In The Know: Report suggests ways for Oklahoma to reduce recidivism, prison costs

by | January 12th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the justice reinvestment initiative release its findings yesterday. The report recommends requiring post-release supervision for all felony offenders, increasing the availability of substance abuse treatment, developing community-based mental health care centers, and providing a graduated approach to sentencing people convicted of drug possession. Read the full report here. Oklahoma DAs are responding favorably to the findings. CapitolBeatOK cited Women in Recovery as a model justice reinvestment program.

Tulsa Republican Sen. Dan Newberry is proposing a bill that would eliminate employment protections for nearly 25,000 state workers. On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss a new analysis of the tax reform task force’s proposal to pay for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions. If this plan were to take effect today, taxes would increase for 55 percent of Oklahomans. Married couples with two children making $25,000, would see a tax increase of $647. Two-child families would not receive a tax cut unless their income was at least $117,000.

Oklahoma’s ranking in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report dropped from 17th to 27th this year, while scoring lowest in school finances and student achievement. Superintendent Barresi told the Senate Appropriations Committee that high-stakes graduation testing is necessary to ensure an Oklahoma high school diploma has value. Oklahoma Watchdog shared a summary transcription of the meeting. NewsOK calls for more efforts to keep Oklahoma’s community college students in school. Departing Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice shared his parting thoughts in the OK Gazette.

The Number of the Day is how many metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were prevented by ENERGY STAR appliances in Oklahoma as of 2007. In today’s Policy Note, The Nation discusses how Right to Work hasn’t worked to protect Oklahoma manufacturing jobs.

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Task force proposal would raise taxes on most Oklahomans, especially harm seniors and families with children

by | January 11th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (7)

Click for larger image.

A proposal by the legislature’s tax reform task force would raise taxes for most Oklahomans, with the worst impact on low-income seniors and families with children, according to a new fact sheet from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The task force suggested paying for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions relied on by low and moderate income Oklahomans.

An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reveals that if this plan were to take effect today, taxes would increase for 55 percent of Oklahomans. Only 31 percent of Oklahomans would receive a tax cut. There would be no change for 13 percent of Oklahomans, a group largely made up of childless singles and married couples with incomes smaller than the standard deduction. [Note: ITEP included about 3/4ths of the credits slated for elimination but did not model tax credits believed to be taken primarily by corporations.]

Among all households, the top 1 percent (those making $357,400 or more) would receive by far the largest benefit, with an average tax break of $2,833. The bottom 60 percent would see an average tax increase of $107.

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In The Know: Court rules Oklahoma ban on Islamic law unconstitutional

by | January 11th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a federal appeals court ruled Oklahoma’s ban on Islamic law is unconstitutional religious discrimination. Rep. Mike Reynolds filed a bill to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for the Oklahoma National Guard. All major categories of state revenue collections were up by double digits in December, except sales taxes. See OK Policy’s most recent Budget Trends and Highlights fact sheet here. Sen. Jim Wilson is seeking to pay for board-certified teacher bonuses by eliminating the sales tax exemption for newspapers.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling holding part of last session’s workers’ compensation law unconstitutional. The Attorney General also wrote a letter to Oklahoma police chiefs about complaints that police departments are violating the Open Records Act by withholding public information from initial incident reports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to close six offices in Oklahoma as part of a broad cost-cutting move.

On the OK Policy Blog, credit counseler Jennifer Wallis offers tips for improving credit scores and financial security. Connecticut is transitioning to state-managed low-income healthcare with a program similar to Oklahoma’s SoonerCare. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines the state of Oklahoma’s health.

The Number of the Day is the proportion of Oklahomans who live in ‘high-poverty’ neighborhoods. In today’s Policy Note, Education Sector shows that even auto mechanics are becoming more likely to have college degrees.

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Guest Blog (Jennifer Wallis): Managing credit and debt for financial security

by | January 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (3)

Jennifer Wallis is a certified consumer credit counselor and the Vice President of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma.  To learn more about Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Central Oklahoma, visit www.cccsok.org or contact Jennifer Wallis at (405) 789-2227.

