Below is a slightly longer version of the story on tax credits that appeared in today’s paper:
- View the latest Tax Expenditure Report
- Read a report about the Investment/New Jobs tax credit by the Incentive Review Committee
- See who has qualified for tax credits on Open Books
BY PAUL MONIES
pmonies (at) opubco.com
One of southeast Oklahoma’s largest landowners has accumulated more than $54 million in state income tax credits, even though the company has closed or sold all but one of its manufacturing plants.
Also making the list are several executives affiliated with Nebraska-based Tenaska Inc., whose subsidiary owns a power plant near Kiowa. Together, those executives qualified for more than $23 million in state income tax credits.
The tax credits have piled up because the Oklahoma Investment/New Jobs tax credit allows businesses or individuals to take up to 20 years to claim the credits. The incentive allows tax credits of between 1 and 2 percent of the cost of a new manufacturing plant or expansion.
The long timeline gives new companies time to get established and build profits, said Treasurer Scott Meacham. But it can also cause problems for state budget forecasters, who likely face another revenue shortfall next year and no federal stimulus funds to close the budget gap.
“From a state budgetary standpoint, we don’t want those multiyear incentives,” Meacham said. “We would rather them hit currently so we have more predictability of our revenue stream.”
The Oklahoma Tax Commission publishes two reports on tax credits: a tax expenditure report that lists the total amount of credits, rebates or deductions claimed by taxpayers; and a list on the state’s Open Books website of who has qualified for tax credits.
The tax expenditure report shows companies and individuals claimed $28.5 million under the Investment/New Jobs tax credit in fiscal year 2010. However, the Open Books site shows $121 million was available to be claimed under that tax credit.
The two reports are not comparable, said Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission. That’s because the Open Books site lists the amount that could be claimed under a type of tax credit. If it’s actually claimed depends on whether the taxpayer has a tax liability large enough to use the credit, Ross said.
Big projects, big credits
Weyerhaeuser spokesman Greg French said that’s how the timber company ended up with such a large tax credit of $54 million. The company began operating in Oklahoma in 1969.
“The amount reflected is the total amount available to us as a result of previous investments in the state over a period of several decades,” French said. “That’s a running total of the credits still available to the company.”
Weyerhaeuser sold a Valiant container board mill in 2008 and closed its Wright City sawmill last year. The company still operates a softwood lumber sawmill in Idabel and timberland offices in Broken Bow. It has 162 employees and owns or leases nearly 500,000 acres of timberland in Oklahoma.
“Even though we no longer own some of those facilities, my understanding is that the credit stays with the company,” French said. “We made the investment, and therefore earned the credit. We would have to offset the credit with tax liabilities. It’s not a refund. Our earnings capacity in the state is substantially reduced. We have a smaller footprint, based on selling of facilities and closing of Wright City.”
Weyerhaeuser had no tax liability in Oklahoma last year and could not take advantage of the credit, French said.
Economic development officials and companies using the Investment/New Jobs tax credit say it’s a valuable part of an incentive package the state can offer to new and expanding companies.
A Tenaska subsidiary, Kiowa Power Partners LLC, spent $450 million to build a natural gas-fired power plant near Kiowa that employs 35 people. The plant began operations in 2003.
“Without these tax credits, this plant probably would not be in the state of Oklahoma,” said Ron Quinn, executive vice president of Tenaska. “It’s one of the ways in which the community has offered to share in the success of that facility being in the state. It doesn’t cost the state anything in the sense that they are offsets to Oklahoma tax revenue if and when we would owe such income taxes. If the plant wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be any tax revenue anyway.”
More than a dozen executives of Tenaska have qualified for income tax credits of at least $23 million, according to the Open Books tax credit data. Quinn said the structure of Kiowa Power Partners means those individuals are responsible for the income taxes on that project.
“It is our hope that we will be able to utilize every dollar of those credits that are available, because that is a good thing for us and a good thing for the state of Oklahoma,” Quinn said.
Tax credits face scrutiny
Tax credits of all types have come under scrutiny as the state faces budget shortfalls and evidence arose of misuse among some types of venture capital tax credits. Lawmakers passed a moratorium on several income tax credits earlier this year, including a two-year moratorium on the Investment/New Jobs tax credit.
