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All articles by Courtney Cullison

In The Know: Attracting New Industries To Oklahoma Is Serious Business

by | July 24th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Attracting New Industries To Oklahoma Is Serious Business: Even as the state’s unemployment rate has made a steady decline in recent months, the work of those whose job is to try and create more jobs is certainly not done. It never is, especially in a state like Oklahoma where the economy can be very fragile. The tendency for crude oil and natural gas prices to fluctuate wildly, and unexpectedly, has made it abundantly clear in recent decades that the bottom can fall out of the state’s leading industry at, seemingly, a moment’s notice. [NewsOn6]

State’s most vulnerable citizens in jeopardy: Though detractors continue to insist the DHS needs to “live within its means,” cuts imposed by the Legislature have made that almost impossible. The agency has slashed 1,200 jobs just over the past two years, about 15 percent of its workforce. Staffers are forced to share the burden in addressing client needs, and that has become an almost insurmountable task with the skeletal resources now allocated. [Tahlequah Daily Press] In dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts [OK Policy]

Senator seeks to nail down state’s cost for defending unconstitutional laws: In the past few years, Oklahoma lawmakers have passed more than a dozen bills that later were found to be unconstitutional. Sen. Kay Floyd wants to determine how much that has cost the state. Her idea is among 44 interim studies approved last week and assigned to legislative committees. Committee chairs will have the final say on whether a study is conducted. [Tulsa World]

continue reading In The Know: Attracting New Industries To Oklahoma Is Serious Business

The Weekly Wonk: Do lawmakers have a backup plan for the budget?

by | July 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry broke down the latest version of the Senate Republican health care bill, pointing out that this bill doesn’t fix the core problems of their first draft – it actually makes some of them worse. Perry also urged state leaders not to neglect early childhood education in his Journal Record column.  Oklahoma has had success with our pre-school programs and we need to continue working to preserve those educational gains.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis wonders in state lawmakers have a budget backup plan if the courts find that parts of next year’s budget are unconstitutional. Perry helps us to understand the dispute between Speaker McCall and Rep. Osborn about the recent cuts announced by DHS.

OK Policy in the News

Perry spoke with The Oklahoman about the Senate Republican’s difficulty passing a health care reform package – the Affordable Care Act did benefit millions of Americans and taking away those benefits now would be reckless. OK Policy data made an appearance in two stories about education funding – the Tahlequah Daily Press discussed the consequences of cuts to higher education funding in the state, while Yahoo! News introduced us to a Tulsa teacher who is panhandling to buy classroom supplies.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Do lawmakers have a backup plan for the budget?

In The Know: Millions of dollars headed back to Oklahoma state agencies

by | July 21st, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Millions of dollars headed back to Oklahoma state agencies: State agencies will be getting $34.6 million back. The money was taken when the state cut agency budgets in February when it appeared the state was likely to experience a revenue failure. It is being returned now that the state fiscal year is over and the state received enough tax revenue to fall within a 5 percent budget cushion. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa teacher turns to panhandling to raise money for classroom supplies: A Tulsa teacher is making a bold statement about the state of education as she pleads for money at a local intersection in order to pay for classroom supplies. Teresa Danks is a third grade teacher in the Tulsa Public Schools systems. As a result of serious education budget cuts, Danks says she is now spending between $2,000 and $3,000 of her $35,000 salary on supplies for her students. [Fox23] Oklahoma continues to lead U.S. for deepest cuts to education [OK Policy]

Oklahoma fiscal-year general revenue fund receipts below forecast: Oklahoma’s general revenue fund receipts were $175.9 million below estimates for fiscal year 2017, undercut by lower-than-projected corporate income tax returns, the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) said on Thursday. The fund took in $5.04 billion for the fiscal year ended in June, compared with a projected $5.22 billion in revenue, according to the government’s website. Corporate income tax returns were $165.7 million below their fiscal year estimate, a 55.9 percent shortfall, the OMES said in a statement. [Reuters

continue reading In The Know: Millions of dollars headed back to Oklahoma state agencies

In The Know: Women Often Ignored In The Conversation On Criminal Justice Reform

by | July 20th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Interim study to probe restraint policies for special needs students: An Oklahoma lawmaker is continuing his fight against policies that allow educators to use restraints and seclusion to punish students with special needs.
State Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, has introduced bills that would ban the practice under specific circumstances, but those measures never made it out of committee. This year, he requested an interim study on current restraint and seclusion policies and how to best train teachers and other staffers on those policies. [Journal Record]