According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, 58 percent of Americans have credit scores above 700, which is considered a really good score. If you are among the other 42 percent, it may feel like you will always be stuck with a lower score. Fortunately, credit scores are just a snapshot of your credit at one point in time and can change frequently. In just a few short months, you could notice a big increase in your credit score if you work to improve it. Bad credit is not a life sentence.

Poor credit and the resulting low credit score may mean that you can’t borrow money from traditional lenders like banks and credit unions. If you are able to borrow money at all, you may have to pay increased interest rates and higher overall prices.  Because of this, studies have shown that people with poor credit can pay $250,000 more over their lifetime more than people with good credit.

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In The Know: Study sheds light on same-sex tax disparity

by | January 10th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that despite same-sex marriage becoming legal in several states, these couples often have to pay higher taxes because they are not allowed to file jointly. A child care center operator spoke to NewsOK about the importance of the child care tax credit for the working poor. The child care credit is one of those that was targeted for elimination to pay for another cut to the top bracket.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office has cleared an autopsy backlog that had grown to more than 1,000 in March 2010, but to regain accreditation the agency still needs to more than double the number of pathologists and receive funds to move into a modern facility.

The OK Policy Blog compares how Oklahoma public and private universities and community colleges compare on two important measures of value. A study looks at the varying job prospects for Oklahomans with different degrees and majors. The lottery has paid $400 million to Oklahoma schools over the past six years, but the lottery money may just be supplanting funding that lawmakers use for other parts of the state budget.

The Tulsa World discusses how funding for meth treatment has eroded significantly during the state budget crises. Rep. Mike Reynolds is proposing a bill to ban former Oklahoma lawmakers from accepting state-government jobs unless they agree to take home a salary capped at the basic $38,400 legislative pay for the first two years after their term of office ends.

The Number of the Day is the amount by which oil consumption in Oklahoma exceeds the state’s production. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline previews how coming federal budget cuts will affect the states.

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Beyond tuition: Better measures for the cost and value of higher education

by | January 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

Photo by flickr user pamhule used under a Creative Commons license.

[UPDATE: A previous version of the debt-to-degree chart misidentified Northwestern Oklahoma State University as a community college when it is a four-year university. The corrected chart reflects that NWOSU has the lowest debt to degree ratio among Oklahoma's public universities.]

We’ve previously discussed the overwhelming evidence that college is a good investment both for students and the state as a whole. The need for at least some college education to get a good job is greater than ever. That’s reflected in Oklahoma by record-breaking college enrollment.

Lawmakers are also taking a growing interest in Oklahoma’s higher education system, with much of their criticism focused on tuition increases. A bill has already been introduced to return the power to approve tuition increases to the legislature, reversing a 2003 change that gave the State Regents full control.

Rising tuition is a legitimate concern. However, advertised tuition rates are not the best way to evaluate colleges and universities for a number of reasons. Due to scholarships and financial aid, fewer than half of all public university students and fewer than 18 percent of private college students pay the full “sticker price” for their education.

What may be a better metric for how well students are being served by a school are the federal loan default rates. The federal government made or guaranteed more than 80 percent of all outstanding student loans this year. If a large proportion of students are unable to pay back their loans, that is a strong indicator that they are not able to find well-paying jobs after leaving school, with or without a degree.

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In The Know: New Jersey may give preview of changes in store for OK DHS

by | January 9th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that reforms to DHS under the class-action settlement may look similar to New Jersey’s recent reforms, which included increasing subsidies for foster families, reducing the use of children’s shelters, and adding hundreds of child-welfare worker positions. The records of the independent monitors set to oversee the reforms will be kept secret.

Key proposals from the state tax-reform task force are drawing heat from members of the task force. OK Policy Director David Blatt writes in the Tulsa World about how the tax-elimination talk ignores huge state needs. Mickey Hepner writes in the Edmond Sun that when the markets are valuing education more, America is valuing education less.