The suspension of the tax credits is expected to bring in an extra $55 million in the current fiscal year, according to the latest state Board of Equalization estimates.
Tax credits also have become part of the campaign over State Question 744, which would raise common education per-pupil funding to at least the regional average. It’s estimated the state would need to find between $830 million and $1.7 billion a year to get to that level.
Backers of SQ 744 said the additional money could come from ending some state tax credits. But detractors said passage of the measure could mean cuts to all other state services and possible tax increases.
“There’s an attitude out there now that all tax credits are bad, and I don’t believe that,” said Meacham, who opposes SQ 744. “We need tax credits as a tool to stimulate economic development and job creation in our state.”
Still, part of the idea of the moratorium on some tax credits was to give officials time to study their effectiveness, he said.
“A lot of these credits really need revisiting to make sure the way they work makes sense for the state,” Meacham said. “What happened over time is that different entities would come to the Capitol and lobbyists would come to try to get deals made for their clients. Our tax code got riddled with all these different sorts of credits.”
The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Visit http://www.newsok.com/watchdog
The nonprofit journalism site ProPublica has an interesting set of stories out today detailing the amount doctors have been paid by drug companies for consulting, speaking and educational work. The stories include a searchable database to see if your doctor has been among those paid. Among the doctors being paid were more than 260 from Oklahoma.
Recruited and trained by the drug companies, the physicians — accompanied by drug reps — give talks to doctors over small dinners, lecture during hospital teaching sessions and chat over the Internet. They typically must adhere to company slides and talking points.
These presentations fill an educational gap, especially for geographically isolated primary care doctors charged with treating everything from lung conditions to migraines. For these doctors, poring over a stack of journal articles on the latest treatments may be unrealistic. A pharma-sponsored dinner may be their only exposure to new drugs that are safer and more effective.
Oklahoma pulmonologist James Seebass, for example, earned $218,800 from Glaxo in 2009 and 2010 for lecturing about respiratory diseases “in the boonies,” he said. On a recent trip, he said, he drove to “a little bar 40 miles from Odessa,” Texas, where physicians and nurse practitioners had come 50 to 60 miles to hear him.
Seebass, the former chair of internal medicine at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, said such talks are “a calling,” and he is booking them for 2011.
The fees paid to speakers are fair compensation for their time away from their practices, and for travel and preparation as well as lecturing, the companies say.
ProPublica notes that just because a doctor is listed, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. But its journalism partners also took a look at some of the doctors and found a few had been disciplined by state medical boards.
We found several dozen of the top speakers did not have board certifications — which means they were not certified in their medical specialties — and then we found more than 250 doctors who had some type of sanction taken against them by a state medical board. And we just looked at a sampling of states.
Some of the discipline was really quite serious. The Ohio Medical Board, for example, voted a couple of years back to revoke the license of William David Leak, whom they accused of performing unnecessary nerve tests on 20 patients and subjecting some to an excessive number of invasive procedures. Dr. Leak is appealing the penalty, and his license is still active, but since 2009 he has received $85,000 from Eli Lilly and Co.
The disclosure of doctor payments comes from the websites of several pharmaceutical companies, some of which were compelled to start the sites as part of legal settlements. The new federal health care law will mandate similar information from all drug companies by 2013. For more on the ProPublica data, and its limitations, click here.
Elections 2010: Oklahoma companies contribute $1.4 million to Republican Governors Association in 3rd Quarter
We ran a story back in August about how much Oklahoma companies and wealthy individuals contributed to national political groups called 527s. Those groups are organized under the federal tax code to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races. The only limitation is that the ads cannot be coordinated with campaigns.
Well, the latest quarterly reports were filed Friday with the Internal Revenue Service, and the money has kept flowing from Oklahoma donors.
The Republican Governors Association, which has run several TV ads supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate Mary Fallin, brought in more than $1.4 million from Oklahomans in the third quarter. Here’s a quick look at state contributors who gave the RGA more than $5,000 from July to September:
By contrast, the Democratic Governors Association collected just $1,250 in contributions from Oklahomans during the same period.
In its IRS filings, the Republican Governors Association reported raising $31 million in the third quarter. Its Democratic counterpart collected $9.8 million during the same period.
For more information on 527 groups, check out the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets site.
From Sunday’s newspaper:
- Click here to see a list of Oklahoma companies, tribes and individuals who gave more than $5,000 to IRS 527 political groups.
