Budget update and what to do

by | May 23rd, 2017

Events at the Legislature are flying fast. Here’s the update!

Yesterday, Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt, Policy Director Gene Perry, and myself, Together Oklahoma Coordinator Kara Joy McKee, hosted a Budget Update Webinar and you can watch or listen to that update here.  We discuss what revenues are being considered so far, then what may be put on the table, and finally what you can do.

What you can do?

Build the enthusiasm is the name of the game!  Make calls, visit the Capitol, bring your friends!

We are building our legislators’ enthusiasm for passing good revenue bills.  We want them to know all their constituents WANT them to restore the gross production tax on oil and gas drilling to 7% on all wells all the time! Beyond that, we know the budget crater is big, and we want them to choose responsible solutions to fill it that don’t put all the burden on working Oklahoma families.  

  • Coordination of groups of Capitol visitors is happening in our Together OK Facebook group every day!
  • We will keep updating this Advocacy Alert on raising the gross production tax and putting out tons of info in blogs and on social media.
  • Strategy conversations are happening in Slack and on Facebook.

We’ve got your back so YOU can let legislators know that we all have their backs if they do the right things. 

  • Visit
  • Invite your friends to do so
  • Call
  • Write
  • Repeat

Keep it up!  You are making the most difference in this conversation that I have ever seen!

Budget, Breakfast, Wear Black

by | May 19th, 2017

Legislators will be at the Capitol tomorrow, so we are going to be there too. We need to make sure they have the support they need to do the right thing. We are Oklahoma and we are worth it!

Our legislators need to hear from you because big oil is coming on strong. On Wednesday, the oil and gas industry threw a party for legislators and handed out gifts, On Thursday, a big oil company bused their employees to the Capitol to counter-protest our group of advocates delivering letters, On Friday, they held a press conference to pressure lawmakers to settle for an inadequate revenue package to plug the FY18 budget shortfall.  

We don’t have to settle for more cuts when these same companies are paying much more in other states. (see chart below)

Our partners in the Save Our State Coalition gave a full response to that press conference here.  On Thursday, advocates just like you engaged in civil debates with the oil and gas employees, and many of them agreed with us once they got accurate information.

Any sacrifice by the oil industry to pay a fair tax rate is dwarfed by the losses that would follow more cuts to schools, road maintenance, public safety, and other key services for Oklahoma communities. It’s time for lawmakers to put Oklahomans first, end the generous giveaways to oil companies, and stop bargaining away the revenues needed to save our state.

If you can’t come in person invite others to join us and keep calling!

Beyond your continued calls to your own two state legislators (found here), please #Call McCall and #Shout 2 Schulz!

Call House Speaker McCall: (405) 557-7412 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that Speaker McCall allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

Call Senate President Pro Tem Schulz!: (405) 521-5612 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that President Pro Tem Schulz allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling.“

For more information and talking points on this issue, click here.

You are making a difference!  Now is the time to increase our efforts and show that we mean what we say.  I hope to see you at the Capitol tomorrow!

Shall we shuffle the deck chairs while the ship is sinking or do you want a raft?

by | May 17th, 2017

Last night, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted down the revenue proposals that leadership announced yesterday afternoon.

That means we are back to the drawing board and calling on you to keep doing one or all of these things!

  1. Call legislative leadership to demand a vote on restoring the gross production tax
  2. Join us Thursday at the Capitol OR give someone who is going to the Capitol your letters to House Speaker McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Schulz

Call legislators!

A LARGE majority of legislators understand that restoring the gross production tax on oil and gas drilling is the key to a budget agreement that will avert catastrophic cuts — but House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz are refusing to allow a vote to restore the gross production tax. Our advocates at the Capitol are hearing this same song in almost every office they visit right now.  Our Capitol team needs you to back them up with calls to the leaders who are blocking this vote!

Beyond your continued calls to your own two state legislators (found here), please #Call McCall and #Shout 2 Schulz!

