Skip to Content

All articles by Gene Perry

Statement: Lawmakers must go back to special session and finish job of funding core services

by | August 10th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (7)

The SOS Coalition, which includes Oklahoma Policy Institute and 20 other organizations, released the following statement on today’s Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that threw out a cigarette fee and created a $214 million hole in the budgets of SoonerCare ($70 million loss), the Oklahoma Department of Human Services ($69 million loss), and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services ($75 million loss):

“This ruling confirms that the Legislature did not complete its job this year of crafting a balanced budget that pays for the core services Oklahomans expect and need.

Governor Fallin shouldn’t wait a single minute to call a special session and instruct the Legislature to find additional revenue, fix the broken budget, undo cuts to core services, and invest in education. The Save our State Coalition has issued a blueprint for a better budget that does just that, and we urge lawmakers to take it seriously.

Countless Oklahomans whose lives depend on state services are waiting for our Legislature to do the right thing. If the Legislature does not find new revenues to replace those rejected by the Court, the consequence will be unimaginable cuts to health care and other protections for our state’s most vulnerable citizens — with the greatest harm on children, seniors, and people with severe disabilities.”

You can read the court decision here, find our pre-decision analysis of the Supreme Court case here, see Governor Fallin’s statement about the decision here, read the Save Our State Coalition’s Blueprint for a Better Budget here, and see other revenue options for a better budget here.

Please contact your two legislatorsHouse Speaker Charles McCall, and Senate President Mike Schulz and tell them it is their duty to go into special session and find the revenues to prevent even more cuts to the core state services that Oklahomans expect and need.

In dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts

by | July 19th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (10)

Rep. Leslie Osborn and House Speaker Charles McCall

It’s been an eventful week for the Oklahoma Legislature, especially considering they are not even in session. The week began with House Speaker Charles McCall and Majority Leader Mike Sanders blasting the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for making cuts to services for seniors, foster families, and in-home support for people with developmental disabilities. Three days later, three Republican legislators, including House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn, spoke out in defense of the agency, laying out why the cuts could not have been avoided given insufficient funding to cope with rising needs. The next day, Speaker McCall removed Osborn from her position as Appropriations and Budget committee chair.

Although the Speaker’s office said Rep. Osborn’s public disagreement was “absolutely not” the reason for her ouster, they gave no other reason for the decision, and the timing makes it hard to believe it was unrelated. While we don’t know what internal politics of the House Republican caucus may have contributed to these events, we can look at the facts of the dispute over the DHS cuts.

continue reading In dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts

New Senate health care draft does not fix bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse

by | July 17th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Last week, Senate Republican leaders released a “new” version of their health care bill. We wrote before about how the first draft of this bill would make Americans pay more for worse health coverage and how it would undercut the health care safety net. Unfortunately, the new draft does not fix the original Senate bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse.

The Senate bill would drastically cut Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, reducing federal support an estimated 26 percent by 2026, with larger cuts to come as health care costs grow. Oklahoma would have to make up the difference either by raising taxes or cutting services for the hundreds of thousands of low-income people with disabilities, seniors, and families with children who rely on SoonerCare. These cuts would also threaten thousands of jobs in the state, since health care is Oklahoma’s largest employment sector and 25 percent of those jobs are supported by Medicaid.

continue reading New Senate health care draft does not fix bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse

In The Know: State’s Obamacare waiver would assess fee on 1.7M Oklahomans

by | July 14th, 2017 | Posted in 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’s Obamacare Waiver Would Assess Fee on 1.7M Oklahomans: Oklahoma is preparing to unveil a $350 million plan designed to reduce health insurance premiums and avert a scenario where the state is left with no provider offering plans on the federally run marketplace. But the effort comes with a catch: The more than 1.7 million Oklahomans who receive health insurance outside of the marketplace, including from employers, would pay more – a per-person fee of up to $60 a year. The fee is part of a federal waiver the state is seeking to begin a reinsurance program through the Affordable Care Act or the GOP’s proposed replacement plan [Oklahoma Watch].