By Paul Monies
More than $2 million has flowed from Oklahoma companies, tribes and wealthy individuals to national political groups such as the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association.
Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. has given $900,000 to those types of groups in the current election cycle, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The Chickasaw Nation has contributed $360,000 since January 2009.
The Oklahoman examined contributions of $5,000 or more to the organizations, which are called 527 groups after the section of federal tax code under which they are organized. The tax-exempt organizations can accept unlimited amounts of money from companies, unions and individuals.
The 527 groups are limited in how they spend contributions on political campaigns and issues. They cannot make direct contributions to candidates, but they can run ads, make phone calls or do other political activities.
Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said many companies feel more comfortable contributing to groups that will make independent expenditures in political campaigns. Companies also are trying to blunt the effects of similar spending by labor unions.
“They are the only form of political actor out there who faces an economic sanction for political action from customers,” Gaddie said. “If you get too political as a corporation, you face consumer boycotts, and you can lose customers.”
Gaddie pointed to retail giant Target Corp., which recently gave $150,000 to a group backing a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who opposes gay marriage. The company soon faced boycotts and protests by groups supporting gay rights.
Labor unions don’t face the same type of backlash for their contributions because their members expect a certain level of advocacy, Gaddie said.
Devon Energy made contributions to the Republican State Leadership Comjmittee ($350,000) and the Republican Governors Association ($300,000).
The company also contributed $250,000 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 group founded by former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Chip Minty, a spokesman for Devon, said the company’s donations are based on candidate records and groups that support job growth and a healthy business environment. Minty said Devon’s political contributions are a small part of the overall spending by the company, which has annual revenue of almost $9 billion.
“We think it’s our responsibility as a publicly traded company, a major employer and a partner in communities where we operate to be engaged in conversations about energy policy,” Minty said. “If we’re not doing that, then we’re going to have to answer to our shareholders about that.”
Across town, Chesapeake Energy Corp. has been more subdued in giving to 527 groups this election cycle. The Democratic Governors Association reported a $25,000 contribution from Chesapeake in May. Company spokesman Jim Gipson said Chesapeake also plans to give a similar amount to the Republican Governors Association.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, stopped in Tulsa last week to raise money for Mary Fallin, the GOP candidate for Oklahoma governor. The association raised more than $58 million since January 2009, according to IRS filings. The Democratic Governors Association raised $40.2 million during the same period.
Gaddie said upcoming redistricting battles in several states are helping drive contributions to the governors associations. There are gubernatorial races in 37 states this year. Governors play key roles in redistricting state and federal electoral districts in most states.
“The more governorships you control, the better position you’re in to ensure that your party doesn’t get totally jobbed during redistricting,” Gaddie said.
Other companies with Oklahoma ties giving to both the Republican and Democratic governors associations include Marathon Oil Co. and Noble Energy Inc.
The Chickasaw Nation gave more than $133,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $125,000 to the Republican Governors Association. The tribe also contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the tribe supports a variety of individuals and organizations involved in the political process.
“A working government-to-government relationship is integral to achieving our mission of enhancing the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people,” Anoatubby said in a statement.
Individuals, companies and labor unions have different limits on contributions to political groups depending on how the groups are set up and how they use the donated funds:
Political action committees: These are organized by people with similar political philosophies to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes. Most PACs represent businesses, labor or ideological groups. They are not allowed to accept direct contributions from companies or labor unions, but they can contribute funds to candidate campaign committees. State and federal laws limit the amount of contributions to PACs from individuals or other PACs.
Internal Revenue Service 527 groups: Tax-exempt groups set up for political activities, including voter mobilization and issue advocacy. They can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations or labor unions, but they can’t donate those funds directly to candidates.
Source: Center for Responsive Politics
From Sunday’s paper:
BY PAUL MONIES
Registered lobbyists have given more than $360,000 to campaigns for the fall elections, with statewide candidates picking up the biggest share of the contributions.
That’s according to an analysis of state Ethics Commission filings by The Oklahoman.
The total haul so far could outpace lobbyist contributions from the last gubernatorial election year. Lobbyists gave more than $588,000 to candidates for the 2006 election.
The Oklahoman identified more than 130 registered lobbyists who gave contributions to 2010 campaigns. Just five lobbyists have given almost one-third of the $360,000 total so far.
