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.
Note: Due to an all staff conference and the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no Weekly Wonk for the next two weeks. We will return to our regular schedule on December 3rd.
This Week from OK Policy
The legislature voted earlier this week on a comprehensive revenue package – Executive Director David Blatt argued that this was the last chance to make real progress on the structural budget deficit this special session. When that revenue package failed to receive the required 3/4 supermajority in the House, OK Policy issued a statement encouraging lawmakers to reconsider the measure. Blatt recapped the events of the week and explained what might happen now after the failure of the comprehensive revenue package.
Blatt’s Journal Record column offered an analogy for the legislature’s approach to funding core services – promise a sandwich, then report that they’re out of bread. An increase in the gross production tax rate could provide much needed funding, and Policy Director Gene Perry explained that it won’t hurt the economy or reduce drilling activity in Oklahoma. Perry also shared an analysis of the Republican tax plan currently under consideration by Congress – the plan would mean a tax hike on low- and moderate-income Oklahoma families by 2027.
OK Policy announced that there will be a staff change soon – Kara Joy McKee, our Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, will be leaving us as she formally announces her campaign for public office. KJ will be greatly missed and she leaves enormous shoes to fill. We will soon begin our search for a new grassroots advocacy coordinator and hope to fill the position before the start of the legislative session in February.
OK Policy in the News
A survey measuring support for an increased gross production tax that was commissioned by OK Policy was referenced in two articles – Arnold Hamilton’s Journal Record column about the ballot initiative drive to raise the GPT and and Oklahoma Watch piece about the great sums of money likely to be spent on that effort.
Blatt spoke with Governing Magazine to shed some light on the rash of budget battles in one-party states this year. Perry was interviewed by Public Radio Tulsa about the GOP tax plan and – the plan will benefit wealthier Oklahomans more than the middle class or low-income families.
If the Legislature does not approve new revenues in special session, the consequence will be unimaginable cuts to health care and other protections for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. On November 6th, the Senate passed HB 1035 on a bipartisan vote of 37-5, which surpassed the 3/4 requirement for revenue bills. On November 8th, the House took up an identical measure, HB 1054. The vote was 71-27 – short of the 3/4 supermajority needed to pass revenue bills. HB 1054 was held on a motion to reconsider, which means it can be brought up for another vote no later than November 13th. What you can do:
- Find out how your legislator voted on HB 1054 and contact them today to say ‘thank you’ or express why you are disappointed by their vote.
- Contact the Representatives who voted No and urge them to change their vote if HB 1054 is brought back to the House floor.
OK Policy is participating in #GivingTuesday on November 28th. Join us that day as we post our #unselfie telling others why we support OK Policy, and be on the lookout for all the ways you can get involved!
We’re excited to announce the release of a new book from Oklahoma Policy Institute! Neglected Oklahoma: Voices from the Margins is a collection of nineteen essays written for the OK Policy Blog over four years by Oklahoma City writer and social justice advocate Camille Landry. Join us for the Tulsa release party on Nov. 29th, 6:30 pm, at Bound for Glory Books (RSVP here).
Together OK will hold a statewide meeting on Thursday, November 30th at several locations around the state. Let’s make sure we all know what’s needed to influence your state legislators in the coming year. For more information about the meeting and how to join in, click here.
The single-subject rule is a part of the Oklahoma Constitution that requires individual ballot initiatives and legislation may deal with only one main issue. The single-subject rule is found in over 40 state constitutions as a way to prevent “log-rolling”, the legislative practice of combining several distinct matters in one bill, even when some of them may have passed the legislature by themselves. Read more here.
Quote of the Week
“For 20,000 Oklahomans right now, every day is closer to the Dec. 1 deadline. … We have thousands of families in Oklahoma just scrambling, laying awake a night wondering, ‘Is my family member going to be OK next month?’”
– ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson. The ACLU, Oklahoma Disability Law Center and Progressive Independence are threatening to sue unless the Department of Human Services rescinds notices that in-home programs serving Oklahomans with disabilities or who are elderly will be eliminated on December 1 if a budget agreement isn’t reached (Source)
Editorial of the Week
Without a budget solution, the issue of mental health in Tulsa County and across the state will worsen. The effects will be felt far beyond the walls of the jail. Cuts to vital mental health services will put the safety of the public at risk.
Numbers of the Day
- 20.7% – Increase in the number of drug-related arrests in Oklahoma from 2015 to 2016
- 840 – Increase in the number of drug-related arrests in Oklahoma from 2015 to 2016
- 17 cents – State gasoline taxes per gallon, 48th in the US
- 18.3% – Share of all of the jobs in Oklahoma that are in state or local government, September 2017
- 24,000 – Estimated number of Oklahoma veterans receiving SNAP benefits, 2014-2016 average
What We’re Reading
- The Barriers Stopping Poor People From Moving to Better Jobs: [The Atlantic]
- Kansas Warns Congress Not to Repeat Its Tax-Cut Mistake: [The Atlantic]
- The Insufficiency Of Medicaid Block Grants: The Example Of Puerto Rico: [Health Affairs]
- For the Cost of Repealing the Estate Tax, Congress Could Buy Everyone in America a Pony: [Talk Poverty]
- The quiet crisis among African Americans: Pregnancy and childbirth are killing women at inexplicable rates: [Los Angeles Times]