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All articles by David Blatt

Bailey Perkins joins OK Policy as new Outreach & Legislative Liaison

by | August 17th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

BaileyPerkins2016Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to announce that Bailey Perkins is joining the staff as Outreach & Legislative Liaison. The full-time position will be based in Oklahoma City.

Perkins will be assuming primary responsibilities for representing OK Policy at the State Capitol during the legislative session, as well as working closely with advocacy groups and coalitions in the Oklahoma City area to help advance OK Policy’s agenda for broad-based prosperity.  The role of legislative liaison had been carried out for the past three sessions on a part-time contract basis by Damario Solomon Simmons.

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Upcoming Event: Sleeping Giant author on how the ‘new working class’ is transforming America

by | August 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, OK Policy, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

sleeping giant2There was a time when America’s working class was seen as the backbone of the economy with considerable political, economic, and moral authority. In recent decades, the working class has transformed as far more female and racially diverse workers have been employed by the restaurant, retail, health care, and other service industries. At the same time, this new working class has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits.

As Tamara Draut makes clear in an important and timely new book, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, this is changing, swiftly and dramatically. As the November election draws near, Tamara Draut will be visiting Oklahoma to discuss her book at a pair of public events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City:

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Sales tax holiday is poor policy

by | August 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

This weekend, many Oklahomans will flock to the stores to take advantage of the state’s annual three-day sales tax holiday weekend. Since 2007, shoppers are allowed to buy clothing items under $100 free of state and local sales tax during the first weekend in August. Many retailers report a major boost in business over the weekend that can rival Black Friday. “It will take all of our available staff to handle those three days,” said the President of Drysdale’s Western Wear in a news article last year.

Sales tax holidays are good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for Oklahoma, right?

Actually, no.

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Cuts to alternative education will come back to haunt us

by | July 27th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (2)

street schoolNothing is as critical to a young person’s future prospects as a high school diploma. Decades of research shows that those who drop out of high school are at significantly higher risk of being unemployed, living in poverty, and serving time in prison.

Over the past two decades, Oklahoma has been a national leader for alternative education programs that keep at-risk students in school and help them to graduate. Despite this proven success, education funding cuts have now slashed support for alternative education in half and are leaving our most at-risk students without the support they need for educational success.

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Confront the ‘parasite economy’ by raising the minimum wage

by | July 21st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Every three months, the ADP Research Institute releases its Workforce Vitality Index, a measure of private sector job and wage growth.  For the past two quarters, Washington state has led the nation in growing jobs and boosting wages, far outpacing the national average and such states as Texas, Florida, and California.

Why does this matter?   Because Washington state has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation at $9.47 an hour. And since April 2015, the city of Seattle has been moving towards a $15 minimum wage, with the current minimum ranging from $10.50 to $13 depending on employer size.  As the Workforce Vitality Index shows, businesses in Seattle and Washington state are thriving and generating more employment. Seattle’s restaurant industry — which fought the wage laws fiercely — is continuing to add jobs.

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Time for Oklahoma to off the runoff

by | July 18th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (0)

runners in business suitsWhen August 23rd rolls around next month, you can be sure that lots of things will be on Oklahomans’ minds: kids going back to school, the upcoming Labor Day weekend, and the start of college football season, to name a few. What probably won’t be on the minds of most Oklahomans are the primary runoff elections that will be held in a handful of districts across the state that day. Yet these run-off elections, decided by a shrunken electorate, will have a decisive impact on who ends up representing these districts in the Legislature.

There will be 14 runoff elections this August in races where no candidate won over 50 percent of the vote in the June 28th primary. Eleven of these will be Republican runoffs — seven for the Senate and four for the House — along with two Democratic House runoffs and a Democratic runoff for the Fifth Congressional District. Interestingly, while the number of candidates filing for legislative and Congressional races surged from 311 in 2014 to 388 in 2016, there will be fewer runoffs this year (14) than in 2014 (16). In races that will be decided by a runoff, the vote total of the leading candidate in the initial primary ranged from a low of 33.47 percent for Republican Tom Gann in HD 8 to a high of 49.89 percent for Republican Adam Pugh in SD 41.

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Why poverty in Oklahoma is being compared to a Third World nation

by | July 5th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (37)

homeless mother with her daughterEach year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof holds a Win-A-Trip contest for college students to accompany him on a reporting trip to the developing world. Most years, his trip explores  global poverty in far-flung places like Congo or Myanmar. This year, he decided to add a stop in Tulsa to see the impact of the nation’s 20-year experiment with revamping welfare.

His disheartening findings were featured in a recent Sunday’s New York Times column. “The embarrassing truth,” he writes, “is that welfare reform has resulted in a layer of destitution that echoes poverty in countries like Bangladesh.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress approved legislation to “end welfare as we know it.” Under the replacement Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, it became harder for single parents to qualify for cash support. Recipients were subject to work requirements, harsh penalties for non-compliance, and strict time limits for receiving assistance.

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Adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ votes matter

by | June 28th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (2)

The weeks before the Presidential primaries on Super Tuesday back in March were heady times in Oklahoma. The leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Voter registrations surged by nearly 30,000 in the weeks before the primary registration deadline.  Small armies of volunteers knocked doors, organized meetings, and got out the vote.

On Super Tuesday, the nation watched in fascination as Oklahoma bucked national trends to “choose Cruz” and “feel the Bern”. For choosing our parties’ nominees, our votes mattered. Oklahoma mattered.

But with the primaries over,  Oklahomans can put the Presidential election back on their list of events to be treated as pure spectator sport, like the Superbowl and World Series.  Putting aside the possibility that our Governor is selected as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, one prediction seems solid: no Presidential candidate is likely to step foot in Oklahoma again before the November 8 election.

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After two revenue failures, Oklahoma will end the year with surplus. What?

by | June 21st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (7)

Bad haircutThis weekend, The Oklahoman reported the unexpected news that state finance officials now expect to end the current fiscal year with a cash surplus of at least $100 million. After two mid-year revenue failures that led to across-the-board budget cuts of 7 percent, many people are left wondering what in the world is going on. Here’s the explanation.

continue reading After two revenue failures, Oklahoma will end the year with surplus. What?

Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor)

by | June 8th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Children and Families | Comments (3)

trashcan-punchErin Taylor, PhD is a mother to five and a disability advocate living in Oklahoma City. Her previous guest post, “What I Didn’t Get From My Tax Cut,” ran in March.

Like many advocates, I’m still recovering from the Capitol last week where our elected officials passed a trash can punch of a budget. It reeks of classism and party dogma. As an Oklahoma mother who sends my children to public school and colleges, uses child support, and holds Medicaid (TEFRA) on my child with a developmental disability, our family will be paying the price.

I also work on behalf of some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable – adults with intellectual disabilities and families coming to terms with their child’s developmental disability. Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and chronic medical conditions are vulnerable because of the choices we make as a state to not fund adequate supports, whether they be family-based, caretaking, medical, therapeutic or disability-oriented. The greatest challenge facing these Oklahomans is not the diagnosis but the lack of services and financial resources. If we insisted that our state human services, mental health, and Medicaid agencies were humanely funded, we’d see a sharp decline in the number of Oklahomans we classify as vulnerable. Instead, we’d have viable Oklahomans, making use of their supports, so they can exist as tax-paying, financially secure citizens.

continue reading Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor)

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