Republicans, who control the House and Senate, received about $190,000, while Democrats got almost $155,000.
Another $13,000 went to nonpartisan judicial candidates.
Lobbyists allow groups, businesses and associations to have a voice at the Capitol when legislation that affects them is being formulated.
Lobbyists said they give to campaigns for many of the same reasons as other contributors: to support candidates who share their views. Individuals cannot give more than $5,000 to each candidate in an election cycle.
“My philosophy on giving is that it’s people I have a relationship with that I hope to see do well,” said Bobby Stem, founder of lobbying firm Capitol Gains LLC. “We give when our friends ask for it and are needing it for certain media buys and things like that.”
Barry K. Moore, who represents rural telephone companies for The BKM Group, is the top lobbyist contributor with about $43,000 for 2010 campaigns. Most of those contributions went to House and Senate candidates in both parties.
Other top lobbyist contributors are:
Jami Longacre, $25,600. Longacre’s clients include companies in the finance, insurance and automobile sectors.
Clayton Taylor, $23,850. He represents clients across several industries, including utilities, finance, health care and technology. “We look at folks who have been helpful in creating a more pro-business climate in the state of Oklahoma,” Taylor said.
Benny Vanatta, $22,750. His clients include companies in the energy and manufacturing industries, as well as several health-related associations.
Stem, who has contributed more than $18,000 to 2010 candidates. Among Stem’s clients are the Choctaw Nation, the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Moore, who has been a lobbyist since 1988, said he gives widely to candidates. Records show more than 40 contributions so far.
“I’m a nonpartisan person,” Moore said. “I honestly believe, and I have ever since I’ve been involved in the process, that if you just deal in the facts about the issue and you’re very candid about the issues, that’s all that’s required. I don’t think that varies if they’ve been in public office 12 days or 12 years.”
A 2008 law by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits registered lobbyists from contributing to House and Senate candidates during the legislative session and for five days after it ends. A later attorney general opinion said the law did not apply to political action committees giving to legislative candidates during the “blackout” period from February to the end of May.
Political action committees allow people with similar political philosophies to group together to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes.
Dank said he pushed for the law after seeing an interest group and several executives from the coal industry contribute more than $100,000 during the 2006 legislative session.
“After the fact is one thing, but when people are giving you money and expect to vote a certain way, that’s unacceptable,” Dank said.
Several lobbyists said they have no problem with Dank’s law. Taylor said the blackout period has allowed lobbyists — and members of the Legislature — to focus on issues and legislation.
“It has made it easier on me because I don’t have to do political fundraisers during the session,” Taylor said.
With more bills being filed in each session, there’s also more work for everyone involved in the legislative process, Longacre said.
If re-elected, Dank said he plans to introduce an ethics reform bill building on his 2008 legislation. It could include a prohibition on political action committee contributions during the session, he said.
Five statewide candidates each have received more than $20,000 in contributions from registered lobbyists, with Jari Askins leading the way with more than $36,000. Askins, the lieutenant governor, won a narrow victory last month over Attorney General Drew Edmondson in the Democratic primary for governor. Edmondson received more than $28,000 from registered lobbyists.
Lobbyists contributed about $31,000 to Todd Lamb, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, has $23,000 in lobbyist contributions for her gubernatorial campaign. Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, a Democrat, received more than $20,000 in contributions from lobbyists.
The totals from lobbyists are a small share of overall contributions for those campaigns.
Askins, Fallin and Edmondson each raised more than $2 million for their campaigns.
The Oklahoman identified at least $360,000 in campaign contributions from registered lobbyists to state candidates in the election so far. Here’s how the contributions break down by office:
1. Governor: $87,000
2. Senate: $76,000
3. House of Representatives: $63,000
4. Lieutenant Governor: $42,000
5. Treasurer: $24,000
6. Insurance Commissioner: $20,000
7. Other offices: $48,000
*Note: The analysis matched a list of registered lobbyists with individual contributions from Ethics Commission data. The amounts are conservative and may not reflect misspellings or other reporting errors by campaigns.
SOURCE: The Oklahoman analysis of state Ethics Commission filings
Hundreds of campaign donors have given $5,000 each — the maximum allowed by law — to statewide candidates in advance of Tuesday’s primary elections, records show.
