In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
Today you should know that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure into law that schedules automatic cuts to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate in future years. The first phase of the tax cut will provide an average of $29 to middle-income families while reducing revenues for services by about $135 million, and when fully implemented the tax cuts will cost more than $250 million. Lawmakers are discussing the possibility of paying for American Indian Cultural Center and Museum through an appropriations bill that would stagger funding over three years.
Under new Quality Jobs Program contracts, four companies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have pledged to add jobs with millions of dollars in subsidies from Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog pointed out that a poll claiming to show Oklahomans oppose ending a tax break for horizontal drilling is not being transparent about its questions or methodology. The Okie Funk blog discussed reports showing that federal government has known for decades about a connection between injection wells and earthquakes.
Governor Fallin signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion because a fetus would not survive long after birth to be informed about perinatal hospice services. An experimental anti-poverty program by Community Action Project of Tulsa County is giving vulnerable mothers access to high-quality preschool as well as to life coaching, financial incentives and intensive job training in in-demand fields. KTUL discussed how poor reading and school funding, zero tolerance, and suspensions are creating aschool to prison pipeline for Oklahoma children.
Oklahoma is set to execute two men within two hours of each other on Tuesday, a rare occasion in the 21st century. Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County following a tornado that struck Quapaw and killed at least one person. Norman residents have waited years without funding for storm shelter rebates from a federal program. Oklahoma has not seen a wave of party switching from Democratic to Republican this year, even though several major races may be decided in Republican primaries.
The Number of the Day is the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent ($689/month) in Oklahoma working 40 hours a week. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the National Employment Law Project finds an economy-wide shift to low wage jobs that has continued every year since the Great Recession.
In The News
Oklahoma governor signs income tax cut into law
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed an income tax cut measure into law Monday that will gradually lower Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent over several years if state revenues continue to rise. The Republican governor, who is seeking re-election this year, had made cutting the state’s income tax one of her top legislative goals. David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the tax cuts would do little for most Oklahoma families while taking scarce tax dollars from public schools and other important services.
Efforts to fund Oklahoma City Indian museum and cultural center move to appropriations process
Plans to finish funding the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City may be considered by the Legislature this session even though the House failed to hear a bill to draw $40 million from the state’s unclaimed property fund to complete the long-stalled project. One of the bill’s authors, Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said Monday lawmakers are discussing the possibility of paying for the project through an appropriations bill that would stagger funding over three years.
Tulsa companies could add up to 317 jobs through Quality Jobs Program
The Williams Cos., Level 3 Communications and L-3 Communications Corp. have all pledged to add up to a combined 317 jobs to the area. Each company will be adding jobs as part of their participation in the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program, which encourages the creation of jobs in exchange for a tax rebate. Williams, which is based in Tulsa, will create 85 jobs for a maximum benefit of $4.46 million. Level 3 Communications, which is based in Broomfield, Colorado but has a large presence in Tulsa thanks to its 2005 purchase of WilTel Communications for $700 million, will add 162 jobs in Tulsa for a maximum benefit of $5.66 million.
It’s hard to evaluate polls if one of them is secret
On Friday, The Oklahoman published an editorial discussing two recent polls about Oklahoma’s horizontal drilling tax breaks. A poll commissioned by OK Policy found Oklahomans overwhelmingly favor ending the horizontal drilling tax break and using the savings to invest in core services. Another poll conducted by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates claimed to find Oklahomans favor keeping the tax rate at 1 percent for horizontal drilling.
Federal government has known for decades about link between injection wells and earthquakes
Earthquakes continue to shake Oklahoma in record numbers and intensity, and the federal government has known for decades that injection wells can lead to seismic activity. I came across a 2011 article in OilPrice.com that points out an injection well drilled by the U.S. Army was filled with liquid waste from 1962 to 1965 but that process was halted when it was determined it could be causing earthquakes. The well was drilled and maintained under the auspices of the now closed U.S. Army’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) located near Denver.
Gov. Mary Fallin signs anti-abortion bill, dozens more
A woman seeking an abortion due to a fetal anomaly incompatible with life must be informed of the availability of perinatal hospital services under an anti-abortion bill signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. The bill was one of two dozen bills signed by the governor Monday. House Bill 2685 bans abortions unless patients provide voluntary and informed consent at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, except in cases of medical emergencies. The new law makes it a felony to “knowingly or recklessly” perform an abortion or attempt to perform an abortion in violation of the terms of the act.
