Weekly Wonk: State needs fiscally responsible budget planning | Credit where it isn’t due | Capitol Update | 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

Examining the death penalty in Oklahoma: Insights from last week’s interim study (Capitol Update): The House Judiciary-Criminal Committee conducted an interim study on the death penalty last week at the request of Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow. The interim study was more substantive than one might expect, with several witnesses pointing out weaknesses in the state’s legal process that leave open the possibility of a wrongful conviction. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: State needs fiscally responsible budget planning: Many Oklahoma lawmakers say they’re fiscally responsible with our tax dollars, yet they don’t follow some best practices of financial planning that can help ensure this. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Effective Date

The effective date of a bill is the date upon which it actually becomes law, which is usually specified in the last section of the legislation. Some bills specify different effective dates for different sections of the bill. A bill with an emergency clause becomes effective immediately upon the signature of the Governor. If a bill does not specify an effective date, it takes effect 90 days after sine die adjournment of the legislative session. The effective date for most laws is November 1st of the year that it is enacted.

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

Quote of the Week

“The truth the governor does not want to accept is that there isn’t any appetite to cut the state income tax. Why? Because while ‘cutting income taxes’ is a great campaign promise, it isn’t wise to do without a realistic plan to fund core services of state government in place.”

– House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson (D-OKC) [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Stillwater News Press Editorial: Credit where it isn’t due

The picture they paint just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

New tax credit refunds, approved by Oklahoma lawmakers earlier this year as a kind of compromise to not going full voucher to fund private education, is supposed to provide parents with “a choice.”

The idea being that poor Oklahoma families will be pulled out of the public school muck, giving a new coat of paint and lifted into a new world of private school glory.

“When we went to the Capitol and asked legislators to pass this legislation, it is with an eye toward families who need the assistance,” Jennifer Carter, senior advisor for the American Federation for Children in Oklahoma told News Press reporter Jessica Marshall.

And the cost to the state?

“The parental choice tax credit is a fraction … like a rounding error in comparison to the public education budget,” Carter said.

But, when Rep. John Talley talked about the credit, he said other states that implemented similar programs only saw a 2 percent increase in private school or homeschool enrollment.

So, what’s the part not being said?

It’s more than obvious the people who are getting the most “help” from this credit are people who don’t really need it – people who already have their children enrolled in private schools.

It’s been known.

[Editorial / Stillwater News Press]


Numbers of the Day

  • $15.49 – Living wage per hour for a childless adult in Oklahoma. For a single adult with one child, the living wage in the state rises to $32.96 per hour. [MIT Living Wage Calculator]
  • 523 – A new report has identified 523 Indian boarding schools that operated in the United States from 1801 to present. Oklahoma had the largest number of boarding schools (95) operating in the state. [National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition]
  • -12% – When adjusted for inflation and population growth, Oklahoma’s FY 2024 budget of $11.8 billion is 12 percent smaller than the FY 2000 budget of $13.3 billion and 3.3 percent larger than the current year’s budget (FY 2023) of $11.4 billion (excluding supplemental appropriations). [OK Policy]
  • $250 million – The total annual cost of Oklahoma’s private school voucher program (formally known as the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act) from 2026 and onwards. The total amount of the private school tax credit is capped at $150 million for tax year 2024, $200 million for 2025 and $250 million for future years. [OK Policy]
  • 23.3% – Nearly a quarter (23.3%) of all household income in Oklahoma goes to the top 5% of the state’s high-income households. Meanwhile, the bottom 20% of Oklahoma earners share 3.3% of all household income in the state. [Economic Policy Institute]   

What We’re Reading

  • Young Americans are struggling to gain economic ground. Building a better school-to-career pipeline can help: Brookings partnered with Child Trends to look more closely at the factors shaping upward mobility during a formative period in people’s lives: their teens to age 30. We wanted to get a fuller picture of whether people from families with lower levels of education and income find steady, decent-paying employment in adulthood. The findings were stark. Almost 60% of the study population experienced minimal earnings growth through their 20s and, at age 30, earned less than $20,000 per year. More than half of adults from modest backgrounds earn so little that they struggle to cover the basic costs of living. [Brookings]
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Explained: More than 100 cities have adopted the holiday, choosing to heed calls from Indigenous groups and other activists not to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator after whom the holiday is named. They say he brought genocide and colonization to communities that had been in the Americas for thousands of years. Some members of Indigenous communities say recognizing the day, which this year is on Monday, Oct. 9, does not go far enough. It is not yet a federal holiday, though lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation that proposes to make it one. [New York Times]
  • Budgeting for the Future: Fiscal Planning Tools Can Show the Way (Archive): When state policymakers are writing a budget, they should be mindful of the future, not just the present.  The state budget is the single most important document that a state government produces each year, and it receives close public scrutiny.  It serves as both a financial plan and a policy document — that is, a description of the policies the state intends to pursue in the future.  The spending, tax, and other policy decisions that comprise the budget have consequences for a state’s fiscal and economic security that last long beyond the budget year.  [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Conservatives are embracing new alternative school models. Will the public?: Most American children — close to 50 million — remain enrolled in traditional public schools. Still, a growing number of states – more than a dozen this year – have either expanded or started voucher programs that steer taxpayer money to these new options, which can include private and religious schools. Late last month, North Carolina became the latest state to pass a universal voucher program. It’s not always clear, however that this money goes directly to schools and parents. [The Hechinger Report]
  • Rooted in racism and economic exploitation: The failed Southern economic development model: Southern politicians claim that “business-friendly” policies lead to an abundance of jobs and economic prosperity for all Southerners. The data actually show a grim economic reality in 16 Southern states, including Oklahoma. [Economic Policy Institute


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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