- View a list of maxed-out donors here.
From Sunday’s paper:
BY PAUL MONIES and JOHN ESTUS
A sluggish economy hasn’t slowed political donations this campaign season.
As Tuesday’s primary approaches, hundreds of donors have already given $5,000 each — the maximum amount allowed by law — to a statewide campaign, according to an analysis of Ethics Commission campaign finance data.
Some top donors said it’s the economy that has spurred them to give so much this year.
Among them is Devon Energy Corp. Executive Chairman Larry Nichols, who said he’ll consider donating to candidates who are intelligent, hard-working and have a vision based on “sound principles” about where the state should go — particularly from an economic standpoint.
“States either grow or shrink,” Nichols said. “Without a vibrant economy, which is to say good employers and good jobs, the state cannot generate enough resources to do those things that citizens want state governments to do.”
Nichols has given maximum donations to six statewide candidates this campaign season — more than any other donor has given to statewide candidates, the analysis shows.
One of those is the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who has the most maximum donations of any statewide candidate, with 206 from individuals and 17 from political action committees, the analysis shows.
Her campaign has raised $2.4 million.
The 5th Congressional District representative and former lieutenant governor is the favorite to secure the Republican nomination Tuesday.
Her top opponent, state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, has 11 individual donors who have given $5,000. Brogdon has raised about $392,000.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson has the next highest amount of maxed out donors after Fallin among statewide candidates, with 123 individuals, three political action committees and three American Indian tribes giving $5,000, according to the analysis.
Edmondson’s campaign has raised $2.6 million.
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, who is locked in a tight battle with Edmondson for the Democratic nomination for governor, has received 79 maximum donations from individuals, six from political action committees and five from tribes, the analysis shows.
Askins has raised $2.1 million, including $675,000 of her own money she loaned her campaign.
Election year ‘important’ Nichols called this year’s campaign season “probably the most important election in my life” because of the progress Oklahoma has made in recent years.
“Oklahoma is really poised on the edge of being able to attract quality jobs to this state,” Nichols said. “To do that, we need some legislators and some statewide elected officials that have a vision of where this state might go to create a better lifestyle for all of our citizens.”
In addition to Fallin, Nichols also gave $5,000 each to the statewide campaigns of attorney general candidate Scott Pruitt, superintendent of public instruction candidate Janet Barresi, Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy, treasurer candidate Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, and lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond.
Several of Edmondson’s maximum campaign donors did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
Among the maximum donors to Askins is Barry Switzer, the former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys football coach.
Switzer endorsed Askins recently, saying in a radio advertisement that “she’s a great friend, a sports fan and she’ll be a great governor.”
The coach added: “And not to mention, she’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet.”
Who are the maxed-out donors?
The maxed-out campaign contributors to statewide candidates are overwhelmingly from the legal profession and business.
Almost $3.4 million has come so far from individual donors who have contributed $5,000 to various state campaigns.
More than 20 percent of the big contributors identified themselves as attorneys or lawyers. Their combined giving so far to statewide candidates is more than $700,000.
Business executives also were big donors, with more than $700,000 coming from people describing themselves as chief executive officers, owners, presidents or management employees. Other big donors were either retired, doctors or bankers.
More than $3 million came from Oklahoma residents. Big-donor Texans contributed more than $85,000, while at least $30,000 came from Arizona.
Donors report their occupation and employer to campaigns, which then file reports to the state Ethics Commission. Many donors choose not to report, making exact comparisons difficult.
–Paul Monies, Database Editor
Maxed-out donors at a glance
Candidates have already received hundreds of maximum contributions from donors — individuals, political action committees or tribes — this election season. (i = incumbent)
Mary Fallin (R)
Drew Edmondson (D)
Jari Askins (D)
Randy Brogdon (R)
Roger Jackson (R)
Todd Lamb (R)
Kenneth Corn (D)
Paul Nosak (R)
Ryan Leonard (R)
Scott Pruitt (R)
Jim Priest (D)
Ken Miller (R)
Owen Laughlin (R)
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Janet Barresi (R)
Susan Paddack (D)
AUDITOR AND INSPECTOR
i-Steve Burrage (D)
Gary Jones (R)
i-Kim Holland (D)
John Crawford (R)
John Doak (R)
i-Lloyd Fields (D)
Jason Reese (R)
i-Dana Murphy (R)
Source: Oklahoma Ethics Commission data through July 23, 2010; Data analysis by Staff Writers Paul Monies and John Estus
From Saturday’s paper:
As part of the state budget agreement, Oklahoma motor vehicle records will now cost $25 apiece – the highest fee for such records in the nation. Insurance companies use the records to set rates.
