Weekly Wonk: New DHS Director | Transparency in budget process | Public dollars for public ed | Together Oklahoma meetings

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

Shropshire an excellent choice for DHS Director (Capitol Update): Gov. Kevin Stitt made an outstanding appointment of Dr. Deborah Shropshire as the new Director of the Department of Human Services. The top DHS job had been filled by Samantha Galloway on an interim basis since Justin Brown resigned last August. Galloway was chief of staff and a deputy director of DHS during Brown’s administration of the agency. Brown continues as the governor’s Secretary of Human Services. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Lawmakers should make budget process transparent: Oklahoma’s state budget process should be fully transparent so that Oklahomans can monitor how their tax dollars are spent. This would help residents have informed discussions with lawmakers when those decisions fall short of our needs. While lawmakers make public some elements of the budget process, the real decision-making happens outside the public’s view. [Journal Record]

Upcoming Together Oklahoma Meetings 

  • Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m.: Cleveland & Pottawatomie Counties Community Meeting. Juste Books at Equity Brewing Co., 109 E Tonhawa St Suite #120 in Norman. Join us to discuss the important issues in your region. Online option also available. [More Info]
  • Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.: Healthy Oklahomans Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on policy change that can help Oklahomans live healthier lives. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m.: Thriving Families Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on advancing policies that provide equitable opportunity for all Oklahoma families to thrive. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m.: Logan, Lincoln, and Payne Counties Community Meeting. Stillwater Community Center, 315 W. Eighth Ave in Stillwater. Online option available. [More Info
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.: Protecting Democracy Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on ensuring that Oklahoma laws and policies provide for governmental transparency and greater participation in the democratic process. [Join the Meeting Online]

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 credit, child 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.

Currently, the lion’s share of individual income tax collections (85.41 percent in FY 2023) 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 $3.547 billion in FY 2021, accounting for 37 percent of total state tax revenue.

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

Quote of the Week

“Appreciating King’s legacy means wrestling with how far we have and have not moved toward the Beloved Community. It means moving beyond a narrow King frozen in time and minimized to one speech and rejecting a mythologized version of his message. In his last book and other published works across his lifetime, King incessantly called for an honest reckoning with racism and related issues of discrimination in American history and society.”

– Brandy Thomas Wells, assistant professor of history at Oklahoma State University, reflecting on King’s legacy and the anti-racist work that still remains. [Brandy Thomas Wells Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Stillwater News Press Editorial: Public dollars for public ed

The education plan put forward for Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) might be more notable for what was left out of it as it was for what was in it.

Specifically vouchers, or education savings accounts were left out of the announcement.

Pugh’s agenda included increasing the budget for teacher pay raises and stipends, maternity leave, school safety, streamlining licensing, literacy advancements and stricter requirements for charter schools.

Pugh’s agenda at the surface does appear to have teacher recruitment and attention at the forefront.

That’s good. Because the discourse around hoping to snuff out “leftist indoctrinators” spearheaded by new State Superintendent Ryan Walters probably doesn’t have many lining up to be under constant surveillance.

“I hope this plan will demonstrate to teachers that we’re serious about the work that you do, and we appreciate how you pour your heart and your soul into educating kids, as we need you to stay in the classroom, and we need more of you,” Pugh said.

While that offers us a bit of a sigh of relief, Oklahomans should be aware that the push move taxpayer money into private schools isn’t going anywhere. It’s a well-funded campaign and the state’s administrators and board members have been handpicked to make that a top priority.

This editorial board has been consistent in its messaging that public funds should remain public.

Anyone who has spent any significant time with their children’s teachers and school administrators knows that there is no political agenda.

Always look for motive.

Who would be behind it?

Where’s the funding?

Who has the time?

The voucher movement has all three.

[Stillwater News Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 76.4 – The average life expectancy in years for the total U.S. population in 2021, down 0.6 years from 2020. Nine of the 10 leading causes of death in 2021 remained the same as in 2020. Heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 remained the top 3 leading causes. [Centers for Disease Control]
  • 30 – Caddo County in Oklahoma has been the subject of 30 federally declared disasters from 1990 to 2022, tied with Lawrence County, Kentucky, for the most disaster declarations during that period. Other Oklahoma counties in the top 12 included Logan (27), Canadian (26) and Okmulgee (26). Marshall County had the fewest with nine disaster declarations in the state.
  • [FEMA via USA Today] | [Searchable Database]
  • $1.2-$1.3 million – Estimated cost of the March 7 statewide special election, which will only have SQ 820 (recreational marijuana) on the statewide ballot. Petitioners aimed to include the question during the November 2022 general election, but state delays and legal challeges prevented it. Gov. Stitt selected the March 7 special election date, and the Oklahoma State Election Board will have to ask the Legislature for supplemental appropriations to help cover the additional expense. County election boards also will shoulder some of the cost. [The Frontier]
  • 100,000 – Approximate number of Oklahoma children who are currently insured by Medicaid who may be at risk of losing coverage when pandemic Medicaid provisions lapse due to changes in eligibility or administrative issues such as outdated contact information. [OK Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • Tax-Related Migration Is Grossly Exaggerated: a Research Preview: Policymakers will consider potential tax code changes in many states’ 2023 legislative sessions, and one oft-cited argument they shouldn’t consider is the claim that state taxes are a significant driver of people moving into or out of a state. Most people in the U.S. plant roots in the places they live, and it takes a lot to uproot and move across state lines. Only about 1.5 percent of people make interstate moves in any given year. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • ‘We Cried Too Much’: Walgreens CFO Says Retail Theft Maybe Isn’t the Crisis It Portrayed: A top Walgreens executive admitted that the U.S.’s second-largest pharmacy chain may have overstated its concerns about retail theft in stores. The admission comes after the company claimed that organized retail crime was greatly affecting its business, a line that helped stoke a nationwide moral panic over a supposed wave of shoplifting. There have long been indications that things weren’t quite what they appeared. [Vice]
  • Focus on Transparency: This February 2022 report outlines how Oklahoma stacks up against other states on transparency in the budget process. It also suggests reforms that lawmakers can enact to improve citizen engagement and public discussion about expenditures of taxpayer dollars. These include holding budget hearings, introducing budget bills at the beginning of session, requiring agencies to submit current services budgets before sessions begin, encouraging agencies to submit ambitious agency requests that can address the state’s greatest needs, and more. [OK Policy
  • States Must Act to Preserve Medicaid Coverage as End of Continuous Coverage Requirement Nears: In December, Congress passed its year-end omnibus spending bill, which delinked the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement from the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), established the certain date of April 1, 2023, for resuming Medicaid terminations, and set standards to help mitigate coverage losses as the requirement ends.[1] With this advance notice, states must now act to ensure that eligible individuals stay covered. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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