[Weekly Wonk] Lawmakers talking tax cuts again | Lack of LGBTQ2S+ data | State Budget Summit going virtual

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

Upcoming Opportunities

UPDATE: 2022 State Budget Summit, January 27, 2022: Due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, we have decided to move this year’s State Budget Summit to be entirely online. With this change, we also have decided to offer free registration, with donations welcomed to support our work. While we prefer to gather in person, the decision to move to a virtual format will protect everyone’s health while still providing this unique opportunity to hear from our panel of experts and ask your questions about our state’s budget and revenue outlook. [Register and Learn More]

Weekly What’s That

Rainy Day Fund

The Rainy Day Fund (formally known as the Constitutional Reserve Fund) was created in 1985 in response to a dramatic revenue downturn. It is designed to collect extra funds when times are good and to spend those funds when revenues cannot support ongoing state operations.

Money flows in to the Rainy Day Fund when revenue is more than estimated. Any General Revenue Fund collections beyond 100 percent of the estimated amount must be deposited into the Rainy Day Fund, until the Fund reaches its cap of 15 percent of the current revenue estimate for the General Revenue Fund.

The Constitution (Article X, Section 23) allows the Fund to be spent in four instances:

  • Up to three-eighths to make up for a shortfall in the current year’s collections.
  • Up to three-eighths if General Revenue collections for the upcoming year are forecast to be less than the current year’s collections.
  • Up to one-fourth through the appropriations process for an emergency.
  • Up to $10 million on tax incentives for at-risk manufacturers.

The Fund began FY 2021 with a balance of $58.6 million; it received a deposit of $312 million at the end of FY 2021, bringing its balance to $370.6 million. The RDF had reached a record balance of $806 million at the end of FY 2019, but the Legislature made substantial withdrawals in the 2020 session to deal with budget shortfall resulting from low oil and gas prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Quote of the Week

“This is not a response born out of fear. It has absolutely nothing to do with fear but everything to do with not having an adequate number of staff available to safely open schools. We had administrators in classrooms yesterday, and it was not sustainable considering our skyrocketing COVID numbers.”

—Union Superintendent Kirt Hartzler speaking about efforts to keep schools open amid the latest COVID surge [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: Use surplus revenues to shore up mental health, education and other state services

With state revenues projected toward a significant surplus this fiscal year, it’s time for Oklahoma lawmakers and the Governor’s Office to consider some long-needed investments.

We’re halfway through FY 2022, and revenues are 20% higher than projections. Thus far, that equals nearly $610 million.

This represents an opportunity to put those tax dollars to work.

The temptation is to do one of two things: enact more tax cuts or sock it all away into the state’s emergency reserve funds. We would advise a different tack.

New tax cuts just went into effect, and the state enjoys one of the lowest tax burdens in the country. Cutting further could unnecessarily endanger state finances…

[Read the full Tulsa World editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 138,000 – Estimated number of LGBTQ2S+ Oklahomans [Movement Advancement Project]
  • 20% – Percentage of Oklahoma tax revenues that stems from oil and gas [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]
  • $264 million – Oklahoma’s total unspent federal TANF funds (2020) designated to provide basic cash assistance for families with children when they face a crisis or have very low incomes. The funds can be carried over for future years, and Oklahoma’s unspent amount (2020) represents 191% of the state’s share of its 2020 block grant. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • 1 in 21 – Approximate number of Oklahomans who are actively infected with COVID-19. This rate is higher than the official state report of approximately 1 in 62, which does not capture at-home tests and asymptomatic individuals who do not seek a test. [Tulsa World]
  • 14% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults in households with children up to four-years-old who cut work hours due to childcare disruptions caused by the pandemic, Sept.-Oct. 2021 [KIDS COUNT Data Center]

What We’re Reading


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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