5th District congressional candidate Steve Russell said today he’s raised $105,000 for his campaign.
The former state senator said all his contributions came from individuals.
Russell’s report to the Federal Election Commission shows he still has much of the sum he’s raised on hand.
5th District congressional candidate Harvey Sparks has raised slightly less than $18,000 for his campaign, but he says his money disadvantage is no surprise.
Sparks, a former assistant to Tulsa Congressman Jim Bridenstine, said, “These numbers reflect the first three weeks of fundraising in a true grass-roots campaign. Not being connected to ‘Big Money,’ I am encouraged by the large number of people who are willing to give what they could to support me financially… Although I understand the reality that we may not raise the most funds, I am committed to show that hard work still plays a vital role in the political process.”
The Senate Republican caucus has voted unanimously to re-elect Pro Tem Brian Bingman to another term. Monday’s caucus vote means Bingman will be the first Republican in state history to serve three terms as Pro Tempore of the Senate.
“I am incredibly humbled and honored that my fellow Senators have given me the opportunity to continue to serve the state and all Oklahomans in this capacity,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “I look forward to working with the full membership of the Senate as we continue our efforts to create the jobs we need to fuel Oklahoma’s economy for generations to come.”
Under Bingman’s leadership in the Senate, landmark workers’ compensation and lawsuit reform have become law, and he has authored and continued to push for a reduction in Oklahoma’s income tax rate. Most recently, Bingman worked with his Senate colleagues and House leadership to remove the Common Core standards from statute, replacing them with high academic standards created by Oklahomans specifically for Oklahoma students.
“There is still much more work to do to make Oklahoma the best place to live and work in the nation,” said Bingman. “My fellow members and I are dedicated to meeting those challenges and creating greater opportunities for our citizens, our communities, and our state.”
Bingman will formally be elected Senate President Pro Tempore for the 55th Legislature when the Senate meets for an organizational day in January, 2015.
State Chamber President and CEO Fred Morgan made the following statement after the latest revenue report released by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services:
“We respectfully disagree with some of the analysis in the most recent revenue report which seems to blame the business community for collections falling short of estimates. Gross production tax revenue is certainly not at fault since the collections so far this year are actually $11-million or nearly six percent higher than the estimate. And we don’t believe attacking successful, proven tax credits is the proper message to be sending to job creators trying to move the state’s economy forward. The state has collected more money so far this year than at this point last year. So rather than making job creators the scapegoat, perhaps the solution should be found on the spending choices being made.”
As taxes increase for some Americans, nearly half in the U.S. say middle-income Americans pay too much in taxes, an increase from last year. Meanwhile, 23% say lower-income people pay too little, a near-record high. Read more at GALLUP.com.
Apr 15 2014 | Posted in General
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General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections tumbled 9.1 percent below the official estimate in March after another month of unusually low corporate income tax revenue, this time following a major increase in tax credit claims. That’s the official word today from Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger
As state government’s main operating fund, the GRF is the key indicator of state government’s fiscal status and the predominant funding source for the annual state budget. Made up of nearly 70 revenue sources, the GRF is where all taxes flow except those dedicated to specific programs.
March collections to the GRF totaled $412.8 million, which is $1.1 million, or 0.3 percent, less than collections for March 2013 and $41.4 million, or 9.1 percent, below the official revenue estimate upon which the Fiscal Year 2014 appropriated state budget is based.
March’s weak GRF collections rekindled the possibility of mandatory appropriation reductions for all state agencies in FY 14, the current state budget year that began July 1, 2013 and ends June 30, 2014.
“Oklahoma’s economy still shows growth and momentum that has total tax collections continuing to hit historic all-time highs. The catch is a variety of totally noneconomic government policy factors are preventing those collections from being used for state budget purposes,” said Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger. “These revenue issues are the creation of government, not the economy. Off-the-top apportionments, corporate income tax declines, tax credits and other tax and budgeting choices that in some cases date back decades are the reason this situation exists.”
For the first three quarters of FY 14, GRF collections totaled $3.9 billion, which is $7.2 million, or 0.2 percent, above prior year collections and $215.4 million, or 5.2 percent, below the official estimate.