Women Are Often Ignored In The Conversation On Criminal Justice Reform: For all the popularity of Orange Is The New Black, women in prisons are often not given enough attention, according to experts on the topic. “Criminal justice reform” may have been a buzzword recently, but problems specific to female prisoners — including mental health, drug problems, and motherhood — just haven’t been talked about enough. We have to do a better job specifically thinking about women in jails and their needs. [Elite Daily]

Gov. Mary Fallin outlines the costs of Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate: The female prison population is growing faster than any other group, but the issue does not get the attention it deserves, said Holly Harris, Justice Action Network executive director. Fallin acknowledged her state has work to do. “Oklahoma has the dubious honor of having the highest incarceration rate of women in the nation,” she said. “That is not something I am proud of.” [Tulsa World] Incarceration is not the most effective way to reduce crime [OK Policy]

continue reading In The Know: Women Often Ignored In The Conversation On Criminal Justice Reform

In The Know: ‘Difficult’ budget cuts expected to hurt vulnerable Oklahomans; As criminal justice laws take effect, uncertainty surrounds bigger changes; and more

by | July 17th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

‘Difficult’ budget cuts expected to hurt vulnerable Oklahomans: By the end of the week, Lola Edwards expects she’ll have to lay off 12 employees who work for her home health agency. Letters, meanwhile, will be going out to more than 100 parents whose children attend Leteria Battle’s Oklahoma City child care facility warning that access to licensed care soon could be in jeopardy. And thousands of the state’s poorest senior citizens now face going hungry. [CNHI] Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy]

Area agencies express concern after latest $30 million in DHS cuts: The nearly $30 million in cuts announced by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services on Tuesday spared any one program from elimination. Even with spreading the funding reductions throughout various programs that provide assistance to vulnerable adults and children, the impact will be hard when felt. One of the largest cuts is a $9.2 million reduction in billable hours through the ADvantage Medicaid Waiver program [Tulsa World]

Short-funded senior meal programs in Oklahoma face prospect of cutting back: Seniors in western Oklahoma are primarily at risk from budget cuts that might shutter meal sites. The cuts, announced this week at the Department of Human Services, will come at the expense of 277,000 meals that won’t be served during the next year. [The Oklahoman]

continue reading In The Know: ‘Difficult’ budget cuts expected to hurt vulnerable Oklahomans; As criminal justice laws take effect, uncertainty surrounds bigger changes; and more

The Weekly Wonk: Interim studies could create momentum for criminal justice reform next session

by | July 16th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry discussed cuts to education spending in Oklahoma – we were already leading the nation in cuts to K-12, and now we’re leading in cuts to higher education as well. Perry also pointed out the jobs in health care are now a larger part of the Oklahoma economy than either oil and gas or agriculture. 

Policy analyst Courtney Cullison argued that the minimum wage is not a livable wage in Oklahoma given the rising cost of living. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update is hopeful that interim studies on criminal justice reform will create momentum for changes next legislative session.

OK Policy in the News

Perry’s budget presentation at the Enid Noon AMBUCS luncheon was covered by the Enid News.  Perry discussed the recently passed budget and the current state of education funding in Oklahoma. Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins offered her take on Tuesday’s special election results to NewsOK – Democrats won two of the three legislative seats that were open due to resignations. OK Policy data was used by Arnold Hamilton for his recent Journal Record column promoting the value of higher education for Oklahoma and the nation.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Interim studies could create momentum for criminal justice reform next session

Minimum wage isn’t what it used to be – it’s worse

by | July 13th, 2017 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

The federal minimum wage was established in 1938 at 25¢ an hour (about $4.26 in today’s dollars). Since then it’s been adjusted 29 times to keep up with inflation and rising living standards. The most recent change was in 2009, when the minimum wage increased to $7.25 an hour — but that hasn’t been enough to maintain the value of the wage.

Adjusted for inflation, today’s minimum wage is worth about 33 percent less than it was in 1968 (the year of its peak adjusted value). Simply put, the minimum wage has not kept pace with the cost of living in America or what our society views as the basic income that a job should provide.

continue reading Minimum wage isn’t what it used to be – it’s worse

In The Know: State Lawmakers seek to Reassess Apportionment Spending

by | July 10th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State Lawmakers Seek To Reassess Apportionment Spending: Billions of dollars in Oklahoma state funds are reserved for education, revolving funds and other costs. Called “apportionments,” these allotments are beyond the reach of legislators and can’t be changed. As the Journal Record’s Catherine Sweeney reports, State Representative Scott Fetgatter has requested an interim study on apportionments to assess how they help or hurt the state in a time of severe budget cuts. [KGOU]

