All articles by Kate Richey

Calling all college students! Apply for the 2014 Summer Policy Institute (SPI)

by | April 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to announce our second annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI) from August 3-6, 2014.

The SPI brings together over 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and in-depth learning experience. SPI will offer participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields.

The Institute is hosted and led by the staff of OK Policy and involves leading policy experts from government, academia and community organizations throughout Oklahoma. Keynote presentations and panel discussions will provide a chance to hear from Oklahoma’s top practitioners and observers on:

    • Budget and Taxes
    • Campaigns and Elections
    • Reporting on State Government
    • Healthcare
    • Poverty & Opportunity
    • Criminal Justice
    • Race & Gender
    • Energy & Environment
    • Careers in Public Policy
    • Common & Higher Education

For more information about the Summer Policy Institute, go to http://okpolicy.org/summer-policy-institute. The application deadline is May 30th, 2014.

Click here to apply for the 2014 Summer Policy Institute (SPI)

Please share this announcement with any students, classmates, or other interested parties.

MyRA: New options for working Oklahomans

by | April 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

retirement-fund-copyDuring the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced a new savings initiative, appropriately titled ‘MyRA’.  Created by executive order, the MyRA is a simple retirement savings account that will be available (after an initial pilot period) to many workers through their employers.  This post explains the rationale behind the new initiative, how MyRA accounts work, and how they could help move thousands of working Oklahomans toward a more secure retirement.

We know that not enough Oklahoma workers are saving for retirement.  More than a quarter of the state’s workers (and more than half of part-time hourly employees) don’t have access to a retirement plan through their employer, as shown in the chart below:

continue reading MyRA: New options for working Oklahomans

Weekly Wonk March 23, 2014

by | March 23rd, 2014 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. 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 OK Policy released the results of a new poll that shows support for cutting Oklahoma’s personal income tax has dropped significantly among voters, and less than half now support a plan to reduce the state’s top tax rate.  The poll was covered on Public Radio Tulsa and discussed by The Norman Transcript.

The OK Policy Blog shared three trends to watch from Oklahoma’s Annual Report — Oklahoma’s reliance on federal funds has dropped significantly since 2011, the size of state government continues to shrink, and education spending is down $50 million since 2012 and $610 million from 2009.  

Ryan Gentzler wrote a guest post about efforts by lawmakers to stop the development of wind energy in Eastern Oklahoma.  We shared a graph showing that taxation does not deter drilling for oil and natural gas – in fact the biggest growth in horizontal drilling occurred in the state with the highest effective tax rate.  

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how lawmakers’ proposal to move new state employees to a 401(k) style retirement plan could endanger existing pensions and increase the state’s unfunded liabilities.

continue reading Weekly Wonk March 23, 2014

Watch This: Study ranks Oklahoma near the bottom for family financial security

by | March 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

Despite an improving national economy and a low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a recent report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).  We blogged about the report here, noting that the percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped markedly from last year’s 43.8 percent level.

In this segment of the Oklahoma News Report, OETA examines the causes and consequences of state residents’ growing financial insecurity. 

continue reading Watch This: Study ranks Oklahoma near the bottom for family financial security

In The Know: Teachers accuse Board of Education of violating Open Meeting Act

by | March 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Today you should know that two educators have filed a complaint alleging the Oklahoma State Board of Education violated the state’s Open Meeting Act.  Oklahoma has among the highest local sales taxes in the nation, even taxing groceries and medicine, because unlike other states our municipal governments depend almost entirely on the sales tax for general revenues.  

Hispanic students now comprise nearly 30 percent of Tulsa Public School enrollment, and they represent the majority at 16 of 75 school sites.  While state lawmakers have proposed several bills to turn Medicaid over to for-profit managed care companies, the state is already successfully practicing managed care through patient-centered medical homes and other innovative methods.  A failed bridge linking the small town of Lexington to Purcell has battered local businesses and brought long commutes for residents.

A 2012 state law to refocus corrections spending on cost-saving strategies is not being used by judges and DAs - and a lack of commitment to implementation is costing the state millions in unrealized savings.  Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris wrote in support of utilizing alternative sentencing in Oklahoma.  Drought, utilities, and an agreement to sell water to Texas are threatening the viability of Lake Texoma and its surrounding communities.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that a recent state Supreme Court ruling should pave the way for additional reforms that remove the competitive advantages given to CompSource, the state-run workers’ compensation insurer.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Priorities project showed how the federal government spent your federal income tax, as a share of one dollar.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of children under 15 months covered by SoonerCare who had at least one well-child visit. 

continue reading In The Know: Teachers accuse Board of Education of violating Open Meeting Act

Not your father’s farm bill?

by | February 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

usda-farmer-photo-8723645345The long-awaited 2014 farm bill reauthorization was signed into law in early February.  First passed in 1933 to ease the economic pain of the Great Depression, it now bundles dozens of federal agriculture and food programs into one piece of omnibus legislation.  Since agriculture is a driving economic force in our state and thousands of Oklahomans struggle with food insecurity, this post outlines what you need to know about the new farm bill.

