The Weekly Wonk – March 13-18, 2011

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

On Sunday, the Tulsa World featured an article on the chronic, unaddressed problem of poverty in Oklahoma. The story was based on a presentation delivered by OK Policy Director David Blatt to a Forum on Children in Poverty hosted by St. Charles Borromeo Church. You can view the full presentation here.

Last fall Oklahomans voted to amend the state constitution to make English Oklahoma’s official language.  The amendment is currently being challenged in district court, but we provided the details on two bills introduced this session that would go well beyond what voters approved to enact sweeping and intrusive changes meant to preserve and enhance the role of official English. Monday’s blog post explains how these bills would create more government, impose new restrictions on speech, potentially entangle state officials in a legal double bind, and muddy the waters by altering and expanding the reach of a fairly straightforward amendment.

The state’s General Revenue collections for February were announced Monday, and OK Policy released its quick take on the numbers. For the eleventh straight month, collections were higher than the previous year, but revenue still remains far below what it was prior to the downturn. Year-to-date collections remain 18.6 percent below FY ’09 and are less than the comparable period six years ago, in FY ’05. Despite strong oil revenues, gross production taxes came in below last year, due to lagging natural gas collections. Sales tax and personal and corporate income tax fared well, although for the fiscal year-to-date, personal income tax collections are growing most slowly of the major taxes.

Next Thursday, OK Policy Director David Blatt will help present a 60-minute webinar on promoting savings in Oklahoma. It will be the first in a series of webinars by the Oklahoma Assets coalition to highlight programs and policies that could help Oklahoma residents achieve economic security.  Additional presenters in the Thursday webinar will be Steve Shepelwich (Community Development Officer of the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City), Kristi Coker (Executive Director of the Citizen Potawatomie Nation Community Development Corporation), and Don Baylor (Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities). For more information about this event and the continuing series click here or email

The March edition of Numbers You Need presents key data on the state’s economy, work force, human services, and budget in one concise easy-to-read fact sheet.  Each issue of Numbers You Need provides monthly updated figures, historical comparisons and brief analysis on employment inflation, work supports and public benefits; and state revenues. March’s issue also includes data onw uarterly foreclosure filings through the 4th quarter of 2010 and SoonerCare enrollment data FY’00-FY’10.

The Senate passed a bill recently that would change several of Oklahoma’s statewide elected officials into appointees of the governor. In the post “Politics for architects, or how fewer elections can be good for democracy,” we discussed how fewer elected officials could actually improve accountability in government, since the average voter would be presented with clearer and more accessible choices.

OK Policy’s fact sheet that analyzed the distribution of  benefits from cutting the state’s top personal income tax rate generated considerable discussion this week. In response to our findings that the top twenty percent of Oklahoma households would receive 73 percent of the benefit of the tax cure, and 43 percent of households would receive no benefit at all, critics such as the Oklahoman’s editorial Board asserted that tax cuts must by definition benefit the wealthy because they pay the most taxes. On our blog, we showed this wasn’t true because when all taxes are considered, the lowest income Oklahomans paid 9.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes in 2007, compared to 4.8 percent for the wealthiest. The blog post lists numerous possible approaches for cutting taxes that would not primarily benefit those who need the least help.

Numbers of the Week

  • $535 – Amount paid per person in property taxes by Oklahomans in 2007;  the national average is $1,270.
  • $75.3 million – Grants awarded to date to Oklahoma by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Affordable Care Act.
  • 14 – Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation reported in Oklahoma in 2009.
  • 11 percent – Percentage of Oklahomans who carpooled to work in 2002.
  • $1.14 billion – Gross receipts generated by Hispanic-owned businesses in Oklahoma in 2002.

Click here for source citations and archived numbers of the day.

In the Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blog posts.  You can sign up here to receive In the Know in your inbox each weekday morning and the Weekly Wonk each Friday afternoon.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.