Experts Divided On State Questions: Oklahoma laws affecting drug possession and a number of lower-level property crimes underwent significant revision on July 1, and proponents and opponents are still divided on their effect. Oklahomans approved two state questions 780 and 781 last November. Supporters say they will help low-level offenders get the help they need without burdening them with felony records, while opponents worry that they take away leverage that prosecutors formerly had and will overburden county jails. [Lawton Constitution] SQ 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy]

House interim studies include alcohol taxation, care for veterans and location of wind turbines: Oklahoma House members will spend the time between legislative sessions studying alcohol taxation, care for veterans and the location of wind turbines near military airfields, among other topics. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, on Friday approved 63 interim studies after receiving requests for 136. The deadline for Senate interim study requests is July 14. [Tulsa World]

Is It A Tax? A Fee? Some Historical Perspective: Following the 2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session, several lawsuits have emerged challenging the constitutionality of revenue raising measures. Laws in question include the $1.50 cigarette fee, 1.25 percent sales tax increase on vehicles, among others. An attorney who successfully argued against the constitutionality of a 2010 health care fee says the current lawsuits have similarities to the case he won seven years ago. [KGOU]

continue reading In The Know: State Lawmakers seek to Reassess Apportionment Spending

The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education, cuts to health care will negatively impact OK economy

by | July 9th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Director Gene Perry put budget cuts to education in context in his Journal Record column – Oklahoma now leads the nation in cuts to K-12 education and higher education – pointing out that these cuts do not bode well for Oklahoma’s future.  Perry also argued that cuts to health care may be negatively impacting our future as well, because health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam shared the story of Joshua Proffitt, a college student with cerebal palsy who depends on Medicaid for his daily in-home care.  Without this care (which would likely disappear under the Republican’s health care bill), Joshua would not be able to attend college or pursue his goal of working in radio broadcasting. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the other types of coverage that could be lost if the Republican health care plan is adopted.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with the Oklahoman about what the proposed replacement for Obamacare would mean for Oklahomans – higher premiums and worse coverage for many of us would be be the likley result. Donald Cohen of Capital & Main visited with OK Policy staff during a recent trip to Oklahoma to discover more of the political culture of “red states”.

Weekly What’s That

Block Grant

A block grant is a type of grant program transferring federal funding to states to be used for a broadly defined function. Unlike entitlements, which use a combination of state and federal dollars to administer a range of safety net programs to anyone who qualifies, block grants are capped amounts of federal money. By comparison, entitlement spending allows federal programs to expand or contract in response to need. ​Because block grants​ don’t respond to need and commonly do not increase at all year to year or do not increase as quickly as costs, they are ​in effect deep budget cuts​ that​ leav​e states on the hook for a​n increasing share of ​the funding for basic safety net programs.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“It is the job of state government, in my opinion, to roll out the welcome mat. And I’m concerned that today we’ve put (out) a going-out-of-business sign.”

-Steve Turner, president of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, on the effects of repeated cuts to higher education funding (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Will this be the summer when too many inmates in tight quarters combine with too few correctional officers and too many 100-degree days to spark a serious uprising in an Oklahoma prison? Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh hopes not, of course, but … Without meaningful criminal justice reform, or new prisons, “we will have a serious event,” Allbaugh told his board last week. “It’s going to happen one way or the other. You can’t keep packing people into facilities that are decrepit and expect everybody to behave.” Allbaugh’s regular use of such vivid imagery may lead some to believe he’s being dramatic in order to procure additional funding for the agency. But inmates really are being packed into decrepit buildings, and have been for years.

Numbers of the Day

  • 15% – Percentage of non-institutionalized Oklahomans who report having one or more disabilities in 2015. This is the 8th-highest percentage in the US.
  • 8% – Tax collections as a share of personal income in Oklahoma in 2014, tied with eight other states as the lowest share in the US
  • 74,000 – Non-elderly Oklahomans with disabilities participating in SNAP in an average month, 2015
  • $7,363 – Total state and local spending per capita in Oklahoma in 2014, 12th least in the U.S.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

The Weekly Wonk: Senate Republican health plan would decrease coverage, increase cost of health insurance

by | July 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam broke down the Senate Republican health care plan – it would lead to many Oklahomans paying more for less coverage. Policy Director Gene Perry pointed out in his Journal Record Column that this plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan) breaks many of the campaign promises Republicans made to voters.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler argued that tough-on-crime policies don’t actually do much to reduce crime – especially drug crime. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the Republican gubernatorial candidates that will be competing for the “no-tax voters” next year.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy’s research was referenced by Huffington Post Stateline in their piece about the difficulty states are having in attempts to impose sales taxes on services. Gentzler contributed to an Oklahoma Watch article about the difficulty of reforming the criminal justice system in Oklahoma.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Senate Republican health plan would decrease coverage, increase cost of health insurance

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