Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Special OK Legislative Session

Governor Mary Fallin



Gov. Mary Fallin announced  special legislative session will begin Sept. 3, 2014. Fallin’s executive order designating the session limits it to lawsuit reforms enacted in House Bill 1603, an omnibus package enacted in 2009 with bipartisan support. The Oklahoma Supreme Court in June ruled the legislation violated a state constitutional “single-subject” rule.

Nearly every state legislator with a prison in their district has signed onto a petition calling for corrections funding to be addressed if a special session is called, according to state Rep. Gus Blackwell.

As of Aug. 5, the state corrections system is at 97.7 percent capacity, or has filled 25,348 or the 25,946 state and contract beds available. There are 1,672 inmates in county jail that are awaiting transfer to the state corrections system, with a typical wait time of approximately 8 to 10 months. As of July 1, 61.68 percent of the correctional officer positions are filled.

According to the Department of Corrections, there is approximately $7 million remaining in the revolving funds referenced by Governor Mary Fallin when she rejected a supplemental appropriations request of the agency. Nearly $5 million in the revolving funds cannot be used by the agency unless they receive specific authorization from the Oklahoma Legislature, which they have yet to receive.

“Public safety is the number one legitimate core function of government,” Blackwell, R-Laverne. “It’s essential that we make sure that the officers and staff of the Department of Corrections are able to perform their jobs in an atmosphere of safety and that the citizens of Oklahoma are kept safe from the danger inherent in overcrowded prisons. The continued low number of officers coupled with the high incarceration rates is producing a situation that is conducive to extremely problematic scenarios in the DOC facilities.

In response to Governor Mary Fallin’s call for a special legislative session to revisit tort reform in Oklahoma, Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage stated “If the governor believes that tort reform is such a pressing issue that she must call a special session, then surely the safety and protection of DOC employees ought to also be on the agenda."

“The Democrats in the State Senate believe that a special session to revisit this issue is a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars,” said Burrage, D-Claremore. “At a cost of $30,000 per day, we are looking at spending close to $250,000 to fix a problem.”

“But, if this is a done deal, let’s make this special session worth the time and the cost and handle the critical issue of the December 31 cutoff date on Insure Oklahoma. If the Governor and the legislature stand idle on this issue, 30,000 hard working Oklahomans who have access to health care through Insure Oklahoma will lose that coverage as they ring in the New Year.

Because of that deadline, this is something we literally cannot wait until 2014 to address. The Republican leadership here at the Capitol clearly has its priorities wrong if they believe that addressing lawsuit reform in a special session is more important than finding a solution to providing access to healthcare for these hard working Oklahomans.”

Fallin didn’t extend her legislative call explicitly to health care. Many legislators had hoped she would so the looming demise of Insure Oklahoma could be addressed but majority Republicans likely have the votes to move a dozen or more bills through the pipeline three weeks from now.

Fallin’s Executive Order 2013-30 specified that “any legislative should be drafted in such a way to ensure that Article 5, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution, or any other Constitutional provision, is not violated.”

Twelve-month gross receipts to the Oklahoma treasury are at an all-time high

cashTwelve-month gross receipts to the Oklahoma treasury are at an all-time high, having surpassed in July the previous record high set in December 2008, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced today at a State Capitol news conference.

Gross receipts for the past 12 months total $11.3 billion and are $12.6 million, or 0.1 percent, above the previous record high, Miller said.

“By at least this one measure, Oklahoma has regained and moved past the ground it lost during the Great Recession,” Miller said. “The revenue recovery – from peak to peak – took four years and seven months.”

Twelve-month gross receipts hit a trough in February 2010 of $9.4 billion. Since then, collections have grown by more than $1.9 billion or 21 percent, Miller said.

Gross receipts in July were strong, totaling almost $924 million, up by $69 million or more than 8 percent from July of last year. All major revenue categories are up with the biggest increases coming from gross production and motor vehicle tax collections.

Tax officials say motor vehicle collections, up by 11 percent, and sales tax collections, up by 4.2 percent, were impacted by recovery from the May tornadoes, with rises reported in the retail construction materials and auto sales sectors.

Monthly receipts from oil and natural gas severance taxes are higher than collections from the prior year for a third consecutive month, following more than a year of negative reports. 

This week’s Baker Hughes report showed 168 development wells underway in Oklahoma, with 149 for oil and 19 for natural gas. Of those, 152 are horizontal and 13 are deeper than 15,000 feet.

Oklahoma’s employment picture remains better than the national average. June state unemployment was set at 5.1 percent, compared to the U.S. rate of 7.6 percent for the same month.

Looking forward

Miller said that while national economic growth has been underwhelming during the first half of the year, there are signs of an improving economy ahead.

“Broad economic indicators such as home construction, capital stock and investment, and inflation-adjusted income, are pointing toward increased growth, but threats remain,” he said.

“Second quarter growth was slightly impacted by federal spending reductions, especially military spending cuts, but the economy was strong enough to push past this fiscal drag,” Miller said. “Accelerated growth is expected for the remainder of the year, but a continued budget impasse in Washington could lead to a government shutdown and potential disruption of the economy.”

July collections

Receipts for July set gross collections at $923.85 million, up $68.88 million or 8.1 percent from July 2012.

Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $270.73 million, an increase of $23.39 million or 9.5 percent from the previous July.

Personal income tax collections for the month are $258 million, up $23.26 million or 9.9 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $12.73 million, up by $132,000 or 1 percent. The state’s top income tax rate was reduced from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent in January 2012.

Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $369.22 million in July. That is $14.78 million or 4.2 percent higher than July 2012.

Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $69.45 million in July, an increase of $11.13 million or 19.1 percent from last July. Compared to June reports, gross production collections are up by $1.6 million or 2.4 percent.

Motor vehicle taxes produced $64.33 million, up by $6.37 million or 11 percent from the prior year.

Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $150.11 million during the month. That is $13.21 million or 9.6 percent more than last July.

Twelve-month collections

Between August 2012 and July 2013, gross revenue totals $11.3 billion. That is $299.81 million or 2.7 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period.

Gross income taxes generated $4.15 billion for the period, reflecting an increase of $268.97 million or 6.9 percent from the prior 12 months.

Personal income tax collections total $3.52 billion, up by $189.47 million or 5.7 percent from the August 2011 to July 2012 period. Corporate collections are $629.03 million for the period, an increase of $79.5 million or 14.5 percent over the previous period.

Sales taxes for the period generated $4.22 billion, an increase of $157.69 million or 3.9 percent from the prior 12-months.

Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $726.2 million during the 12 months, down by $125.99 million or 14.8 percent from the previous period.

Motor vehicle collections total $682.47 million for the period. This is a decrease of $10.94 million or 1.6 percent from the trailing fiscal year.

Other sources generated $1.52 billion, up $10.08 million or 0.7 percent from the previous 12 months.