Weekly Wonk: Minding the gap for youth justice | Churn in state agency leadership | Tribal-state compacts | 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

State experiencing churn in agency directors (Capitol Update): With the change giving the governor the hiring and firing of agency directors, the state will continue to see more turnover in agency leadership. Political appointees will come and go rather than seeing their job as a career. In the five agencies above, a majority of the boards are appointed by the governor and serve at the pleasure of the governor so, in effect, the governor can control both the boards and the directors. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: ‘Minding the gap’ for state’s youth justice system: Bipartisan efforts by lawmakers and strategic efforts from policymakers have lowered Oklahoma’s youth referral and detention rates, which are now historically low. A look at racial composition, however, shows more can be done to make youth justice more equitable. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Child Tax/Child Care Tax Credit

The Child Tax/Child Care Tax Credit is an Oklahoma tax credit that can be claimed by parents of dependent children. Taxpayers can claim the greater of five percent of the federal Child Tax Credit or twenty percent of the federal Child Care Tax Credit. In both cases, federal adjusted gross income cannot exceed $100,000 for married couples filing jointly. 

Until 2021 and then again beginning in 2022, the federal child tax credit provides a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17. If the credit exceeds taxes owed, families can receive up to $1,400 per child as a refund. Other dependents—including children ages 17–18 and full-time college students ages 19–24— can receive a nonrefundable credit of up to $500 each. Under the American Rescue Plan Act (2021), the credit was increased to $3,600 for children under age 6 and to $3,000 for children age 6-17. The credit was made fully refundable and most families received a monthly payment of $250 or $300 per child . The Rescue Plan Act’s increase in the maximum credit amount began to phase out for higher-income families. These expansions in the credit expired at the end of 2021 after Congress failed to renew it.

For Fiscal Year 2022, the credit was claimed on 359,387 Oklahoma tax returns for a total amount of $37.2 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s Tax Expenditure Report.

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

Quote of the Week

“After over 20 years of cooperation between the State and Tribes regarding vehicle tag registration, it appears the State has altered its position of understanding concerning tribal tags. This change was made without notice or consultation with all Tribes that operate vehicle tag registration.”

-Otoe-Missouria Chairman John Shotton, writing in a statement after a tribal citizen with an Otoe-Missouria Tribe license plate was ticketed for failing to pay state taxes. [AP via ABC News]

Editorial of the Week

Tribes, state car tag compacts important to all Oklahomans

Oklahoma-tribal nations car tag compacts are beneficial to both tribes and Oklahoma.

Leadership must find a way to negotiate compacts for the safety of all Oklahomans and law enforcement officials.

The major sticking point to successful negotiations appears to be Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Stitt has challenged the validity of tribal car tag compacts as he has with all tribal compacts.

He seems to believe he is the only person who knows what’s fair to both sides of any negotiation — especially with tribal nations.

Stitt’s insistence of being the only person in the room of any negotiation threatens tribal sovereignty, and it certainly threatens the successful completion of compacts.

Tribal nations and law enforcement throughout the state are not sharing car registration information. There is some exchange of information, but it is not universal.

Law enforcement officers need to be able to access tribal tag information to know who they are approaching on any car stop. This is for the safety of the officers and citizens.

That can’t happen with Stitt proclaiming tribes aren’t paying enough to Oklahoma. His “my way or the highway” approach to all things tribal hurts.

There is money to be had for both tribal and state government. There is a way for tribes and state law enforcement to share vital information.

It’s up to all lawmakers — but especially Stitt — to come to the table in fair negotiations for the best outcome for all.

[Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • $9,716 – The average annual cost for an infant in a center-based child care in Oklahoma. The cost is $7,816 per year for infant care in family child care. [Child Care Aware]
  • 1.6 million – The number of people in the U.S. age 13 and older who identify as transgender. [UCLA School of Law Williams Institute]
  • 61,000 – Number of single-parent households in Oklahoma who have incomes below the federal poverty level. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 46th – Oklahoma’s overall rank for child well-being. Oklahoma ranks in the bottom half of all but one of the child-focused health and well-being metrics that shape the overall state ranking. [KIDS COUNT
  • $1,399.34 – Rural counties in Oklahoma assessed an average of  $1,399.34 in court fines/fees per criminal case filed. [Open Justice Oklahoma / OK Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • Lack of child-care funding destabilizes U.S. families and the economy, Health and Human Services secretary tells Congress: The child-care system in the U.S. needs a long-term funding solution, but if no additional stabilization funding comes through now, not only will families lose out, but the economy will lose employees and businesses. “Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of kids and parents in each of your states could lose out on coverage unless Congress commits to additional funds,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the need for additional child-care funding. Some $24 billion in child-care stabilization funds expired on Sep. 30. The funding was part of the American Rescue Plan, which was passed in 2021 to help workers and businesses affected by the pandemic. The pandemic and its ripple effects, including labor shortages, made it more expensive for child-care providers to operate and hire workers. The funding helped providers pay for expenses such as rent and supplies over the past two years, and many were able to hire new workers. [MarketWatch]
  • Banning Medical Care and Legal Recognition for Transgender People: Since at least 2017, anti-LGBTQ activists have ramped up their coordinated efforts to erase transgender people from society, including by criminalizing transgender-related medical care (sometimes called gender-affirming care) and blocking transgender people from accessing jobs, housing, public spaces, legal identification and recognition, and simply the ability to live their lives. These efforts have ranged from attempts to roll back nondiscrimination protections for transgender people or to explicitly allow for such discrimination, to bans or restrictions on the ability of transgender people to obtain accurate identity documents, as well as bans on transgender youth playing school sports, using restroom facilities according to their gender identity, and bans on medically necessary health care, often regardless of age. [Movement Advancement Project]
  • Any Year-End Tax Legislation Should Expand Child Tax Credit to Cut Child Poverty: Letting 9 million children in this country live in poverty is a policy choice, as recent Census data underscores. With press reports indicating that congressional tax writers have begun negotiating a possible year-end tax bill, policymakers have an opportunity to make a different — and better — choice in the coming weeks. They should prioritize reducing child poverty — and improving the life prospects of millions of children — through a well-designed expansion of the Child Tax Credit in any tax legislation considered. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Abortion-Restricting States Skimp on Funding for Children: States differ dramatically in how much they allow families to make choices about whether and when to have children and how much support they provide when families do. But there is a clear pattern: the states that compel childbirth spend less to help children once they are born. These states have some of the least generous tax, spending, and labor market policies for families in the U.S. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • The Drive to Jail: Why States Should Decriminalize Minor Traffic Offenses and Stop Using Bench Warrants to Enforce Traffic Laws: Imagine being arrested and jailed for rolling through a stop sign. In fourteen states including Oklahoma, that is a real possibility. In these states, minor traffic offenses are criminalized, meaning that they are arrestable offenses that come with a criminal record. Although what constitutes a minor traffic offense varies from state to state, generally they are moving violations (such as speeding, failing to stop, or failing to signal); equipment offenses (such as broken lights or a cracked windshield); or administrative regulations (such as driving without proof of insurance or with an expired registration). [Fines and Fees Justice Center]


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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