Weekly Wonk: Cutting state revenue creates race to the bottom | Tax cut deja vu | Poverty persists because we fail to act | More

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

Opinion: Cutting revenue by eliminating personal income tax is quick route in race to nation’s bottom: Many of us share a vision of an Oklahoma that invests in the well-being of our communities and creates a robust business climate that supports growing companies while also being inviting enough to attract new companies that choose to operate here. However, when some elected officials call for eliminating the personal income tax, this undermines Oklahoma’s potential by getting rid of about one-third of the funding for the shared services that turn this vision into a reality. [Emma Morris / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma has too many unmet needs to slash revenue | #MyOklahoma: Lawmakers have been asked to consider sweeping tax cuts — including eliminating the personal income tax, which is one of the state’s largest revenue sources. Gov. Stitt has called the legislature back for an Oct. 3 special session to consider tax cuts and triggers that would jeopardize the state’s financial position. Proposed under the guise of inflation relief, sweeping cuts to the personal income tax will favor the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. Two decades of poorly targeted tax cuts have left core programs and services underfunded, and the funding problem gets worse each year due to population growth and inflation. Oklahoma has too many unmet needs for lawmakers to consider cutting revenue. [Get Informed and Take Action]

Tax cut déjà vu: Governor’s income tax proposal echoes past attempts (Capitol Update): The Governor’s latest “new idea” is to gradually eliminate the state income tax, the largest source of state revenues. Oklahoma has suffered revenue failures in fiscal years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020. Some seasoned legislators remember those years and hope to avoid crippling budget meltdowns in the future. They know there are very few “new ideas,” only good ideas and bad ideas. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Poverty persists because we fail to act: We are remiss in our obligations to our fellow Oklahomans if we blithely accept that nearly 1 in 6 adults – and more perversely 1 in 5 children – live in households where there is uncertainty about putting food on the table or paying their rent. We should be alarmed by these statistics. But perhaps too many of us have become desensitized because poverty has so long persisted here. But it doesn’t have to be that way. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

‘Make Your Vote Count’ panel to discuss how Oklahoma can modernize its voting process

Together Oklahoma, the grassroots advocacy arm of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, will be hosting community discussions in Ardmore and Ada about ways in which alternative voting processes can increase democratic participation while still ensuring election security.

The Make Your Vote Count events will be held:

  • Ardmore: Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Conference Room B of Southern Tech (Building 100), 2610 Sam Noble Parkway,.
  • Ada: Thursday, Oct. 12 in the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex (North Building) at 1710 N. Broadway.

[Learn More]

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act

The Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, passed as HB 1934 during the 2023 legislative session, provides tax credits to parents who send their children to private school, as well as a tax credit for homeschooled students.

The amount of the tax credit, which can be used for tuition or fees at an accredited private school, depends on a family’s total adjusted gross income. The maximum credit of up to $7,500 per student is for families with household income less than $75,000 and the minimum credit is up to $5,000 per students for families with incomes exceeding $250,000.  Parents can apply to receive the credit up-front in two installments. The homeschooling credit may be claimed up to $1,000 per student for qualified expenses, which include instructional materials, tutoring services, test preparation fees, and tuition and fees for online learning programs. 

The total amount of the private school tax credit is capped at $150 million for tax year 2024, $200 million for 2025 and $250 million for future years; the homeschool credit is capped at $5 million per year.

Passage of the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act marked the culmination of many years of intense advocacy from proponents of school choice and private schools over the staunch opposition of defenders of traditional public schools, especially in rural areas, and followed the failure to enact education savings accounts or vouchers in prior legislative sessions.

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

Quote of the Week

“That’s $4 billion of the state budget. That’s 35% to 37% of all the revenue we take in, so you would immediately cut government by a third. And we spend most of our money on education, so there would be no way to hold harmless education while you slash transportation and public safety and the Department of Human Services.

– Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, speaking about proposals that would eliminate the state’s personal income tax, which accounts for more than a third of the Oklahoma’s annual budget. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ movie release calls for a reckoning of state’s violent, racist history

Oklahoma’s dark history gets placed under an international light in the next month as the much-anticipated, star-studded, Martin Scorsese-directed “Killers of the Flower Moon” is released on Oct. 20.

