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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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom. 

This Week from OK Policy

Weekly What’s That

Budget Reconciliation

Budget reconciliation is a special process that makes specific legislation easier to pass in the U.S. Congress. In the Senate, reconciliation bills aren’t subject to filibuster and therefore need only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.

The process starts when the House and Senate agree on an annual budget resolution that includes “reconciliation directives” for specified committees. These instruct specified House and Senate committees to prepare and report legislation by a certain date that: 1) increases or decreases spending (outlays) by specified amounts over a specified time; 2) increases or decreases revenues by specified amounts over a specified time; or 3) modifies the public debt limit. In most cases, a single budget resolution can generate only two reconciliation bills: a tax-and-spending bill or a spending-only bill and, if desired, a separate debt limit bill.

To ensure that reconciliation bills remain focused on budget measures, the Senate adopted the “Byrd rule”, which treats as extraneous any provision that doesn’t change the level of spending or revenues, or where the change in spending or revenues is “merely incidental” to the provision’s non-budgetary effects. The Byrd Rule is enforced only by points of order raised by members and decided on by the Senate’s presiding officer.

Congress has passed reconciliation bills 21 times since the procedure was first employed in 1980. It has been used on several occasions to pass major tax cuts, as well as the major welfare overhaul bill in 1996 and parts of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Since no fiscal year 2021 budget resolution was adopted in calendar year 2020, the newly-elected 2021 Congress could first take up the overdue budget resolution for fiscal year 2021, use that to generate an initial reconciliation bill, and then take up a budget resolution for fiscal year 2022 (which begins on October 1, 2021) to generate a second reconciliation bill.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s clear that the people of our state understand that a person battling mental illness and addiction ought to be viewed as a patient, not a prisoner.”

-Kris Steele, executive director of The Employment and Education Ministry and former House speaker, said legislative efforts to modify State Question 780 go against the will of the people. [Oklahoma Watch]

Editorial of the Week

Oklahoma legislative plan to cut taxes will be politically popular but fiscally foolish

Only a few years after a bloody fight to raise state taxes, House Speaker Charles McCall wants to cut them.

That idea is likely to be politically popular, but it’s fiscally foolish. Tax cuts got the state in a horrible mess throughout the last decade, and one good year of state revenue isn’t the cue for more.

Here’s the basic problem: It takes a simple majority of the Legislature to cut taxes, but, without a vote of the people, it takes 75% to raise them again. That means a small minority of the Legislature can prevent a tax hike even in an emergency, which is what happens…

[Click here for the full Tulsa World editorial]  

Numbers of the Day

  • 1 in 9 – U.S. Corporations headquartered in California, despite its nearly 10 percent corporate income tax rate [Source: Microeconomic Insights]
  • 30th – Oklahoma’s ranking of highest corporate income tax rate. [Source: Tax Foundation]
  • $516,931,578.29 – How much money Oklahoma’s corporate income tax generated in Fiscal Year 2018-2019 [Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission]
  • 11th – Oklahoma’s corporate income tax is the 11th most business-friendly. [Source: Tax Foundation]
  • 4th lowest – Oklahoma’s rank in state and local taxes, both per person and as a share of income, in 2017. Oklahoma’s taxes are the lowest in our region. [Source: Tax Policy Center]

What We’re Reading

  • The Mixed Impact of U.S. Corporate Tax Cuts [Stanford Business]
  • 50 years of tax cuts for the rich failed to trickle down, economics study says [CBS News]
  • Column: A devastating analysis of the tax cut shows it’s done virtually no economic good [LA Times]
  • Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut is Not Trickling Down [American Progress]
  • The Relationship Between Taxes and Growth at the State Level: New Evidence [Brookings]


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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