House Speaker Kris Steele outlined his agenda for a final session as Speaker. Rep. Randy McDaniel plans to push changes to state pensions for firefighters and law enforcement. Sen. Jim Wilson has introduced a bill to return control over tuition increases back to the legislature. Twenty-one percent of $39.2 million in midyear state funding increases for Oklahoma school districts will go to three new charter schools.

Oklahomans will have the opportunity to view and to try out the state’s new voting machines during a mock election Monday through Thursday. The Tulsa County Community Action Project is looking for volunteer tax counselors to provide free tax preparation to 17,000 low and moderate income Tulsa families. A group studying how to improve Oklahoma’s probation system will release its recommendations this week.

A report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute finds that most foreign-born workers tend to pay more into the economy than they receive in government services and end up helping create jobs for U.S. natives. The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in initial unemployment claims in Oklahoma during December 2011. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why a push to deny unemployment insurance to workers without GEDs is an appalling idea.

 

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Guest Post (Paul Shinn): How we can move from good child care to quality early learning

by | January 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families | Comments (1)

Paul Shinn is public policy analyst for Community Action Project of Tulsa County, which offers early learning and other programs for low-income children and families across Tulsa.  This post initially appeared on CAP’s Tulsa Initiative blog.

At Community Action Project (CAP), we provide direct services to Tulsa’s low-income families through high-quality early learning programs and programs that provide families with career, health, and financial supports. Through this work we’ve increasingly appreciated that public benefit programs are an essential support for Oklahoma’s low-income families. As a result, CAP has launched Better Benefits for Oklahoma Families, a series of assessments of Oklahoma public benefit programs.

Our first issue, released in November, looks at the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). CCDF  is a federal-state program to provide child care subsidies to low-income families with parents who work or are in school. CCDF gives families vouchers to pay for some or all of the child care for children up to age 13. Many families pay some of the cost of care as a co-pay that depends on their income and the number of children in care. In Oklahoma, CCDF is run by the Department of Human Services (OKDHS) and is known as child care subsidy.

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The Weekly Wonk – January 6th, 2011

by | January 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy announced we are seeking an outreach coordinator to lead the effort to ensure adequate funding of core public services.  OK Policy Director David Blatt was quoted in an article about this nascent coalition effort.  Our intern Kasey Hughart discussed the problem of wage theft and how Oklahoma can improve minimum wage and overtime policies for all workers.  Juan Pedroza from The Urban Institute questioned the claim that HB 1804 caused an exodus of immigrants from Oklahoma.

An OK Policy blog post was used as the basis for this editorial in the Tulsa World on the state’s decision to allow insurers to exclude babies from child-only health insurance coverage.  The federal government rejected the Insurance Department’s request for a waiver from a requirement that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of consumer premiums on medical care.  Click here to read our letter to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing the Insurance Department’s request to exempt insurers in the state.

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In The Know: U.S. economy adds 200,000 jobs, lowest unemployment in 3 years

by | January 6th, 2012 | 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that unemployment reached its lowest level in three years and the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs.  Boeing Co. plans to move about 1,000 new jobs to Oklahoma City by 2013.  A new report ranks Oklahoma 25th in public money spent on tuition for community college dropouts.  Today’s Policy Note explains why producing more college graduates requires a commitment to promoting savings, especially among children from lower income families.

A top scientist at the Centers for Disease Control says much more research is needed on the possible impacts of shale gas drilling, or ‘fracking,’ on human health.  A Tulsa World editorial questions the wisdom of the state’s decision to shift the cost of healthcare for some babies away from the private insurance market and onto taxpayers.  OK Policy previously covered the newborn exclusion rule here.  A youth guidance specialist at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Detention Center is charged with two counts of second-degree rape for the sexual assault of a teenage inmate.

The settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit against the state Department of Human Services is being challenged by a lawsuit questioning its constitutionality.  The six states along the Keystone XL Pipeline route face unequal risk and benefits for their residents.  The OK Policy Blog hosts Juan Pedroza from The Urban Institute on the impact of anti-immigrant legislation in the states.  Today’s Number of the Day is the average number of kids per month in Oklahoma who had unemployed parents in 2011.

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