This is not just a Hollywood tale. It is a piece of the rampant racial violence that flourished in a decade of relative lawlessness in the state. The legacy of the 1920s is distrust and growing inequities.

Some consider the starting point of the Osage Nation tragedy the murder of Anna Brown, whose body was found on May 27, 1921. She likely died about five days earlier.

In Tulsa, the race massacre that destroyed the 35-square block Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street, started less than a week later, on May 31-June 1.

The motivations for both were racism and greed. Families were devastated for generations, many locked in fear of telling their stories.

The unsolved and uninvestigated cases planted the seeds for skepticism and suspicion of white leaders and U.S. and Oklahoma government laws and policies.

In the course of time, a century is not so long ago. This is a recent past, not ancient history. Consequences, psychological and financial, are felt today.

The Osage Reign of Terror was fueled by acquisition of oil headrights. It wasn’t until 1978 that the federal government prohibited Osage mineral rights from being inherited by a non-Osage citizen. By that time, through swindles and various other means, many were already held outside the tribe. Today, about 26% of all Osage headrights interests are held by non-Osages.

Yet, a complication in federal law prevents those rights from being given back to the tribe. Congress can fix that if it wants…

[Read the full editorial at TulsaWorld.com

Numbers of the Day

  • 4 in 5 – 81% of Latinos living in the country are U.S. citizens as of 2021, up from 74% in 2010. [Pew Research]
    • NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
  • 22,000 – Estimated number of people incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons. [Prison Policy Initiative]
  • 23% – Seniors make up nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of Oklahoma’s extremely low income renters. These are seniors who have household incomes that are at or below the federal poverty line, or 30% of their area median income (whichever is greater). [National Low Income Housing Coalition]
  • -37% – Decrease in average SNAP benefits for Oklahoma residents following the end of federal emergency allotments for the food assistance program. The average monthly benefit per person decreased by $98, dropping from $262 to $164 per person following the end of emergency allotments. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • 95 – Number of Indian Boarding Schools that have been identified as operating in Oklahoma. These schools operated from the 1800s and sought to strip Native American children of their culture and language as part of assimilation efforts. [National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition]

What We’re Reading

  • Characteristics of Hispanic and Latino Workers in Oklahoma: Persons of Hispanic and Latino origin comprise 19% of the total U.S. population. That number is projected to increase for the foreseeable future. In Oklahoma, the Hispanic and Latino population makes up 11.7% of the entire state population. They are an integral and essential part of the Oklahoma workforce. The labor force participation rate among Hispanic and Latino workers has consistently been higher than the state and national rates for labor force participation. [Oklahoma Employment Security Commission]
  • Justice Reform 101: What to Read, Watch, and Listen To: To gain a more comprehensive view of issues and stories around justice reform, the Vera Institute recommends the following books, documentaries, and podcasts. [Vera Institute]
  • The Gap 2023: A Shortage of Affordable Homes: This annual report finds a national shortage of 7.3 million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters – those with incomes at or below either the federal poverty line, or 30% of their area median income (whichever is greater). Between 2019 and 2021, the shortage increased by more than 500,000 rental homes, as the number of renters with extremely low incomes increased and the supply of housing affordable to them decreased. The report calls for greater federal investments in the preservation and expansion of the affordable housing stock, more Housing Choice Vouchers, a national housing stabilization fund for renters who experience an unexpected short-term financial shock, and federal tenant protections. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]
  • End of SNAP’s Temporary Emergency Allotments Resulted in Substantial Benefit Cut: Emergency allotments and other temporary policies, as well as SNAP’s ability to expand automatically to meet greater need, helped ensure that food insecurity rates did not meaningfully increase overall in 2020 or 2021, compared to 2019. These relief efforts also contributed to food insecurity reaching a two-decade low for families with children in 2021. Studies show the EAs reduced poverty and food insufficiency, with the impact being greatest for Black and Hispanic people — an important step in helping to reduce racial and ethnic differences in food hardship. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Indian Boarding Schools: An Important Beginning to a Years-Long Reckoning: The leader of the nonprofit Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), the organization at the helm of truth and healing work around Indian boarding schools for more than 10 years, says the work of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative over the past year has been an important beginning to what will ultimately be a years-long process. [Native News Online] | [Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report, Vol. 1 (2022)]


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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