#CallMcCall: (405) 557-7412 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that Speaker McCall allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

#Shout2Schulz!: (405) 521-5612 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that President Pro Tem Schulz allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

For more information and talking points on this issue, click here.

Join us Thursday at the Capitol!

The expression “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic” has come to mean frivolous activity in the face of an impending disaster. Are you noticing that some of our leadership seems to be similarly oblivious? Let’s NOT let them ignore the crisis one more year.  Join us in drawing attention to the absurdity of planning to pass another horrible budget when there are options to SAVE OUR STATE!

Our advocacy team will be there to welcome you at the 4th floor rotunda of your state Capitol beginning at 9:30AM, Thursday, May 18th.  We’ll look like Titanic passengers, so we’ll be hard to miss!  Updates will be posted throughout the day in the Facebook event and in the TOK Slack so if you have any questions post them there.

Attendees are encouraged to do the following:

1. Know we need you even if you can only come for a moment.
2. Feel free to dress as an oblivious passenger of the Titanic who kept on partying as the ship was sinking, or come as you are.
3. Bring a couple of brief letters addressed to the legislative leaders who MUST decide to hear our request to restore the 7 percent gross production tax on ALL oil and gas drilling. You can find them here: Template letter to McCall. Template letter to Schulz.
4. Gather letters from your friends to bring with you. We will be delivering these letters one at a time, so more letters is better!
5. If you can only be there for a little while, come early so we have a big group at the start in the 4th floor rotunda at 9:30am.
6. If you are coming later than 9:30am, check this Facebook event or TOK Slack to see if we are in need of something or have moved to a specific gathering place other than the 4th floor rotunda.
7. If you have questions consider asking the group instead of one person so we can collaborate successfully.

Give someone who is going to the Capitol a letter!

THIS is how we get enough revenue to get out of this mess. We’ve been at it all session and now is the time to band together and PUSH!  Keep those contacts coming!  Keep checking in with the team and check out this online advocacy alerts for updates.  Know that you are essential to our success and everyone on this team appreciates your efforts!


The Final Countdown!

by | May 12th, 2017

Thanks for coming to the Capitol or at least being willing to do so! Legislators still have a long way to go to fix the budget, but this week so many amazing people showed up to tell them what’s important. This is what democracy SHOULD look like. We are making a difference in a way that I haven’t seen before!

For the past couple weeks we’ve been doing the following:

  1. Carpooling when possible,
  2. Meeting up at the Capitol,
  3. Talking to our own legislators,
  4. Telling them about what the cuts will mean to our own families,
  5. Taking stock of who is willing to increase the gross production tax (GPT) on oil and gas,
  6. Finding out what other revenue options they are considering,
  7. Debunking some wacky GPT myths they’ve been told,
  8. Following up to thank them for their time,
  9. AND taking lots of pictures and videos to post on our own social media.

Here are three good examples of what I’m talking about.

I obviously can’t post Adam’s video via TOK social media but that is more than okay! You can even not post a video and just do photos with legislators like these from Chris Sanders, Jabee Williams, Charles Martin, and Debbie Hill.

Here is why anything goes on these:

  1. We need to overwhelm our legislators with contacts from constituents this week.
  2. They’re scared to raise the gross production tax on oil & gas though they know they should.
  3. With just a smidgen of your social cred, YOU have the power to give folks courage to come to the Capitol and or call legislators.
  4. We can win a budget that would literally save lives.  That is why we’re pulling out the stops.

If you need any more video inspiration.  Here is Andy Moore from Let’s Fix This explaining exactly what the heck is going on and just how angry he, and I, and others are about this.  (Yes, we do have life vests and buttons that you can wear!)

Next week!

The state constitution says they are supposed to have all revenue bills voted on before the last 5 days of session.  That means a May 19th deadline. The legislative session is supposed to end on May 26th, but they may go into special session instead. (If that seems confusing that is because it kinda is.) What you need to know is, each day of special session costs more than a teacher’s annual salary, so we want to avoid that.  We are going to get all the calls and visits we can get flowing their way on Monday and Tuesday.

