The Weekly Wonk: A good budget deal is not “Mission Impossible”

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column offers some hope for the budget negotiations during special session – a good budget deal is not mission impossible. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update broke down how those negotiations have gone thus far – push has come to shove and now those in power must get something done. Blatt argues that a repeal of the capital gains tax break should be a part of any budget deal.

Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison argued that occupational licensing requirement may be keeping some low- and moderate-income Oklahomans from decent jobs – the cost of the required education for some licenses can run into the thousands of dollars. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler walked us through Oklahoma’s sprawling criminal code – it could make a felon out of almost anyone.

Special Session Updates

Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one. OK Policy now has a set of Frequently Asked Questions intended to help Oklahomans understand the rules guiding the process and the issues being addressed. It will be updated regularly as the session continues. You can find our Special Session FAQs here.

Upcoming Opportunities

The Save Our State Coalition will be hosting a community conversation in Okmulgee on October 17th and in Durant on October 24th.  Join us for this important conversation about how to fix Oklahoma’s broken budget. Come and share ideas to ensure we are protecting the services Oklahoma families rely on every single day and hear from local educators and community members who’ve been impacted by the recent budget cuts. For more information about these events click here to visit the S.O.S. Facebook page.

Weekly What’s That

Motor Fuels Tax

Oklahoma levies excise taxes on gasoline at 17 cents per gallon and diesel at 14 cents. Fuel used by governments and Indian tribes is exempt and farm users may have the tax refunded. The general sales tax does not apply to gasoline. Tribes may compact with the state to receive part of the fuel tax collections. Oklahoma first levied a gas tax in 1933; the last increase was in 1987. Oklahoma has gone longer than any state other than Alaska without raising its motor fuel tax. The state collected $202.1 million from the gasoline tax and $80.3 million from the diesel tax in FY 2014; together, they accounted for 3.6 percent of state tax collections. Read more here.

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

Quote of the Week

“There is no question we’re going through some difficult times, so instead of holding onto my pledge, I will take a step back and see what’s best for the great state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma comes first instead of my pledge.”

– Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, saying he would consider voting for certain tax increases despite signing a pledge not to raise taxes (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Rep. Eric Proctor, Tulsa World

We’ve cut funds to public safety, cut the budget for education and decreased money for health care year after year. And if funding is the measure of efficiency, then we’ve certainly realized our goal, having slashed budgets of our core services across the state. Our state agencies are now serving more people with fewer staff members and lower budgets than before the recession. But what do we have to show for all of this talk of efficiency?

Numbers of the Day

  • 67% – Percentage of Oklahoma voters who want lawmakers to pass a “comprehensive revenue plan” in special session that avoids budget cuts and allows for a teacher pay raise and other funding priorities
  • 13.8% – Oklahoma’s uninsured rate in 2016, third highest in the U.S. below only Texas and Alaska
  • 40th – Oklahoma’s ranking for energy efficiency policies out of all 50 states. On the same scorecard, Oklahoma City ranked 50th out of the 51 largest US cities
  • 76% – Percentage of Oklahomans eligible for SNAP participating in the program in 2014
  • $688 – How much Oklahoma’s total per pupil funding of public schools decreased from 2006 to 2016, a 7.3 percent drop

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How the Trump administration is reshaping health care — without Congress [Politico]
  • Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost [New York Times]
  • Reform in the Most Incarcerated State [Pew Trusts]
  • Study Supports Bills to Give the Poor and Childless Bigger Tax Breaks [Governing]
  • The report Trump officials don’t want you to see [Washington Post]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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