The official estimate certified annually by the Board of Equalization is important because it is used by the Legislature to determine spending authority and sets the framework for the state’s constitutionally-required balanced budget. If revenues fall too far below the official estimate, the state cannot operate within its balanced budget requirements, which leads to mandatory appropriation reductions.
“I said in January that a string of abnormally weak months could cause issues, and we’ve had two tough months in a row now,” Doerflinger said. “Unless April GRF collections exceed the estimate, minor appropriation reductions to agencies may be necessary for the remainder of the year. Cash flows remain sufficient at this point, but we’ll need a strong finish to the year because we’re about out of options after two weak months and a weak start to the year.”
State law requires mandatory appropriation reductions for all agencies if revenues are not sufficient to fully provide monthly allocations to all agencies for the entire fiscal year. Such a scenario is called a “revenue failure.” Under state law, a five percent cushion is built in to the appropriated state budget to prevent revenue failures from occurring if revenues dip slightly below the official estimate. Sustained periods in which collections dip more than five percent below the official estimate put the state at risk of revenue failure.
FY 14 GRF collections ran more than five percent below the estimate throughout the first half of the fiscal year before the holiday season boosted collections back within the five percent cushion.
At the end of February, YTD collections to the GRF were 4.8 below the official estimate after February collections missed the estimate by 8.1 percent. In March, the Tax Commission reported a major increase in claimed tax credits, which caused further significant decreases in corporate income collections to the GRF that left YTD GRF collections 5.2 percent below the official estimate by month’s end.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating that agencies need to keep their belts tight and watch every penny,” Doerflinger said.
Among the factors driving the GRF’s FY 14 decline are:
- ongoing increases in off-the-top apportionments away from the GRF to other sources;
- major decreases in corporate income tax collections;
- recent increases in tax credits claimed by businesses; and
- gross production tax revenue losses related to horizontal drilling incentive provisions and deferred rebates.
“Policymakers should continue serious assessments of our fiscal trajectory or the GRF may continue shrinking like this for the foreseeable future,” Doerflinger said.
Doerflinger is director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which issues the monthly GRF reports.
Major tax categories in March contributed the following amounts to the GRF:
- Total income tax collections of $146.6 million were $18.7 million, or 11.3 percent, less than prior year collections and $28.4 million, or 16.2 percent, below the estimate.Individual income tax collections of $86.4 million were $9.2 million, or 11.9 percent, more than prior year collections and $1.7 million, or 2 percent, below the estimate.
Corporate income tax collections of $60.2 million were $27.9 million, or 31.7 percent, below prior year collections and $26.6 million, or 30.7 percent, below the estimate.
Sales tax collections of $153.6 million were $7.6 million, or 5.2 percent, more than prior year collections and $6.1 million, or 3.8 percent, below the estimate.
- Gross production tax collections of $39.2 million were $1.1 million, or 2.8 percent, more than prior year collections and $1.3 million, or 3.5 percent, above the estimate.Natural gas collections of $6.6 million were $1.8 million, or 21.2 percent, less than prior year collections and $8.2 million, or 55.3 percent, below the estimate.
Oil collections of $32.5 million were $2.9 million, or 9.7 percent, more than prior year collections and $9.6 million, or 41.7 percent, above the estimate.
- Motor vehicle tax collections of $14.7 million were $2 million, or 16.1 percent, more than prior year collections and $1.3 million, or 7.9 percent, below the estimate.
- Other revenue collections of $58.8 million were $6.9 million, or 13.3 percent, more than prior year collections and $7 million, or 10.6 percent, below the estimate.
Monthly revenue tables are available on the OMES website: http://www.ok.gov/OSF/News/March_2014_Financial_Report_Data_Tables.html
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and various educators around Oklahoma and across the country are expressing concerns that proposed state legislation would erase Oklahoma’s ability to measure student knowledge of social studies, geography and a significant portion of U.S. history.
Senate Bill 1654 seeks to eliminate state assessments on social studies in grades five and eight, as well as geography in grade seven. The seventh-grade world geography test is the only time students are currently tested on geographic knowledge.
While the U.S. history end-of-instruction exam would remain in place in high school, that assessment only covers standards that encompass history following the Civil War.
That means students would not be assessed that they know about the founding of the colonies, the Declaration of independence, the Revolutionary War, the writing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Civil War — in addition to everything else that happened in early American history.