What to do-

Sign up for a shift HERE or just show up at the Capitol and find us. You can also find a whole bunch of the team in conversation on our Together Oklahoma email alternative called Slack. (More about what Slack is and how we use it HERE.)

I bet I don’t have to tell you again that we need you, but we do. Many of our friends and neighbors can’t wait for the next election to get this right, not when hospitals, schools, and nursing homes are at stake. If you can’t come in person, keep calling and keep asking your friends to call.  We are in this together, and we are doing the best job of this I’ve ever seen!

Have you signed up for your shift?

by | April 26th, 2017

Opportunities abound to convince your two legislators to address the huge revenue shortfall with substantial revenues! But the legislators need to hear from you to have the back bone support to take action in a meaningful way.  You can make a difference by signing up to do any one or all of the three things below.  If you’re not available to table at Norman Music Fest, Phone Bank to Save Our State, and/or weigh anchor at one of our Capitol May Days, please remember, we still need you sharing the info from Together Oklahoma Facebook and Twitter and checking in with your fellow district teammates in Slack to find out who is showing up on your behalf.  Go team!

Norman Music Fest, Phone Banking, and Capitol Days!

Phone Banking to Save Our State!

When it comes to convincing the legislators to pass a better budget, emails and social media aren’t going to cut it. That is why we are going to take a little time to call all TOK members to let them know that we need them. On Thursday, April 27th and Saturday, April 29th we will have phone banks in both OKC and Tulsa to call our fellow Oklahomans and connect them to the SOS voicemail for legislators. 

OKC Phone Bank sign up poll for Thursday, April 27th and Saturday, April 29th

Tulsa Phone Bank sign up poll for Thursday, April 27th and Saturday, April 29th

Once you sign up we will follow up with details about where we’ll be meeting for the phone bank. If you can’t be there in person, let me know in Slack and we will find another way for you to be involved in the effort!

Capitol May Days

Together Oklahoma leaders will join the #SaveOurStateOK Coalition for days the Capitol in May. Sign up here to take a shift! We’ll help orient advocates for each of the days and times listed on this poll. There is NO reason to trust that the legislature will put out a good budget without knowing that their own constituents insist that #CutsHaveConsequences. The opponents of the Save Our State budget have highly paid lobbyists but we have better data and more people power. Sign up for your shift AND/OR convince someone you know to sign up on behalf of both of you. We’ll give you all the support you need to say “we won’t tolerate another budget that tears down our communities!” saveourstateok.org

TOK Norman at NMF

We will have a table at Norman Music Festival April 28-29. We will be handing out information about Together Oklahoma as well as selling water bottles, stickers and magnets. Our location will be in the Gray Street Lot, across the street from the Gray Owl. Ideally we’ll have three people for each shift, two to handle the table and one to roam the crowd handing out info sheets and sending people our way if they’re interested. Sign up to join us for a couple hours right here! 

There are so many ways to be involved and Oklahoma needs you!  Thank you for your time and efforts and I hope to see you soon.

SOS! Save our state from sinking!

by | April 24th, 2017

 Don’t worry! I don’t expect you to save our state by yourself but I do need your help to throw this life preserver.  The budget crisis is sinking our ship but the Oklahoma state legislators can throw us a life line and patch up the hull.  This week the Together Oklahoma coalition joined more than 20 organizations from around the state to demand our legislators pass the SOS budget plan

We can’t wait another year to fix this. Our schools have already seen funding cuts bigger than any other state, and they are struggling to keep well-qualified teachers or even to stay open five days a week. Nursing homes, rural hospitals, and county health departments are looking at shutting down or cutting back on crucial health services. We could see shuttered state parks, furloughed state troopers, and other deep cuts to basic services for Oklahomans. Without reforms this year, revenues may plunge to an all-time low compared to what our communities need. We are drowning!  Throw our state a life saving SOS Budget!