BY PAUL MONIES
A budget plan to more than double the price of driving records gives Oklahoma a new distinction: it now charges more than any other state.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1556, motor vehicle records will cost $25, up from $10. An additional fee of $2.50 remains for online sales by NIC Inc., the company that operates the state’s website. The online charge was not raised.
The bill now goes to Gov. Brad Henry, but the increase was part of the budget agreement finalized last week between the governor and legislative leaders.
Charges for motor vehicle records vary widely nationwide, according to a compilation of rates by public records publisher BRB Publications Inc. Rhode Island charges $19.50. New Mexico provides copies of the records for free, although it does charge $4.95 if they are ordered online.
More than 20 states charge extra fees for online access to the records.
Michael Sankey, president of BRB Publications and author of several books on motor vehicle records, said a handful of states increase the fees on those records each year.
It’s a money-making deal for states because the actual costs for motor vehicle records are far lower than what most states charge, he said.
The higher Oklahoma fees mean the state could make more than $30 million a year selling motor vehicle records to insurance companies, data brokers and employment verification firms. A fiscal analysis of SB 1556 prepared by legislative staff shows the increase could add $12 million to the state’s general fund and $6 million to a revolving fund for the state Department of Public Safety.
In the past five years, Oklahoma has brought in about $13 million each year for selling those records, according to records.
Included on the records are names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers and recent driving histories. The type of information sold is governed by the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act.
The act contains more than a dozen possible scenarios that allow numerous public and private organizations and individuals to obtain the records, but most of the buyers are insurance companies.
Jim Walker, a lobbyist for State Farm Insurance, said he heard earlier this year Oklahoma’s fee might be raised to $15. Walker said the company was “shocked” last week to see the fee raised to $25.
“This could ultimately translate into higher insurance rates,” Walker said.
Insurance companies use the driving history part of the records to set car insurance rates. Walker said Oklahoma’s higher fees could mean State Farm buys the records less frequently. That would give it less flexibility in setting rates for good drivers.
“If you’re a good driver, we don’t want to charge you the same as a bad driver,” Walker said.
UPDATE, 6/1/10: I went back and looked at Gov. Henry’s budget proposal from February and saw the following passage on Page 10:
Certified Copies of Driving Records
The State charges $10 to persons attaining a certified copy of a driver record. The Department of Public Safety forecasts that it will collect $10.6 million in FY-2011 at the current rate. This budget proposes doubling the fee for such copies to $20. This generates an additional $10.6 million in revenue for FY-2011.
A key part of the state budget deal means Oklahoma could bring in another $18 million a year from selling motor vehicle records to insurance companies and employment verification firms that include the personal information of all licensed drivers.
From April’s story:
The state of Oklahoma makes tens of millions of dollars selling personal information about people that some lawmakers and labor organizations want kept secret for government employees, The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World have learned.
At least $65 million has been made in the past five years from the sale of millions of motor vehicle records that include birth dates and other personal information of all state drivers, Department of Public Safety records show.
A private company has collected about $15 million conducting most of those transactions on behalf of the state, records show.
Here’s the relevant graphic from that story:
The sale of motor vehicle records is allowed under the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. Information sold includes name, birth date, driver’s license number and recent driving violations.
Now, as part of the budget agreement, Senate Bill 1556 would more than double the price of each motor vehicle record to $25, up from $10. The bill is by Sen. Mike Johnson, R-Kingfisher, and Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond.
According to a fiscal analysis prepared by legislative staff, this increase could bring in an extra $12 million to the state’s General Revenue Fund, with an additional $6 million earmarked for the state Department of Public Safety revolving fund.
That means the state revenue from those data sales could go from an average of $13 million a year to more than $30 million a year under the increased fees.
UPDATE: The Senate on Tuesday afternoon passed HB 3422 by a vote of 44-0. It now goes to the governor.
It’s already been a busy last week of session at the Oklahoma Legislature, but a couple of transparency bills have moved one step closer to being law.