Struggling To Get Out Of Poverty: The ‘Two Generation’ Approach
Policy makers and thinkers have long debated how best to help low-income families break the cycle of generational poverty. A lot of people think one key is high-quality early childhood education. Others say equally important is support parents with job training and education, to get them into stable, decent paying jobs. In Tulsa, Okla., an experimental program is trying to do both. Career Advance gives vulnerable mothers access to high-quality preschool as well as to life coaching, financial incentives and intensive job training in in-demand fields like nursing and health care.
School to Prison Pipeline Funneling Children Into the System, Research Shows
Research shows that 2/3 of children not reading by 4th grade are headed to welfare, or to prison. The school to prison pipeline is a national trend that many believe is running through Oklahoma. In this extensive report, Tulsa’s Channel 8′s Kim Jackson spoke with two Oklahoma inmates who described their experience through the pipeline. “They just simply come to me and said I don’t think school is best for you. I was kind of shocked at that. And I agreed with them and dropped out,” said Kenneth Carter, who is an inmate at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester.
Oklahoma’s double execution set for Tuesday a rarity
Oklahoma is set to execute two men within two hours of each other on Tuesday, a rare occasion in the 21st century — but not in the earlier decades of state history. Barring any last-minute intervention by the courts or governor, the state plans to execute death row inmates Clayton Lockett at 6 p.m. and Charles Warner at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Lockett was sentenced to death for killing 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999 in Perry; Warner received the death penalty for raping and killing 11-month-old Adrianna Waller in Oklahoma City in 1997. Two executions on the same day wasn’t a rare occurrence in the 1930s. The last double execution was on June 11, 1937.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County following a tornado that struck Quapaw and killed at least one person. Fallin says the tornado that struck around 5:30 p.m. Sunday also destroyed Quapaw’s fire station and at least five businesses and other structures. Damage assessments are continuing Monday. Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions to deliver materials and supplies to needed jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance.
Three Years Later, Norman Residents Still Wait For Storm Shelter Rebates
Tornado season has returned once again, and after the experience of last year, many Oklahomans are re-assessing their safety plans and prepping their designated refuge areas. For some people, that just means cleaning out their safe room. But for others, this weekend’s tornado scare was a reminder that they still haven’t gotten funding they were promised to build safe rooms. The city expected to fund the rebates using money from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. But three years later, Stark and most of the other applicants are still waiting for that aid to arrive.
Political party switching idea gains little traction in Oklahoma
The stampede of registered Democrats to the Republican Party for this year’s GOP primary turned out to be more like rush hour in Cleora. Originally, the thought was that many Democrats, presumably educators or parents, would switch parties to vote in the Republican state superintendent primary between Joy Hofmeister and incumbent Janet Barresi. But, from mid-January until April 1, the Republican net gain among “switchers” was about 3,450. That’s two-tenths of 1 percent of all registered voters, and four-tenths of 1 percent of all registered Republicans.
“What the people who support Head Start in Tulsa came to realize pretty quickly was what moves the kids’ success socially, emotionally, educationally over time and produces a lasting effect is when their parents are also making progress. For example, so if a mother increases her educational attainment while the kids are say 1-year-old, 2-year-old, 3-year-old, that produces not only a positive impact on the kids’ progress, but it’s one that endures through 3rd grade, let’s say. Same thing with income. If a parent’s income goes up by 2 or $3,000 when the kids are young, it has an effect on the kids’ progress and it really lasts.”
-University of Texas research scientist Christopher King, commenting on an innovative Tulsa antipoverty program called Career Advance. Career Advance works to support vulnerable mothers by providing preschool, access to job training in high-demand fields, life coaching, and financial incentives (source: http://bit.ly/1kgzr1H).
Number of the Day
The hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent ($689/month) in Oklahoma working 40 hours a week.
The Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery
More than six years after the start of the 2008 recession, private sector employment is only just now returning to prerecession levels. Since employment hit bottom in February 2010, NELP has issued a series of reports tracking job growth, first by industry and later by occupation. Drawing on a variety of data sources, these analyses reached the same conclusion: Employment growth during the early recovery was heavily concentrated in lower-wage industries and occupations. We find that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the first phase of the recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now.