We won’t tolerate another budget that tears down our communities! You can call your own two legislators to personally have a conversation with them or with their assistant to endorse the Save Our State budget blueprint or you can follow the guide below to leave them a message.

Your 30-second guide to Saving Our State.

Oklahoma is in a budget crisis. As a result, our roads are crumbling, teachers are leaving and basic core services are being slashed. Fixing the situation is up to you – and your state legislator. And the first step you can take is as simple as leaving a voicemail for your State Representative and State Senator.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you say your name, phone number, and address at the beginning of the call (so your elected official knows they are hearing from a person in their district)
  • Be polite, but firm.
  • If you mess up, just dial the number and record again!

Let’s get started!

  • Dial (405) 353-1333 and follow the prompts to leave a voicemail.
  • Follow the script below. (You have up to one minute to record. Feel free to personalize it if you like, but include our website so they know where the call is coming from.)
  • Make sure you leave your address (so we can get your message to the right people).
  • Simply hang up when you are done (or call back if you want a “do over”).
  • We’ll deliver the voicemail to your state legislators on your behalf.

Sample script:

Hi, this is Jane Doe, and I live in your district at 432 Elm Street in Watonga, zip code 73772.

I’m calling to ask you to take the necessary steps to Save Our State and fix our budget. I support education, public safety, good roads and access to health care – and I am calling to ask you to do the same. I understand your job is hard, but it is not impossible. If you need help, please visit Save Our State OK Dot Org and read the budget blueprint, which I support.

Thank you, my phone number is (918) 456-5511 if you have any questions. Goodbye.[Note: Leaving your phone number is optional, but many legislators prefer you do so they can follow up.]

What’s next?

We can’t stress this enough – leaving a voicemail is the most impactful action you can take other than an in-person meeting with your lawmaker. It’s easy and fast, and it makes a difference. After that, here are some other actions for you to take:

  • Print this script, carry it with you, and ask your friends to leave a voicemail also.
  • Share the website – www.saveourstateok.org – on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #SaveOurStateOK and #OKLeg and ask your friends to call as well.
  • Sign up for more action updates at saveourstateok.org.

Your legislators won’t know that you want them to adopt this plan and stop our state from drowning if YOU don’t tell them!  

We have just a few weeks left this session and the state legislators have to be hearing from you!



Time to Sign Up!

by | April 13th, 2017

We are more than half-way through the legislative session. Whew! Since Together Oklahoma focuses on reasonable revenue solutions to fill the big ol’ budget hole, the last half of session means crunch time for us! There is NO reason to trust that the legislature will pass a good budget without hearing from you. They are already making deals and some of what some of them are saying would make you furious! There are so many ways to advocate but the most impactful way to communicate that we want them to do better is show up in person to look them in the eye and tell your story.

Sign Someone Up for a Day at the Capitol!

TOK leaders will be at the Oklahoma State Capitol to help orient advocates who sign up for any of the Capitol days and times listed on this poll.  Sign up for a time that you can be there AND/OR convince someone you know to sign up to be there on behalf of both of you.   We’ll give you all the support you need to say to our legislators-“We won’t tolerate another budget that tears down our communities!” 

Your commitment matters! Usually budget deals don’t come out until the very last moment of session, but thanks to your advocacy, we’re starting to see budget plans emerge, and more are on the way. Teachers, nurses, park rangers, students, rural doctors, fire fighters, and all the rest of our fellow Oklahomans are depending on us. I feel confident that Together Oklahoma members are going to do all we can to make sure this year’s state budget actually reflects our values! 

Keep up the great work, sign up for a Capitol day, and I’ll see you there!