“Oklahomans know what our nation’s flag represents. Thousands of Oklahomans sacrificed their lives fighting for it and thousands more are prepared to stand up for it today,” said Barresi. “If this bill passes — combined with another law enacted last year that diminishes end-of-instruction exams — it is possible that a student in Oklahoma could go through 12th grade without ever having been assessed on America’s heritage or values. What message do we send if we dispense with the ability to ensure the teaching of what, in many respects, is the story of America?”
Kelly Curtright, director of social studies education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), said eliminating the assessments would deemphasize social studies in elementary and middle schools, which are the foundational levels of learning and assessing if our youngest citizens are understanding their history and heritage.” Curtright is also the current president of the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies, which represents 1,400-plus educators.
“When citizens of a democracy are deprived of an effective social studies education, it places our citizens, our democratic principles and our Republic at risk. Citizenship illiteracy is no less destructive than reading illiteracy. We simply cannot afford to raise a generation of civic amnesiacs. Citizenship is as basic as reading, writing and arithmetic,” Curtright said.
His sentiments were echoed by Glenda Coleman, an eighth-grade American history teacher at Hefner Middle School in the Putnam City school district.
“SB 1654 does not hold students accountable for learning about the past but pushes students to walk blindly into the future,” she said.
The time it takes a student to take the aforementioned assessments is limited. The fifth-grade social studies exam takes 105-125 minutes for a student to complete, while the eighth-grade U.S. history assessment takes upwards of 110 minutes. Seventh-grade geography takes 90-110 minutes.
Leaders of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education, Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education and Oklahoma Council for History Education have all submitted letters opposing SB 1654.
“Students develop analytical and questioning skills from historical thinking that complements the skills they learn from math and science. History tells us that Ancient Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe prioritized learning the lessons of geography, good governance and of history. Should Oklahoma abandon our cultural heritage?” wrote Greg Oppel, a high school teacher in Edmond and president of the Oklahoma Council for History Education.
Susan Griffin, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies, wrote: “Removing social studies assessments sends the message that social studies is expendable. But it is absolutely critical. Social studies is where students gain the content knowledge, intellectual and analytical skills to synthesize information and communicate effectively. In addition to providing these 21st-century skills, it also creates the foundation for students to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
Chairman Emeritus of the National Geographic Society Gil Grosvenor said: “SB 1654 threatens to marginalize geography, history civics and economics instruction in Oklahoma, leaving students with a deficit in their fundamental K-12 education.
“While everyone understands that SB 1654 reflects a backlash against testing fatigue, few realize that social studies would become marginalized in the process of relieving this fatigue …We all agree that social studies education is critical to creating knowledgeable citizens so the assessment program should reflect this belief, as it has done for many years in the past.
“State-level student assessments are more than mere indicators of educational progress. The results of student assessments can provide critical information for decision-making in education policy and practice. What is assessed is a means to communicate goals and priorities to students, parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders.”
SB 1654 is next slated for consideration by the full House.
Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones said today he’s looking forward to a second term and moving ahead with his long range goals.
“I’m glad to be in this position and for the opportunity to remain focused on building upon our achievements of the past three years,” Jones said. “I’m fortunate to work with a select group of specialized auditing professionals who are also exceptional public servants.
Among his long-range goals for the agency, Jones says improving technological and digital advances in record storage are at the top of the list.
“We kept our 2011 pledge to eliminate the backlog of county audits and continue to do more work in this area to maintain our ambitious auditing schedule,” Jones said. “I’m going to continue to encourage our lawmakers to embrace the tremendous advantages of conducting performance audits. Our office is all about transparency and accountability. We are a tool the legislature should use to right-size government.”
Jones also advanced an overhaul of the state budgeting process during his first term. As the name implies, Needs Based Budgeting would fund an agency based on its actual need and not simply starting with the amount money it was appropriated the previous year.
“Many state agencies have millions of dollars in reserve and revolving funds that should be used more effectively to help fund state government,” Jones said. “We need to look at programs and make a legitimate determination as to whether each is efficiently delivering government services.
“It’s relatively easy to get distracted by things that are controversial instead of tackling less exciting, though no less critical, issues,” Jones said. “We’ll continue to do everything possible to make sure we don’t become the first generation of Americans to leave our children and grandchildren worse off than when we got here.”