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9.8.23 – KGOU

State Treasurer Todd Russ reported Thursday that the state’s total revenue collections for the month of August were down $121.8 million, or 8.9%, compared to the same month one year ago. That’s a difference of $1.25 billion this year versus $1.37 billion one year ago.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider – taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I’m Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. We’ve talked about how Governor Stitt is continuing to push for cuts in the individual income and grocery sales taxes. That’s premised on the state of Oklahoma having a strong economy and more than $5 billion in savings accounts. But, Shawn, there are signs the economy is slowing and it’s having an effect on state revenue collections.

Shawn Ashley: That’s right. State Treasurer Todd Russ reported Thursday that the state’s total revenue collections for the month of August were down $121.8 million, or 8.9%, compared to the same month one year ago. That’s a difference of $1.25 billion this year versus $1.37 billion one year ago. Gross production tax collections and oil and natural gas were responsible for the largest part of the decline. Motor vehicle taxes and other collections that are made up of 60 different revenue sources also were down. Those declines were offset somewhat by increases in combined individual income and corporate income tax collections and sales and use tax collections. We will see later this month what impact the decline in total revenue has on the General Revenue Fund from which the Legislature made the majority of its appropriations.

Dick Pryor: You bet. That’s why these funds will bear watching. The State Department of Education is apparently partnering with an online content distribution company that produces what it calls “edutainment materials,” in line with the conservative right wing views of its founder, radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Shawn, his company calls itself PragerU, but it’s neither a university nor an educational institution. So, what is the nature of its relationship to the State Department of Education and what will PragerU be doing here?

Shawn Ashley: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this a bit, and I’m not sure I would really call it a partnership. Neither state law nor the State Department of Education’s academic standards require school districts to utilize particular curricula. In other words, school districts are not required to adopt the various offerings of PragerU. Those decisions are made locally. And a number of districts have indicated they do not plan to use the material. It also does not appear that there will be a financial relationship between the state or local districts because PragerU makes most of their material available for free on the internet. Now, what the organization and Superintendent Walters got out of this announcement was an opportunity to complain about so-called “woke indoctrination in public school classrooms,” which he and the CEO did in a video posted on the PragerU website.

Dick Pryor: Governor Stitt has appointed a new Native American liaison, Wes Nofire, former member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. His views appear to align with those of Governor Stitt, who’s had an ongoing, contentious relationship with Native American nations. The appointment is not being well-received by tribal officials. What are they saying?

Shawn Ashley: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. referred to Nofire’s appointment as “disappointing” and said the depth of knowledge about Indian Country issues in the governor’s office was now “shallower.” Wes Nofire’s brief time in elected office, Hoskin said, “was marked by a hostility towards Cherokee tribal sovereignty, a lack of understanding broadly of the issues facing Indian Country, and his peddling of conspiracy theories about the Cherokee Nation, which can only be described as unhinged,” Hoskin said. David Hill, Muscogee Nation principal chief, said he doesn’t believe staffing has ever been the problem preventing the governor from having constructive talks with tribal nations. “The governor sets the direction for his administration,” Hill said, “and he has made it clear that his policy is hostility towards tribes and their authority. It’s hard to see one staff appointment changing that.”

Dick Pryor: All right. Thank you, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You’re very welcome.

Dick Pryor: That’s Capitol Insider. For more information, go to a quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and listen to Capitol Insider where you get your podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.

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Dick Pryor

Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.