[Weekly Wonk] Expanded Child Tax Credit | Tax credits for ITIN filers | Fines & fees in youth justice system | Why revenue matters | We’re hiring!

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

Oklahoma families need economic support following the ending of the expanded Child Tax Credit: For far too long, corporations across the state have enjoyed tax breaks and cuts while 1 in 5 of our state’s children grow up in poverty. Rather than increasing tax benefits for corporations and wealthy Oklahomans, state lawmakers should use the 2022 session to commit to providing economic supports to our children who need it the most. Legislation like House Bill 3353, which strengthens the Sales Tax Relief Credit, is an excellent start at getting working families their hard-earned tax dollars back, while also not depleting funds from our state budget. By investing directly in our people, we’ll be making an important difference in Oklahomans’ lives now and in the future. [Gabrielle Jacobi / OK Policy

All Oklahomans pay taxes, but not all of us can reap the rewards: Every year, working families file to claim state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), which are a refundable tax credit that can put hundreds of dollars back in the pockets of low-income workers. State tax policy keeps Oklahoma residents who file taxes using the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) — foreign nationals, international students, undocumented immigrants, and other noncitizens who report earned income here — from receiving the state’s EITC. Allowing these workers the opportunity to receive the tax credit can put money back into our state and local economies. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy

HB 3903 would place strict limits on reviews of death penalty cases (Capitol Update): House Bill 3903 by Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, that passed out of the Judiciary-Criminal Committee last week, exposes an ongoing dispute between the state’s prosecution forces and the Pardon and Parole Board and governor. A recent battle between the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Pardon and Parole Board culminated with a recent decision by Gov. Stitt to commute the death sentence of Julius Jones after the Board had recommended clemency. Jones’ request for clemency was partially based on his claim of innocence. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy

Op-Ed: Lower courts costs for justice-involved children: Parenting can be a high wire act, even on the best of days. For the families whose children have become entangled with the youth justice system, they can quickly find themselves struggling to regain their balance — only to face mounting court debts that move their circumstances from truly awful to nightmarish. The Oklahoma Policy Institute spent several months talking with folks statewide who were referred to the youth justice system. [Ahniwake Rose / Tulsa World

Policy Matters: Why state revenue matters: This is shaping up to be a boom year for state revenue, which has lawmakers discussing measures that would reduce taxes and, in turn, cut state revenue. It’s important to take a step back and realize that revenue cuts jeopardize vital services for everyday Oklahomans. This session, there are about 10 major tax-cutting bills still pending in the Legislature that – if they were all enacted – would cut nearly $1 billion annually from the state budget in future years. While it’s unlikely that lawmakers would adopt all of them, these discussions are consistent with the 20-plus years of disinvestment Oklahoma has made in state programs and services. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

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Weekly What’s That

Health Savings Account

A health savings account, or HSA, is a type of savings account that lets enrollees set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses, including deductibles, copaymentscoinsurance and some other expenses.

You may contribute to an HSA only if you have a High Deductible Health Plan, which in 2021 is defined as a plan with a minimum deductible of $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family. Contributions to health savings accounts are subject to an annual cap; for 2022, you can contribute up to $3,650 for self-only coverage and up to $7,300 for family coverage into an HSA (if you are over 55, you can contribute an additional $1,000). HSA funds roll over year to year if you don’t spend them. An HSA may earn interest or other earnings, which are not taxable.

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

Quote of the Week

“I think it’s easy to make tax choices annually, to say we have extra revenue, so let’s just make a cut. Or we have flat revenue, so let’s not cut taxes. We have a tendency to just think one year down the road.”

– Emma Morris, Revenue and Health Care Analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about the state sales grocery tax and the state legislature’s propensity to cut revenue despite long-term needs [The Frontier]

Editorial of the Week

HB3316 is a good step

If there is one thing that is particularly refreshing about Oklahoma lawmakers within the last few years, it’s what seems to be a very sincere effort at criminal justice reform.

House Bill 3316, which automates the expungement process by eliminating the need to file suit and gets background work started, was overwhelmingly passed Wednesday, 87-4, in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has been supportive of criminal justice measures where minor crimes are concerned. We urge the Senate to pass this measure and the governor to sign it into law.

Bill author Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, had great line for reporter Ashlynd Huffman when she said, “The government doesn’t need to be the artificial barrier to people moving on with their lives who have paid their debt to society.”

We’re happy to see our local Rep. John Talley attach his name to the bill. Talley, through prison ministry and researching criminal justice has gained firsthand knowledge of how the penal system can continue to affect people long after they have been accused of a crime.

In the news business, we often hear from people desperate to put their past behind them.

This bill is a good step in clearing some hurdles for folks who need to be reintegrated into society.

There’s certainly more work to be done on this front, but this is a good step.

[Stillwater News Press]

Numbers of the Day

What We’re Reading

March is designated national Women’s History Month to honor the contribution of women and girls to our nation’s history.


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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