– KJ

(For more about which key bills are still alive, which are dead, and what’s at play in negotiations over the state budget, check out this podcast from me and OK Policy)

One Thing Thursday: Celebrate Our Successes So Far!

by | April 6th, 2017

“Redbud tree” by Selena N. B. H. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You obviously care about our future.  If you didn’t, you would not be reading this weekly update from the Together Oklahoma Coalition.  I’m glad you are here and together let’s get grounded in reality.

I’m a gardener so I think a lot about getting grounded, or more specifically about the soil that my plants grow in.  Good soil, plus water, sunshine, and protection from pests, is all a plant needs.  I’ve come to think of our state budget as the soil that our society grows in.  Without adequate revenue our ability to provide schools with good teachers, well-maintained infrastructure, safe streets and neighborhoods, and public goods like state parks, libraries, and arts programs, will wither and die.  That ability is just like crops in the Dust Bowl. The public works we value are starting to blow away. But wait! There is a solution!  In fact, there are many revenue solutions that can anchor us back in solid ground. 

In the past couple One Thing Thursdays, I’ve asked you to call your legislators about these revenue solutions and then I asked that you connect with other people in your districts.  I hope you keep doing those things as we head into the last seven weeks of the legislative session.  

One Thing Thursday for April 6th:

Take a moment to celebrate that we are having some success!  Keep that fire in your belly that fuels your will to act, but also look around and see that we are on some higher ground.  Don’t believe me? Check out this list of things that are going better this session:

  • The Governor, her staff, some of the legislators, and the state Treasurer are all publicly stating that we have a revenue problem.  This is new!  The budget hole is NOT new but this is the first year I’ve seen elected leaders on both sides of the aisle realizing, and publicly proclaiming, that “we can’t cut our way to prosperity”.
  • There are more than 8,000 Together Oklahomans receiving this weekly email and many are following up with essential calls and visits to legislators.  Last year I asked people to join me at the Capitol and most days no one showed up. Now folks know that there are plenty of ways for each of us to be involved to the best of our abilities.
  • Senate Bill 170 to HALT AND REPEAL THE TAX CUT, has actually passed the Senate, and the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, and if we keep the pressure on, I believe it can make it all the way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.  Those of you who have been with us for a while know that we have been fighting to get this done FOR YEARS and we aren’t about to quit now. Advocacy Alert HERE.
  • Fewer bad bills this year– I know there have been some scandals, drama, and unconstitutional or pointless bills up at 23rd and Lincoln this session, but there actually seems to be fewer shenanigans this year and more legislators pushing back when those do show up.  Sure, we aren’t getting the laser focus on the revenue crisis that we hoped for, but I’ve seen worse years at our Capitol. Remember that the legislation that makes it on the 9 o’clock news usually tells us when things go wrong and not when they go right.
  • House Bill 2209: Tax Incidence Reports would give legislators more tools to make better decisions. It may not be all we want, but it gets the ball rolling, and with the help we’ve had from you it may just pass into law.
  • We have this snazzy new membership form and a growing Together Oklahoma leadership team.  We sometimes try to bite off more than we can chew, but if we all take a seat at the table, we’ll make it through this meal without a big belly ache.
  • Best of all, WE HAVE REVENUE OPTIONS, and we have seven more weeks to clearly communicate to our legislators and our fellow constituents why we MUST come to our senses, as a state, and pass a state budget with NO MORE CUTS.  Get good soil!

We can do this!  I believe in us, not because I’m excessively optimistic, but because I am paying attention to the big picture and seeing the ground we have gained.  In my mind’s eye, I can see our garden growing. See it with me.  What role do you plan in this care and cultivation team? A better future for our loved ones is within our reach.  Let’s celebrate our success, support each other, and keep working so that together we can make Oklahoma bloom and thrive!


One Thing Thursday: your legislators don’t answer to only you, what can you do?

by | March 30th, 2017

Thank you for joining us again this week to talk about one thing that you can do to join Together Oklahoma in our work to fully fund the priorities that matter to ALL Oklahomans. Our Together Oklahoma vision states that-

  • We confidently affirm that a budget is a moral document, and we are deeply troubled by what our current state budget says about Oklahoma values.