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. Debora Glasgow, executive director of the South Western Oklahoma Development Authority in Burns Flat, said her agency got the numbers from DHS on Wednesday. “We are currently looking at our budget to see what we’re going to have to eliminate or reduce, but we do know that there is going to be an impact to senior meals,” said Glasgow [NewsOK]. The Legislature’s appropriation to DHS wasn’t nearly enough to cover the agency’s obligations, which means vulnerable Oklahomans will feel the pinch [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Minimum wage isn’t what it used to be – it’s worse: 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 [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: State’s Obamacare waiver would assess fee on 1.7M Oklahomans

Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too.

by | July 11th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Education | Comments (4)

For several years now, Oklahoma has led the nation in cuts to state aid funding of K-12 schools by reducing state aid per student 26.9 percent since 2008. That’s almost twice as much as the next worst state, Alabama. The results are clear. Many of our state’s best teachers are leaving for other states, nearly one in five of the state’s school districts are going to 4-day weeks, class sizes are growing, arts, athletics, and STEM programs are being cut, and more.

These problems have gotten attention in state and national media — so much that Governor Fallin says she is having trouble convincing businesses to come to Oklahoma because of them. Less attention has gone to higher education, because even though higher education funding also saw deep cuts, those cuts weren’t leading the nation.

That has changed, according to a new report from researchers at Illinois State University. Over the past five years, Oklahoma has cut state funding for higher education by 17.8 percent, the most in the nation. As with K-12 funding, our cuts have been much deeper than the next worst state (Louisiana with 11.5 percent cuts). We are one of only seven states that didn’t increase funding over this period and one of only three states that cut funding by more than 10 percent.

continue reading Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too.

Health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy

by | July 5th, 2017 | Posted in Economy, Healthcare | Comments (0)

If you ask a person on the street what Oklahoma’s economy is known for, two industries likely to come to mind are oil and gas drilling and agriculture. Yet when we look at the jobs Oklahomans are working in today, those industries play a much smaller role than that common understanding might assume.

Agricultural jobs almost vanished in the 1990s and never came back, and today the industry is barely more than one percent of the state’s GDP. Oil and gas mining still makes up a sizable portion of the state GDP, and that sector provides a large segment of Oklahoma’s highest-paying jobs. However, when you look at what the average worker is doing to make a living in Oklahoma, oil and gas jobs aren’t in the top ten.

In those top ten sectors, the big story since the turn of the century for Oklahoma workers has nothing to do with the ups and downs of oil and gas. Instead, the most important trend for workers has been the steady rise of jobs in health care.

continue reading Health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy

In The Know: Oklahoma attorney general sues pharmaceutical companies for ‘fraudulent’ marketing of opioids

by | July 3rd, 2017 | Posted in 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

Oklahoma attorney general sues pharmaceutical companies for ‘fraudulent’ marketing of opioids: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies Friday — accusing them of making fraudulent marketing claims that greatly understated the addictive risks of opioid painkillers while overstating the treatment benefits. “We’ve had almost 3,000 overdose deaths in the last three years in Oklahoma,” Hunter said. “We need to hold these people accountable. Manufacturers have in a consistent and … coldblooded fashion marketed these drugs in a way that has misrepresented their tendency to be addictive and the extent to which they can be deadly.” [NewsOK] In recent years, prescription painkiller overdoses have been responsible for more deaths in Oklahoma than meth, heroine, and cocaine combined. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Court Denies Stay In Lawsuit Challenging Auto Sales Tax Hike: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has denied a request to stop the state from collecting a new 1.25 percent tax on automobile sales. The court on Friday denied a stay requested in a lawsuit by Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson, allowing the tax to go into effect on Saturday. The court has scheduled oral arguments in the lawsuit for August 8, the same day it will hear arguments in a lawsuit by auto dealers that also challenges the vehicle sales tax and a lawsuit by tobacco companies challenging a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes. [NewsOn6] By filing this lawsuit, Richardson is attempting to consolidate the anti-tax wing of Republican primary voters behind his candidacy [OK Policy].

