Weekly Wonk: Gov.’s statements on income tax are short-sighted | Oklahoma must address affordable housing crisis | Capitol Update | 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

Statement: Gov. Stitt’s comments on individual income tax are short-sighted for Oklahoma’s long-term success: Gov. Stitt this week appeared on the national news to suggest that Oklahoma should eliminate its state income tax. Such short-sighted comments ignore the realities of governing. [OK Policy]

Lawmakers should clear up conflicting language about remaining in office following criminal pleas, convictions (Capitol Update): Two statutes seem to conflict in that one sets up a procedure for suspension from office pending final outcome of the case in some cases, and the other provides for immediate vacation of the office after entry of a guilty plea. The case would have had to be resolved by the court using rather complicated rules of legislative interpretation, the outcome of which was likely unpredictable. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Oklahoma must address affordable housing crisis: Affordable housing is a nationwide problem due to rising house prices and stagnant wages. However, the issue is felt acutely in Oklahoma, where 2 out of 5 residents are unable to afford a stable home working a single full-time job, and the state’s two metro areas have among the nation’s highest eviction rates. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

Oklahomans invited to share input on addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis: To help raise awareness of the state’s affordable housing crisis, the Oklahoma Policy Institute and its grassroots advocacy program Together Oklahoma will be hosting town halls in Ada (Aug. 29) and Edmond (Sept. 6) for residents to share how the lack of affordable housing impacts them and their communities.  [OK Policy]

Together Oklahoma will be hosting Listening Sessions to provide the opportunity for you to express your ideas and views on policy matters in a collaborative way and give our TOK staff members the chance to hear directly from you. OK Policy research and policy teams will present data from your region and the state and hear directly how it resonates with your personal experiences.

  • August 29: Altus

Each session will be held in person and is free to attend. Refreshments will be provided and pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, visit togetherok.org/events

  • In addition to the listening sessions, we are asking Oklahomans to complete an online survey about the important issues facing our state. Survey responses will help shape legislative priorities for OK Policy and Together Oklahoma during the coming legislative session and beyond. [Complete Online Survey]

Weekly What’s That

Individual Income Tax

The individual income tax is Oklahoma’s largest single revenue source for state government. Oklahoma first levied an income tax in 1915. The top income tax rate has been cut repeatedly since the late 1990s, and most recently was lowered to 4.75 percent as of 2022. Oklahoma has a graduated income tax, with multiple tax brackets; however, the top rate applies to all taxable income above just $7,200 for an individual or $12,200 for a married couple filing jointly or single head of household. Numerous deductions and credits can reduce state taxable income, including the standard deduction, personal exemption, earned income tax creditchild tax credit, and others.

The individual income tax is paid to the state in annual or quarterly payments or in withholdings from wages and other payments. Taxpayers file a return in April to settle the tax liability or credit for the previous year.

As of FY 2024, the lion’s share of individual income tax collections (85.41 percent) are apportioned to the General Revenue Fund, with the remainder divided between the 1017 Fund (8.34 percent), the Teachers’ Retirement Fund (5.25 percent) and the Ad Valorem Reimbursement Fund (1.00 percent).

Individual income tax collections totaled $4.162 billion in FY 2022, accounting for 35.0 percent of total state tax revenue.

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

Quote of the Week

“Before we start looking at cutting our revenue, we need to say — what’s our expenses for next year, what’s going to happen going forward. We are still in uncertain times as far as our economy.”

– Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, on Gov. Stitt’s renewed push for another special session to eliminate the grocery tax and lower the personal income tax. [News 9]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: Oklahoma children failed by politicized governance and violent threats

All Oklahoma educators watched spectacles unfold, knowing they could be the next victims in a culture war. Being scared into silence is no way to improve education.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist showed admirable leadership in her decision for a mutual separation. This was her choice, made hoping the district would be spared the wrath of Walters and his compliant board.

In response, Walters referred to her as a “cancer” at the State School Board meeting and claimed TPS fired her at his request. That is not true.

Walters delivered an address filled with falsehoods and bravado, ending with a threat of possible takeover if the district doesn’t turn around its low-performing schools by the end of the school year. He provides no roadmap or additional resources to improve schools plagued by generations of poverty and underfunding.

He said, “Don’t test me.”

We will test him. Tulsans should test him. Anyone wanting to overthrow a democratically elected board and eliminate local control ought to be tested.

