Weekly Wonk: Tax cuts aren’t fiscally conservative | Buyer beware on tax cuts, school vouchers | Hunger is a fixable problem | Capitol Update

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

Flat tax, tax triggers would make Oklahoma’s tax system less fair, less adequate, and less stable: With less than two weeks left in the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers have very little time remaining to reach agreement on, reveal, and adopt the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget. Bills that would change tax policy are typically unveiled as part of the budget package. Though they have not yet been introduced, this year’s budget package might include several ill-advised tax changes. A troubling proposal is a significant change to the personal income tax that would include restructuring it as a flat income tax and adding certain triggers that would automatically cut taxes further in the future. Making these changes to the personal income tax would make Oklahoma’s tax system less fair, less adequate, and less stable than it already is. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Op-ed: Continued tax cuts in Oklahoma aren’t fiscally conservative: In crafting their many ― and often conflicting ― tax cut proposals this year, state leaders have consistently talked about being fiscally conservative. They are right in that we do need to be fiscally responsible to prepare for the future. However, the proposals seen to date are missing that mark. [Emma Morris Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Op-ed: Tax cuts today means even worse Oklahoma outcomes tomorrow: Most Oklahomans recognize that taxes are an illustration of community; they are what we contribute to live and thrive in a functioning society. During the last two decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have implemented a host of tax cuts that were promised to bring prosperity to all. Instead, they weakened the state’s ability to deliver vital services and programs as our population grows and inflation rises. [Emma Morris Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Policy Matters: School vouchers and tax cuts – buyer beware: Like many shoppers, I’ve been enticed by flashy sales copy only to discover that – once it arrived – what I received was nothing like what was advertised. Avoiding buyer’s remorse has been very much on my mind as I considered the pitches from lawmakers this session about school vouchers and tax credits. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Gov. Stitt vetoes bill allowing students to wear tribal regalia at graduation (Capitol Update): It was disappointing to see that the governor vetoed Senate Bill 429 which allows students to wear tribal regalia at official graduation ceremonies. The bill defines “tribal regalia” narrowly as “traditional garments, jewelry, other adornments such as an eagle feather, an eagle plume, a beaded cap, a stole, or similar objects of cultural and religious significance worn by members of a federally recognized Indian tribe or the tribe of another country.” [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma Meetings

  • Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m.: Thriving Families Affinity Group Meeting (online only). This is our final Thriving Families meeting of the 2023 legislative year focusing on policies that promote opportunities for ALL Oklahomans. We’ll talk a little bit about the progress of the bills we’ve been tracking and discuss plans for next session. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Wednesday, May 17 at 6:00 p.m.: Payne County Community Meeting (in-person & online). Join us for a community discussion about the issues you see in your region and throughout the state. WorkIT Stillwater, 901 S Main St. in Stillwater. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m.: Safe Communities/Justice Reform Affinity Group Meetings (online only). Focusing on issues that can help make our communities safer, including criminal justice reforms. [Join the Meeting Online]

Weekly What’s That

Emergency Clause

The emergency clause is a provision included as part of a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that allows it to become effective immediately upon the signature of the Governor or at a specified date. Emergency clauses require approval by two-thirds of the members of both chambers and are voted on separately and subsequently to the vote approving a measure. A law cannot become effective fewer than 90 days after sine die adjournment without an emergency clause. The one exception is the General Appropriations bill, which can take effect on July 1st without an emergency clause and by a simple majority. As a result of State Question 640, a revenue bill, as defined under Article V, Section 33 of the Constitution, cannot contain an emergency clause.

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

Quote of the Week

“What a poor way to govern, frustrating Oklahomans who already have shaky faith in government. This isn’t gridlock. This is a shakedown and freefall.”

– Tulsa World editorial describing the conflict among the Senate, House and the governor’s office, which has brought this legislative session to a virtual standstill for more than a week. [Tulsa World Editorial]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: Hunger is a fixable problem

“…Hunger prevention isn’t just about the moral responsibility to help low-income Americans; it’s an issue of public health, education and workforce.

People who are hungry or can afford and access only the cheaper, higher-fat and caloric foods have more health problems. Hungry children cannot concentrate in school; hungry workers are not as productive. Hunger affects many facets of life.

Public investment in SNAP works, giving choices to those who need help and benefiting local grocers. Other programs are just as critical: expanding SNAP to more fresh markets, mobile markets and food pantries and educating people on gardening, cooking and nutrition.

With between 30% and 40% of the nation’s food supply wasted, partnerships to redirect excess food ought to be more widespread. Improvements in transportation and housing also help alleviate the hunger problem.

Let’s learn from the pandemic, lean into the research and ensure that no Oklahoman goes hungry…”

[Read the full editorial at the Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • >340 – Number of legislative bills — not related to the budget — that lawmakers could consider this legislative session before Sine Die on May 26, which is 18 days from today. Additional bills not included in that count would likely implement the fiscal year 2024 budget. [KGOU Capitol Insider
  • 2.3% – The Census Bureau’s estimated tally of the U.S. population as of Census Day 2020, based on a simulated tally involving administrative records from government and third-party sources, was 2.3% higher than the count’s actual result of 331.4 million. That gap was likely driven by noncitizen residents who are missing from the agency’s count, especially those with “unknown legal status.” [U.S. Census Bureau via NPR]
  • $385.8 million – Amount that Panasonic has paid in criminal and regulatory fines and settlements with the U.S. government since 2010. Oklahoma officials have approved a $698 million economic incentive for the company to build a facility in Oklahoma, and the company is asking for an additional $245 million in infrastructure improvements. [NonDoc]
  • $235-$293 million – Amount of lost revenue if lawmakers cut Oklahoma’s personal income tax by .25%. This is revenue that likely couldn’t be recovered due to SQ 640’s supermajority requirements to raise new revenue. [OK Policy

What We’re Reading

  • The Trouble with State Tax Triggers: State policymakers are increasingly using “triggers” to pass big tax cuts while ducking tough decisions on how to pay for them. They are bad tax policy. Naturally, they are incredibly popular. [Tax Policy Center]
  • How state taxes make inequality worse: All but a handful of states make poor residents contribute a greater share of their income to taxes than wealthy people do. Economists call that upside-down approach “regressive.” And those policies hit communities of color the hardest. [The Center for Public Integrity]  |  Related: Oklahoma has one of the nation’s most regressive tax systems [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
  • Kansas Avoids Flat Tax Proposal: Narrow Victory a Cautionary Tale for Other States: States across the country can learn from Kansas’ experience by rethinking tax policy decisions and broader statewide priorities. Rather than digging in with a narrow tax-cutting mentality, lawmakers can advance sound fiscal policies centered on creating fair and progressive taxes that can raise enough revenue to make public investments that boost incomes, create jobs, and grow the economy. This is a simple tax policy formula that will result in great dividends for families and communities. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • The Real Impact of State Tax Cuts: Tax cuts being considered by states will deplete the funding available for schools, infrastructure, health care and other public services. They will worsen inequality by making state tax codes less equitable and enriching those at the very top of the income scale. Meanwhile, there will be cuts to public assets that are crucial for poor and middle-class families and less money for teachers in the classroom and for public safety personnel, which means longer wait times for emergency response. But the impact of this anti-tax agenda goes beyond the bounds of budget policy, to the very core of our democracy. [Route Fifty]


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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