Justice Oklahoma, and communications. These are paid, part-time internships during the Fall 2020 semester. Deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Friday, July 24. [Read More  or Apply]

Weekly What’s That

Sales Tax Relief Credit

The Sales Tax Relief Credit, sometimes known as the “grocery tax credit,” is an income tax credit that provides a rebate of $40 per household member to households with incomes at or below the following levels:

  • $50,000 per year for filers who are elderly, have a physical disability, or claim a dependent; or
  • $20,000 per year for everyone else.

The credit was first enacted in 1990 as part of the legislative compromise that led to the passage of House Bill 1017 and was intended to offset the sales tax on groceries for low-income households. Eligibility for the credit was expanded in 1998 but the amount has never been increased.

The credit was claimed by 439,303 households in FY 2018 for a total of $36.9.1 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s Tax Expenditure Report. Some 922,0000 Oklahomans received the credit in 2018, or roughly one-quarter of the state’s population. However, over time, as incomes rise while eligibility for the credit remains flat, the number of recipients of the sales tax relief credit is declining.  The credit is refundable, meaning that it can be claimed in an amount that exceeds a taxpayer’s tax liability.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Finding shared values is ultimately what you’re looking for. We have a society that keeps thinking if we elect certain people or take down certain things that things are going to change. I believe in Oklahoma we can change our culture from a grassroots level.”

-The Rev. Clarence Hill, pastor of Antioch Community Church in Norman [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Think about schools before you dig in

Tahlequah Public Schools, at this point, is offering options: returning to the classroom, distance learning from home, or a combination of the two. It’s the best they can do, considering that administrators and board members – almost all of whom are parents themselves – want to protect the kids. The same is true for other districts in this county. But yet, children must learn; they cannot get behind their peers in other, perhaps better, circumstances. And what about the teachers and support staff? Don’t they, too, deserve to be safe in their workplaces?

The real tragedy is that with just a few weeks of following proper protocols, we might not be facing this sad dilemma. Without the defiance of some adults who refuse to believe this pandemic is real, or consider at least temporarily setting aside their “freedoms” for the well-being of society as a whole, the virus might not have gotten the foothold it has today. We should make it clear we aren’t talking about people who can’t wear masks for health reasons, or even those who cling to uncovered faces as a matter of personal liberty, but are taking other steps to avoid possibly infecting someone else, or becoming infected themselves.

The biggest problem will be the working parents whose children are too small to leave at home alone, or too undisciplined to undertake their studies without supervision. What will they do? Will their employers allow them to work at least partly from home? Is it even possible? It’s kind of hard to do when you are a cashier; an automobile salesperson; a restaurant server; or another individual whose presence on site is mandatory.

[Tahlequah News Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 60% – Approximate percentage of Americans who say they are bothered “a lot” by the feeling that some corporations (62%) and wealthy people (62%) do not pay their fair share in taxes.
  • $794 – Oklahoma state and local income tax collections per person, ranking Oklahoma’s tax level 35th lowest of the 44 states with income taxes.
  • $3.565 billion – Net amount of individual income tax collected by the State of Oklahoma in 2018-2019.
  • 49th – Oklahoma’s rank of state and local property tax collections per capita ($730). Only Alabama had lower state and local property tax collections at $582 per person.
  • 44th – Oklahoma’s rank for corporate income tax collected per capita ($40), the nation’s lowest of the 44 states that collect corporate income tax. New Mexico is next lowest at $44 per capita, with Kansas ($133 per capita) and Arkansas ($132) ranked 19th and 20th respectively. Texas does not collect corporate income tax.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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