The five governor-appointed members of the State School Board showed how out-of-touch they are with the realities of education.

Board member Katie Quebedeaux suggested TPS visit Guymon to learn how to teach to diverse populations. Guymon and Tulsa schools are not equivalent.

Board member Suzanne Reynolds claims a child can be taught to read in three weeks. She earlier noted that she isn’t from Tulsa and asked why some schools have low test scores. We urge her to visit TPS.

Board member Donald Burdick said Tulsa can come together after this “tumultuous” time. We remind him the tumult was created by Walters and the board. He also pitched a volunteer reading program that already exists in Reading Partners. We encourage him to participate.

The state board and Walters did not provide TPS assistance or act diplomatically. Their approach is punitive and performative.

While this played out, Union’s Ochoa Elementary received its third bomb threat in consecutive days after an extremist group posted a doctored video from an educator’s personal account. It was shared by Walters and remains on his social media.

In a light-hearted video, the educator joked that her liberal woke agenda was to inspire kids to read more books and to be kind to each other. That video was edited to put her in a false light.

Bomb threats were made to the school and other Union buildings, and the educator is under constant death threats.

No member of the State School Board or Walters has denounced these violent actions.

Enough already. Education shouldn’t have become so politicized, but we’re here now. Oklahoma is a conservative state, and conservative leaders with cooler heads need to intervene.

Oklahoma children deserve better than this.

[Editorial / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 66% – Among the 4.7 million K–12 students who were enrolled in private schools in fall 2019, about 66 percent were white, 12 percent were Hispanic, 9 percent were Black, 7 percent were Asian, and 5 percent were students of two or more races. [National Center for Education Statistics]
  • 33% – Center-based child care for an infant ($9,176, Oklahoma average) would account for 33% of the household income for a single-parent earning the median income for an individual in Oklahoma ($28,134). [Child Care Aware]
  • 39 – Oklahoma has only 39 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income Oklahoma households. [National Low Income Housing Coalition via OK Policy]
  • 31% – National rate of rent growth from 2017 to 2023. Analysis showed that four communities that introduced more flexible zoning saw substantially lower rent increases during that period, as well as an increase in the overall number of homes being built. [Pew Research]
  • $27,000 – The national median household income for renters ($41,000) was $27,000 lower than the median household income for homeowners ($78,000) in 2021. A majority of renters (57%) had annual household incomes of less than $50,000 that year. [Pew Research]  

What We’re Reading

  • Research on school vouchers suggests concerns ahead for education savings accounts: Private school choice is having quite a moment. Whether structured as traditional school vouchers paying direct appropriations for private tuition, scholarships funded by redirected state income tax liabilities, or as new education savings accounts (ESAs), the use of public funds for private schooling has never been more prominent. In 2023 alone, seven states passed new programs and nine expanded existing plans. This push is largely a red state phenomenon. Of the new or expanded private choice states, all but two went for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. [Brookings]
  • Bridging the Child-Care Funding Cliff: Federal pandemic aid that supported thousands of child-care providers will end soon, leading to downsizings and closures. There are innovative ways for states, local governments and businesses to mitigate the blow to working families and employers. [Governing]
  • The 30-year clock is running out on affordable housing: America’s shortage of affordable housing, which has been mounting for years, will significantly worsen in the months and years to come unless federal policymakers step in to both reform and expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit — the nation’s largest affordable rental production program. [The Hill]
  • First American City to Tame Inflation Owes Its Success to Affordable Housing: In May, the Twin Cities became the first major metropolitan area to see annual inflation fall below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%. That’s largely due to a region-wide push to address one of the most intractable issues for both the Fed and American consumers: rising housing costs. Well before pandemic-related supply-chain snarls and labor shortages roiled the economy, the city of Minneapolis eliminated zoning that allowed only single-family homes and since 2018 has invested $320 million for rental assistance and subsidies. [MSNBC]
  • Do Large Landlords’ Eviction Practices Differ from Small Landlords’?: In an average year between 2000 and 2016, more than 2 million households faced eviction. Evictions have a wide range of negative consequences for individual households and the broader community. Though much of the research on evictions has focused on renters, landlords have a critical role in housing stability. In this study, the author focuses on how different types of landlords respond to social and institutional pressures and put tenants at risk of eviction. [Housing Matters]


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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