Why States Are Struggling To Tax Services: As states struggle to align their tax codes with the modern service economy, expanding sales taxes to include activities like personal care, home repair, funeral services, computer maintenance and similar enterprises would seem to be a logical move. But states are finding it’s not so easy. Twenty-three state legislatures considered proposals this year to impose taxes on at least some services. But so far, none has made it into law intact — and most died outright. And in several states, new taxes on services that took effect this year are so complicated that tax offices are writing clarifying memos, like the one in North Carolina to distinguish between roof repair (taxable) and roof replacement (not taxable). [Stateline]

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma attorney general sues pharmaceutical companies for ‘fraudulent’ marketing of opioids

Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 2)

Yesterday we shared a recap of what happened this legislative session with the state budget, taxes, and education policies. Today in part two, we’ll look at outcomes related to health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity.

We began the session with a set of top priorities in all of these policy areas. We made progress on some of our issues and were disappointed by others, but we were also heartened by the large number of Oklahomans who got involved this year, many for the first time, to advocate for a better future. That advocacy was key to stopping some big threats to health care and the safety net this year, though several positive reforms fell short as well.

continue reading Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 2)

Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 1)

by | June 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

At the start of session, OK Policy laid out our top priorities in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, education, criminal justice and economic opportunity. As the session developed, we achieved some victories with good bills and helped stop even more harmful bills from becoming law. And there were plenty of disappointments in the form of promising legislation that died along the way.

Here are our staff’s recaps of the major highs and lows of the 2017 session in the issue areas where we were most deeply engaged. In part one, we share recaps of what happened with budget, tax, and education polices. In part two, we discuss what happened with health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity policies.

continue reading Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 1)

In The Know: New cigarette fee not dedicated to health care

by | May 31st, 2017 | Posted in 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

New cigarette fee not dedicated to health care: After months of debate and some significant language changes, it’s likely Oklahoma’s smokers will pay more for a pack of cigarettes. After both chambers passed the state’s general appropriations bill, which designates how the state’s $7 billion in revenue will be dispersed throughout fiscal 2018, the House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday afternoon to bring in about $250 million from tobacco sales. That money would plug about a quarter of the state’s nearly billion-dollar budget hole. Lawmakers sent three separate bills through the process, all of them pitching a $1.50 increase on cigarettes. One got filed early before the session began, before the January deadline, but it didn’t go far. Another went through the late-in-session budget committees, but it died when Democrats and conservative Republicans refused to pass it. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the final version: a cigarette fee. The bill would also create the Health Care Enhancement Fund, and it says the Legislature can use its discretion to apportion money out of it [Journal Record]

Legislature adds sales tax to vehicle purchases but says it’s not a revenue measure: The Oklahoma Legislature passed a law to add a sales tax to cars, but the move hasn’t garnered many cheerleaders. House Bill 2433 places a 1.25-percent sales tax on cars, which buyers will pay in addition to the existing excise tax. Economists and policy analysts said the move would be harmful to auto dealers and any residents wanting to buy cars, but it’s not clear to what extent. The cost increase would average about $250, they said. Lawmakers had to plug a nearly billion-dollar budget hole before the end of the day on Friday, and several other revenue measures had been killed in the weeks before the vote. The sales tax on cars is projected to raise about $123 million in fiscal 2018, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. [Journal Record]

DHS forced to cut $33 million from budget, programs and jobs at risk: The Department of Human Services is one of 51 state agencies that will be forced to make budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year. Gov. Mary Fallin was presented with a $6.8 billion budget bill on the last day of the legislative session. She called the budget “not ideal.” Sheree Powell, the DHS communications director, said they are grateful for the money did they receive, but they will still come up $33 million short of their current operating costs. DHS has compiled a list of 12 programs at risk of facing funding cuts, including: the Older Americans Act Services, Child Care Licensing and Subsidy, State Plan Personal Care Services, ADvantage Waiver Program, Smart Start Oklahoma, Adult Day Services, In-home Support Waivers, State Funded Community Services, TANF and Child Welfare Services. [KJRH]

continue reading In The Know: New cigarette fee not dedicated to health care

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 134