Weekly Wonk: Putting cash back in the pockets of Oklahoma taxpayers who need it most | Budget talks continue: One step forward is still forward | SB 1709’s impact on the child welfare system

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

VIDEO: Put Cash Back in the Pockets of Everyday Oklahomans: Sales Tax Relief Credit Virtual Town Hall (2024): Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit is intended to provide targeted fiscal relief, but it hasn’t been updated since it was set at $40 more than three decades ago. Staff from the Oklahoma Policy Institute and its Together Oklahoma grassroots advocacy program talk about why the Sales Tax Relief Credit is the most targeted, most affordable, and most fiscally responsible way to deliver fiscal relief to everyday Oklahomans. [OK Policy / YouTube]

Policy Matters: One step forward is still forward: The governor and legislative leaders today are scheduled to resume public discussions about next year’s budget. However, with only 16 business days before the scheduled end of session, it leaves little time to ensure our tax dollars are spent responsibly. The financial needs of Oklahoma families — especially low- and middle-income families — should be the first item addressed within the budget process. That’s where the Sales Tax Relief Credit helps most. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

SB 1709 could impact reporting for child welfare system, long-term care facilities (Capitol Update): Senate Bill 1709 by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, has flown somewhat under the radar, but it could have a large impact on the health and safety of children in the child welfare system and persons in long-term care facilities. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Weekly What’s That

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval. State Question 640 also prohibited a revenue bill from containing an emergency clause; instead, revenue bills can only take effect 90 days after being signed by the Governor.

Since passage of SQ 640 in 1992, Oklahoma voters have approved only one state question to raise taxes: SQ 713, which increased the tobacco tax in 2004.  Until passage of HB 1010xx in 2018, no revenue bill succeeded in gaining approval from three-quarters of legislators in both chambers.

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

Quote of the Week

“You don’t (arrive at) a home budget based on bonuses you get or money left over in a sock drawer. You have to have real recurring income to make recurring budget decisions. You don’t go out and make a major purchase or investment without knowing you can pay for it in the long term.”

– Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, talking about why Senate leaders are apprehensive about additional tax cut proposals this session following this year’s $400 million revenue loss from the elimination of the state portion of the grocery sales tax. [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: Time for written policies to deal with elected officials accused of criminal violence:

If Grant Miller were an NFL player instead of a Tulsa city councilor, he’d be suspended from his job after his April 25 arrest on a misdemeanor domestic assault and battery charge.

Instead, Miller continues to be paid and makes decisions for District 5. He has pleaded not guilty and has a hearing on May 22.

Professional football finally took seriously allegations of violence, particularly against women, after a series of high-profile criminal cases involving its athletes. The NFL policy requires a mandatory six-game suspension for a domestic violence incident. A second offense is a permanent ban.

Elected officials are not held to the same standard, and that isn’t right. Sadly, we are in an era where criminality among elected leaders isn’t being sincerely addressed. [Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 250,000 – Estimated number of Oklahoma senior households who would be expected to benefit from modernizing the state’s Sales Tax Relief Credit, which hasn’t been adjusted since its creation in 1990. [OK Policy]
  • 576,000 – Estimated number of Oklahoma households that would be eligible for a tax reduction if lawmakers modernized the Sales Tax Relief Credit, which hasn’t been adjusted since its creation in 1990. [OK Policy]
  • 100,000 – Approximate number of households that did not receive Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit in 2020 compared with 2010. Since its creation in 1990, the number of recipients of the Sales Tax Relief Credit has generally declined as incomes rose while eligibility for the credit remained flat. [OK Policy]
  • 20 – Twenty states still use the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and half of these states are in the South, including Oklahoma. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • 46.9% – Rate of Oklahoma renters who are considered cost-burdened, meaning their households spend 30% or more of household income on rent and utilities. In comparison, 18.7% of Oklahoma homeowners are considered cost-burdened. [Prosperity Now]

What We’re Reading

  • How The Anti-Tax Movement Changed Politics and Government: In his new book, law professor Michael Graetz makes a provocative argument: The modern anti-tax movement is perhaps the most important US political trend of the past half-century. And its power goes far beyond economics. It simultaneously affects and is driven by culture, as well as attitudes about race and government. The book’s title pretty much says it all: “The Power To Destroy: How the Anti-Tax Movement Hijacked America.” Graetz argues that anti-tax conservatives not only lowered taxes, especially for high-income households and corporations, but they changed government and politics in profound ways. And that, he says, was their ultimate goal. [Tax Policy Center]
  • The Pitfalls of Flat Income Taxes: Flat taxes consign states to regressive and inequitable taxation that falls far short of the “flat tax” ideal proponents claim to value, and do not advance the economic, budgetary, or simplicity goals commonly used to advocate for their enactment. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • State Tax Credits Have Transformative Power to Improve Economic Security: Refundable tax credits help families pay for food, housing, transportation, and other necessities. State lawmakers have, for years, based state-level credits on policies available in the federal tax code. By doing so, they’ve amplified the benefits of federal credits in their states. More recently, however, states have taken more innovative steps that go beyond the basics of federal law to do more for low- and middle-income families. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • The evolution of the Southern economic development strategy: Rooted in racism and economic exploitation: The Southern economic development model has failed to create shared prosperity in the region. In fact, this model was deliberately designed to do the opposite—to extract the labor of Black and brown Southerners as cheaply as possible. This report examines the racist roots of the model and provides the necessary context to challenge the enduring racial hierarchy in the South.  [Economic Policy Institute]
  • The Wealth Gap between Homeowners and Renters Has Reached a Historic High: Homes are often families’ largest assets and one of the most effective ways to build wealth, but countless news stories and studies detail just how out of reach homeownership has become. Recent housing wealth gains are largely driving median wealth disparities. Because of supply shortages, home price went up, and rent prices also increased faster than incomes. This resulted in a higher housing cost burden among renters. Left with limited savings after paying for housing, renters have also not benefited from the strong financial market in the past several years, which further fueled the gap. [Housing Matters]


Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.