Farm bill reauthorization happens every 5 years or so, typically with strong bipartisan support and little fanfare.  This time negotiations were contentious.  The compromise was dubbed “almost a miracle” by Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, who chairs the House agriculture committee.  The authors of the Agricultural Act of 2014 tout major reforms and cost savings – it’s “not your father’s farm bill” according to Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.  While it does deliver $17 billion in savings over ten years according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whether it delivers actual reform is up for debate.  

continue reading Not your father’s farm bill?

Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

by | January 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty | Comments (0)

downloadDespite an improving national economy and a (deceptively) low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped from last year’s 43.8 percent level.

CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these financially insecure residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis.

continue reading Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

Weekly Wonk January 26, 2014

by | January 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. 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, we discussed misconceptions about prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma, which has overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death.  OK Policy legislative liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons explored how the legacy of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher lives on today,  sixty-six years after she integrated the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column revealed that 25 years after Oklahoma committed to “never be last again” in education, we’ve fallen back to near last.  The OK Policy Blog posted an upcoming lecture on ‘dual status’ youth, or youth who have contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, sponsored by OKDHS.  

Research fellow Breanca Thomas blogged about the most effective strategies for tackling diabetes, one of Oklahoma’s most serious health epidemics.  Our work was cited in an Oklahoma Watch article on the state’s ongoing debate over oil and gas subsidies.  Excerpts from our statewide budget summit were included in a Public Radio Tulsa piece.

continue reading Weekly Wonk January 26, 2014

In The Know: Corrections closes halfway house over inmate abuses, hundreds need immediate replacement

by | January 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Dept. of Corrections ordered the immediate closure of a Tulsa halfway house over security breaches and civil rights abuses; officials are ‘attempting to relocate’ over 200 inmates but there are only a handful of open beds in the area.  David Blatt evaluated a new report from the State Chamber that defends the spiraling cost of state tax subsidies for oil and gas drilling.

Legislative leaders, agency directors and academics are meeting today at a budget summit for panel discussions to assess the state’s fiscal future.  State Rep. Joe Dorman filed a joint resolution for a statewide vote on bond issues for school storm shelters.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board wrote that without effective public education, the state’s workforce will fall further behind and ‘offset the benefits of a pro-business tax and regulatory environment.’  Oklahoma’s five congressmen were divided on a federal budget bill to ease some of the automatic spending cuts that took effect last year.

State Sen. David Holt filed a bill to make state highway patrol dash cams a matter of open record.  Religious leaders on opposite sides of the marriage equality debate reacted to a federal ruling that declared Oklahoma’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate with ‘marginally attached’ workers included.  In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research explained how equal pay for working women would reduce poverty and spur economic growth. 

continue reading In The Know: Corrections closes halfway house over inmate abuses, hundreds need immediate replacement

In The Know: Corrections looking to add thousands of private prison beds

by | January 10th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Department of Corrections will draw up a request for proposals from private prison companies to provide up to 2,000 additional beds for state inmates.  Oklahoma’s Medicaid program had the lowest payment error rate among 17 states.

Oklahoma Policy Institute calculated that tax breaks for horizontal drilling and other oil and gas production are projected to cost the state over $300 million this fiscal year and next.  Profitable oil and gas wells in Oklahoma are subsidized by taxpayers more than the Agriculture Dept., Commerce Dept., Corporation Commission, Health Dept., Tax Commission, Arts Council, Veterans Affairs, OETA, Military Dept., and the State Bureau of Investigations combined.  

A nonprofit advocacy group recommended that Oklahoma’s flat per-gallon fuel tax be converted to a percentage tax on the wholesale price as a way to increase revenue for transportation infrastructure.

A Tulsa World editorial explored the difficult and expensive task of finding and retaining good public school teachers.  Three train trips from the Tulsa area to Oklahoma City on Iowa Pacific’s Eastern Flyer, the first passenger train offered on the stretch in 47 years, have sold out

In today’s Policy Note, Moyers & Company compiled a primer of the best data and ideas on inequality in America, why it matters, and how to fix it.  The Number of the Day is the number of foreclosures completed in Oklahoma in the last twelve months.

continue reading In The Know: Corrections looking to add thousands of private prison beds