The Weekly Wonk: Gross production tax must be part of budget deal

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 explained why raising the gross production tax must be a part of the state’s budget plan and shared a memo that explained how much revenue various gross production tax options would raise. OK Policy issued a statement responding to the budget plan announced earlier this week that left out an increase in gross production tax rates.   Blatt’s Journal Record column argued that we should adopt criminal justice reforms now to save money in the future.

Policy Director Gene Perry wondered if legislators would again pass a last minute budget without time for consideration or scrutiny. Perry also argued that a focus on spending, rather than the real people that benefit from that spending, is leading lawmakers astray.  Finally, Perry reminded us that spending cuts have very real consequences for many Oklahomans – real people and real lives are at stake.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy data was referenced by Wayne Greene in his Tulsa World editorial arguing that the gross production tax should be restored to 7%. Perry was interviewed by Governing Magazine for a piece about the declining adherence to democratic norms at the state and national level. 

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was quoted by The Oklahoman in a story about SB 478, a bill that would allow out-of-state companies to sell insurance policies in Oklahoma as long as those policies meet minimum coverage standards. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler contributed to a story by NBC News about the lack of success in states that have adopted a strict tough-on-crime stance toward drug crime.

Advocacy Alert

Final decisions on the budget will be made very soon. Ending costly and unnecessary tax breaks for oil and gas producers is critical to crafting a budget that funds core services and asks everyone to pay their fair share. Restoring the gross production tax to 7 percent on all wells can bring in over $300 million in additional revenue for next year’s budget and even more in future years, helping us avert catastrophic cuts and putting the budget on a more sustainable path. Please contact your legislators and legislative leaders now and tell them it’s time to stop giving away hundreds of millions a year in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. See our full advocacy alert here.

New Advocacy Text Alerts

As the legislative session nears its end (maybe!), we have a new way for you to be informed when it’s important to take action right away. You can sign up to get text message alerts to your mobile phone. To join one or more lists, simply text the keyword to 51555:

Text OKPOLICY to 51555 to receive all of our updates.
Text OKBUDGET to 51555 to receive budget and tax updates.
Text OKECON to 51555 to receive economic opportunity updates.
Text OKHEALTH to 51555 to receive health care updates.
Text OKJUSTICE to 51555 to receive criminal justice updates.

Upcoming Opportunities

Last week to apply for our Summer Policy Institute! We are accepting applications for our fifth annual SPI. SPI brings together dozens of undergraduate and graduate students from across the state for a three and a half-day intensive policy training. The application deadline is May 26, 2017. Click here to learn more and apply.

Weekly What’s That

General Appropriations

The General Appropriations (GA) bill is an annual bill approved by the legislature that funds the ongoing operations of state agencies for the next budget year. Until the early-2000s, the GA bill was typically passed midway through session and continued the current year’s funding for most agencies for the next year. The legislature would then pass funding for new program in separate bills later in session. In more recent years, the GA bill has included almost all funding agreed to as part of the budget agreement reached by the Governor and legislative leaders.

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

Quote of the Week

“I’ll own it. I made a mistake. We lowered the our base too low. … Let’s go the way of Kansas and Sam Brownback. How’s that’s working? No matter what you hear, things are falling apart there.”

– House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn, arguing for new revenue in next year’s budget (Source

Editorial of the Week

George Kaiser, Tulsa World

Like many Oklahomans, I am deeply disturbed about the deterioration of our state over the past five years, while our leaders looked away. I have lived here for more than two-thirds of the life of the state, and I have never seen the situation so desperate or the governmental response to the plight of our people so dismissive. In terms of quality of life and core government services, we are truly in a race to the bottom…This is a self-inflicted wound — the direct result of an extreme application of the discredited economic theory that tax reductions stimulate economic activity, the so-called Laffer (should be Laugher) Curve.

Numbers of the Day

  • $22.52 – Real average hourly wage in Oklahoma, compared to a national average wage of $26.12.
  • $14.26 billion – Total federal funds awarded to Oklahoma companies, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals through contracts, grants, and loans in FY 2017, as of May 16, 2017.
  • 32.3% – Percentage of Oklahoma residents who were born in a different U.S. state.
  • 40.7% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s total gross domestic product produced in the OKC metro area, 2015.
  • 17.6% – Percentage of all women and girls in Oklahoma living below the poverty line, totaling about 338,690 people.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How Poverty Changes the Brain (The Atlantic)
  • Nurse Licensing Laws Block Treatment for Opioid Addiction (Pew Trusts)
  • Spend a Dollar on Drug Treatment, and Save More on Crime Reduction (New York Times)
  • How the Affordable Care Act Drove Down Personal Bankruptcy (Consumer Reports)
  • Child poverty in the US is a disgrace. Experts are embracing this simple plan to cut it (Vox)


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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