When we say “a budget is a moral document”, we mean a budget reflects the values of those who write it. If we don’t value something then we don’t put resources towards it. If the legislators of the state of Oklahoma want to keep showing us that they do not value what we value, like public schools, rural hospitals, nursing homes, our ability to respond to epidemics, water quality testing, safe roads and bridges, libraries, museums, state parks, disaster preparedness, domestic violence prevention, drug abuse treatment, and so much more, then our legislators may continue to choose to not fund those things. That is NOT their only option!

Do most Oklahomans value all those things?  I am confident that we do!  
It is up to us to help them make better choices. No one of us can do it alone.  Let’s get together with our district teams to support each other in fighting to make sure our tax dollars are used to invest in our values.

Your legislators need to know, that we know, that they have options to fund the budget.  Engaging with your fellow constituents, instead of going it alone, is essential because your legislators don’t answer to only you.  There are lots of advocacy tasks you can do on your own, but if you don’t engage with your fellow constituents at all, you are unwisely keeping yourself uninformed about information you need to know. 

One Thing Thursday for March 30th, 2017-

Meet with your district teams to plan how you’ll be influencing your own legislator and making sure they insist on investing in Oklahoma using good options to fund the budget

Again, please make a plan attend one of these district meetings for constituents in your own state legislative districts and/or follow these directions to set up your own meeting that other TOK members can attend.  Our future depends on you and what you do!


One Thing Thursday: Ask them for responsible revenues to avoid devastating budget cuts.

by | March 23rd, 2017

If you got this as an email, thanks for signing up for Together Oklahoma emails!  If you are reading this as a blog but want the email, sign up here.  You can find out more information about why Together Oklahoma enthusiastically affirms that “a budget is a moral document” and what we intend to do to about the ongoing state budget crisis at togetherok.org and at the bottom of this email.  

There are ways for all of us to have an impact and I want to help you find the ways that work best for you. Starting today, I’ll be asking you to do just one thing each Thursday!

One Thing Thursday for March 23rd:

Contact your two state legislators and insist that they support fair and responsible options to raise new revenues and avoid more devastating budget cuts!

Now’s the time to contact your Senator and Representative — by phone, email, or in person, if possible — and insist that they support fair and responsible options to raise new revenues and avoid devastating budget cuts. Let your legislators know how you, your family, and community have been affected by budget cuts and what the impact of deeper cuts would be. They need to hear that this is an urgent situation and that they must take action

Here are a few revenue ideas we encourage you to recommend when you reach out to legislators:

  • Partially offset the income tax cuts of the past decade by assessing a high-income surcharge;
  • Eliminate the capital gains tax break;
  • Restore the 7 percent tax rate on gross production;
  • Adopt combined corporate reporting;
  • Raise the cigarette tax.

You can learn more about these revenue options, as well as several other proposals, on OK Policy’s website. You can also download a two-page fact sheet, “Revenue options for a better budget.” For additional suggestions on how to advocate for a better budget, please see this recent blog post from Together Oklahoma.  If you want more tips on talking to your legislators you can find them here.You can find your legislators’ contact information here.

Thanks for taking the time to do this one thing. If you want more to do read on, and if not I’ll be in touch again next Thursday!

More about what individual TOK members are doing:

  • Participating in TOK Chapters or building new chapters. There are TOK Chapters where members are working together to host events, carpools to the Capitol, small group meetings with legislators, and more.  See how to start a chapter HERE.
  • Connecting with fellow constituents. The two legislators who represent you also answer to the rest of the constituents in your two state legislative districts. You can connect with your district teams because constituent power is stronger in larger numbers!
  • If you want to do more can fill out our Together Oklahoma membership form and one of our TOK leaders will connect you with more resources.

Together we are making Oklahoma better!