The Weekly Wonk: Next year’s budget will start with a $400 million hole, Recurring revenues may be at risk due to legal challenges

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 gave us a preview of next year’s budget challenges – nearly 40 percent of the revenue for this year’s budget comes from one-time sources, so Oklahoma will be starting next year over $400 million in the hole. And some of the recurring revenues in this year’s budget may be at risk – Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the possibility that these revenues (like the cigarette fee, the sales tax on motor vehicle sales, and the increase in the gross production tax on horizontal wells) may be found unconstitutional by the courts. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison turned our attention to national legislation in her discussion of the Financial CHOICE Act – if passed, this bill would remove the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers from predatory lending practices.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explains why raising taxes in Oklahoma is so challenging – the three-fourths majority required to raise taxes is increasingly difficult to achieve in contemporary politics defined by increasing partisanship and the influence of money. Kansas did manage to raise taxes this year – the state legislature voted this week to override Governor Brownback’s veto of legislation to roll back most the 2012 tax cuts. A guest post by Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, argues that this decision to reverse tax cuts will put Kansas back on the path to fiscal stability.

Weekly What’s That

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval.

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

Quote of the Week

“You can’t blame teachers like [2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn] Sheehan who — between he and his wife — will receive a $40,000 per year pay bump by moving to Texas. Who you can blame is the state legislature, a group of individuals who will continue to keep Oklahoma at the bottom nationally in spending per pupil and teacher salaries, while refusing to take a systemic revenue problem head on.”

– Norman Transcript Editorial Board, criticizing the Legislature for failing to provide increased funding for education in next year’s budget (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Rep. Dennis Casey, Stillwater News Press

We have got to get to a place where all of Oklahoma’s stakeholders are doing their part for the betterment of the team or in this case, the state. That being said, it is time for the oil and gas industry to come to the table and start contributing their fair share of the state’s tax burden. I want to be clear; I do support the energy industry. Many of the constituents in my district work in the oil and gas community. However, due to the lobbying power of the biggest energy companies, most of the energy sector in my district is at a disadvantage. In a year where we passed a budget that holds flat many state agencies that were in desperate need of a funding increase, the Legislature once again failed to raise the state’s gross production tax in a meaningful way. Instead, the Legislature opted to raise fees on working class Oklahomans and cut several agencies that just can’t afford it anymore.

Numbers of the Day

  • 649,904 – Oklahomans under age 21 enrolled in SoonerCare in 2016
  • $2,227,640,583 – Federal funds allocated to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in 2016
  • 28.6% – Federal share of Oklahoma’s spending on roadway infrastructure and highway safety in Oklahoma in FY 2015
  • 29% – Percentage of Oklahoma children whose parents lack secure employment (2015)
  • 11% -Percentage of Oklahoma’s workforce on SNAP (food stamps)

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide [The Guardian]
  • Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger Listen [NPR]
  • Democratic Norms Are Under Attack, and Not Just by Trump [Governing]
  • The People Left Behind When Only the ‘Deserving’ Poor Get Help [The Atlantic]
  • Houston Hospital Checking To See If Patients’ Cupboards Are Bare [Kaiser Health News]


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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