On Monday, the House approved House Bill 3422 by Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. It adds more features and transparency to the state’s Open Books website for financial information. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has more in today’s paper. HB 3422 now goes back to the Senate for final approval.
From the bill summary:
HB3422 amends existing law by requiring the Office of State Finance (OSF) to update the state’s Open Books website with “Open Books 2.0” by January 1, 2011.
Open Books 2.0 will be a more expansive, searchable online database that lists individual expenditures – regardless of amount – separate from aggregated amounts. The website must present the data in a standardized exportable format. Within 18 months of Open Books 2.0 being online, OSF must create an online archive for each fiscal year beginning with FY-11. The archive must be accessible and searchable to online users.
HB 3422 also peels back some of the secrecy surrounding the state’s tax credits. It expands the information collected on the claimants and brokers of income tax credits:
HB3422 also adds a new law that requires the Oklahoma Tax Commission to prepare and maintain a list of all taxpayers who have claimed any tax credit authorized by any provisions of state law and related to a tax administered by the Tax Commission. It then requires the Office of State Finance to make this list available on the Internet. The list must include the name of each taxpayer who claimed a credit, the amount of such credit and the specific statutory provision under which the credit was claimed. The list must be updated on at least a monthly basis.
However, it does not require the same disclosure information on claimants of the insurance premium tax credits, which are administered by the state Insurance Department. Almost $58 million in insurance premium tax credits were claimed in tax year 2008, according to the department. That’s up from $54 million in 2007 and $39 million in 2006.
That increase in insurance premium tax credits claimed came despite collections on that tax remaining fairly steady in those three years. Almost $166 million in premium taxes was collected in 2006, while $159 million was collected in 2008, according to the department.
Marc Young, Insurance Department spokesman, said information about the insurance premium tax credits is available from the department, but it is not required to post the information on Open Books. Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who worked on the tax credit language in HB 3422, said adding insurance premium tax credits to Open Books might come in a future legislative session.
School district spending transparency
This morning, the House approved Senate Bill 1633, the School District Transparency Act. The bill, by Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, and Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell, directs the state Department of Education to create a website for searching school district financial data such as credit card payments, instructional costs and administrative overhead.
Some of that data is already available on the department’s website, but it’s contained in hundreds of separate PDF files. That makes it hard to get a complete picture of school district spending over time and makes it difficult to compare school districts against each other. Here’s an example of one of the reports in the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System at the department:
The Gov 2.0a conference had a busy first day on Thursday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. There’s a lot of good work being done both in Oklahoma and nationally in terms of government transparency, technology and citizen engagement.
I gave an abbreviated version of this presentation on an afternoon panel with Matt Mueller, city manager of Guthrie; Stephen Nolen, chief information officer for Shawnee; and Craige Baird, technology services director for Ponca City.
Developing a Data Ecosystem: Media’s Role in Gov 2.0
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to recap all the presentations from Day One, but among the highlights were presentations by Laurel Ruma, the Gov 2.0 evangelist for O’Reilly Media Inc., and a keynote speech Thursday evening by Oklahoma’s new chief information officer Alex Pettit.
Pettit, who has held technology positions with the Denton, Texas, and Brown University in Rhode Island, had a refreshing take on the technology landscape in state government. In his experience, Pettit said vendors have gained most of the power in technology procurement and processes and often work with information specialists inside agencies to block changes. (Read more on those types of “iron triangles” and “regulatory capture.”)
Pettit has been on the job for a little over one month. In a humorous aside, he described his efforts to reach out to some of the technology heads at various state agencies to ask them about their plans for fiscal year 2011. Aside a few who ignored the e-mails, some e-mailed back to ask just one question: “Do we have to comply?” with Pettit’s request.
“My mother would call that chutzpah,” Pettit said.
Pettit said he had no silver bullets to reform state technology and that he was committed to active consultations with the users, buyers and managers of technology at state agencies. (Keep in mind that Pettit’s position does not cover any technology controlled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, which lobbied to be kept off the law that created the CIO position at the end of the 2009 legislative session.)
He said state technology should move to a “one state” focus on the ultimate end user: the citizen. Part of the solution will be recognizing that political leadership and citizens are “outcome oriented,” while those in charge of technology at state agencies are often “process oriented.”