Weekly Wonk: Tax cut proposals likely for 2023 session | Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month | Absentee voting

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

Taxes, including tax cuts proposals, expected on agenda for 2023 legislative session (Capitol Update): The legislature appears to have made it through the 2022 regular session and a couple of special sessions without a large election-year tax cut. Legislators last week recessed the special session that they (the legislature) called to appropriate the federal funds allocated to Oklahoma by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Gov. Stitt repeatedly issued statements calling for them to amend their special session call and repeal the state sales tax on groceries, which the Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates would cost the state $325 million annually.  [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15) is a suitable time to recognize both the significant cultural and economic impact of our Hispanic friends and neighbors here in Oklahoma. Census figures show that today more than 1 in 10 Oklahomans are Hispanic and represent the state’s fastest-growing demographic during the past decade. Immigrants are job creators in our communities, with Hispanic Oklahomans owning or operating nearly 20,000 businesses in the state. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Make your voice heard: Vote absentee!: To help Oklahomans understand the processes of Oklahoma’s absentee voter process, OK Policy and Together Oklahoma have developed this overview. [Cole Allen / OK Policy]

Weekly What’s That

Absentee Voting

In Oklahoma, any registered voter may vote by absentee ballot.  Absentee ballots may be cast either by mail or in-person at their county election board office or other approved locations in the days prior to the election (early voting). It is not necessary to give a reason for voting absentee. Under Oklahoma statute, any person who knowingly executes a false application for an absentee ballot is deemed guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $50,000.

A voter may apply for an absentee ballot online or by mail. They may apply for absentee ballots for one election, for several elections, or for all elections in which they are eligible to vote during the calendar year in which the application is submitted. An absentee ballot must be received by the county election board by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Except for certain individuals (see below), mail-in absentee ballots must be signed by a notary public. In May 2020, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the notary requirement, but Republican lawmakers immediately passed new legislation to reinstate it. However, for 2020 elections only, in light of Covid-19 concerns, voters were given the option of including a copy of a photo ID in lieu of having their absentee ballot notarized.

Special conditions apply for certain categories of voters, including physically incapacitated voters; voters who care for physically incapacitated persons who cannot be left alone; residents of nursing homes; military and overseas voters and their families, and first responders and emergency workers.

See the Election Board’s absentee voting page for additional information.

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

Quote of the Week

“I think people are constantly shocked … that people who make $18,000 or $25,000 are paying income tax. If we want to talk about relief at all, we need to talk about very targeted relief that truly hits the people who are paying a larger percentage of their income and have a hard time getting by.”

– Sen. Julia Kirt, D-OKC, speaking about the regressive nature of Oklahoma’s income tax system [The Oklahoman

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: Lawmakers must work through ARPA fund hold up


The Oklahoma Legislature took over the distribution of more than $1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds from the governor, only to stalemate at the end.

A lot of good came from the approval of projects with ARPA money in a special session that began Feb. 6. That includes new medical facilities, expanded nonprofit social programs, more nursing education, enhancements to workforce development and training, and infrastructure upgrades to water and broadband.

But last week a tussle over a $2.8 million grant to the Oklahoma City YWCA is holding up $95 million in projects.

It’s a shortsighted, political move creating a time lag that lawmakers criticized in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s handling of the ARPA funds in the first place. The House passed a bill to fund the projects without the Oklahoma City YWCA grant. That was rejected in the Senate.

Now everything in that portion of the ARPA package is on hold. That includes:

  • $30 million for Oasis Fresh Markets to open three additional stores, including one in west Tulsa;
  • $700,000 for the Parent Child Center for domestic violence intervention;
  • $2 million toward construction of a new Family Safety Center near 28th Street and Sheridan Road;
  • $1 million for new air handling equipment and plumbing at The Spring near Sand Springs, which offers housing for targets of domestic violence and human trafficking;
  • $3 million to Food on the Move toward construction of a food hub — essentially a distribution and storage center;
  • $30 million for Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma programs statewide; and
  • $25 million for expanded child care capacity in the state.
  • These are essential programs that care for the young, hungry and victimized.

No one is saying what sparked the disagreement. The Oklahoma City YWCA project houses children who are aging out of foster care, a worthy need to fund for our state.

The only connection to the Legislature is that the wife of Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat is on the nonprofit’s board. According to a story from reporter Randy Krehbiel, Treat doesn’t believe that was the reason for the hold up.

Whatever the reason may be, lawmakers have an obligation to find a solution.

The special session is already marred by the discriminatory targeting of transgender youth, whom the Legislature and Stitt have denied treatment at University of Oklahoma medical facilities. The move questionably sets a state policy on federal funds.

ARPA funds were meant to build an infrastructure for a healthier, safer, more educated and productive state. For the most part, that is being achieved. It’s a bad look to go out with this kind of in-fighting for no given reason.

This job lawmakers wrested from Stitt isn’t done. They must rise above pettiness and politics for the greater good.

[Read the full editorial at the Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 25 – Number of Oklahoma’s 77 counties with Hispanic or Latino populations above 10%. 31 counties had Hispanic or Latino populations between 5% and 10%, and 21 counties had Hispanic populations under 5%. [U.S. Census Bureau]
  • 34% – Voter turnout rate for Oklahoma voters ages 18-29, which was lowest among southern states during the 2020 general election. Oklahoma’s 2020 voter turnout rate (18-29) was 4 points higher than it was for the 2016 general election. The national average for this age range is 52.5%, which is the lowest voter turnout by age group. [Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement]   
  • 56% – A recent study by the Native American Agriculture Fund found that during the pandemic, 56 percent of survey respondents across the country experienced food insecurity, with 31 percent experiencing very low food security (the most severe form of food hardship). [CBPP]
  • $343.6 million – Oklahoma’s expected annual loss of GDP if the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is terminated. [Center for American Progress]
  • 29% – Percentage of Oklahoma households with children under four years old where childcare arrangements were disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic (7/25/2022 to 8/8/2022)  [KIDS COUNT]

What We’re Reading

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy will share policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.


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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