Financial security for Oklahomans: The critical role of affordable credit

by | November 2nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (4)

Access to credit has become a necessity for modern American living, touching virtually every aspect of our lives. Many consumers need credit to buy a house or a car, get an education, pay for medical expenses, or start a business.  ‘Credit’ is a generic term for an array of financial products and services that involve the borrowing of money and ‘affordable’ means terms of credit proportionate to a borrower’s ability to repay.  This post explores the critical role of credit in helping Oklahomans maintain financial security and build assets for a prosperous future, based on a newly released paper from Oklahoma Assets.  Oklahoma Assets advocates for policies and programs that can help create a more inclusive economy – one in which financial security and economic opportunity is available, not just to some, but to all Oklahomans.  Their new release, ‘Affordable Credit in Oklahoma: Asset-building and Financial Security‘ is available on their website along with their first brief on the importance of savings.

Affordable credit plays a pivotal role in a household’s capacity to maintain financial security and build assets. Lower income earners in particular need the flexibility that credit affords to handle emergencies, make ends meet, and avoid high cost credit products that could set them back even further.  When households without access to affordable credit face emergency situations that threaten their ability to work—like illness or car repairs—they either take the credit they are offered, often at prohibitive rates of interest, or face unemployment and insolvency.

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Clock ticks down on a state-run health insurance exchange

by | November 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (8)

The Joint Committee on the Federal Health Care Law has hosted regular meetings this fall to take stock of Oklahoma’s options and responsibilities as new provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) take effect.  The first meeting explored the impact of health reform on public programs; the second heard testimony about the new law from private business and industry representatives.  The third meeting, held last week in Oklahoma City, got down to brass tacks by beginning to address a major policy piece for states:  planning and implementing health insurance exchanges. OK Policy staff was invited to offer our assessment and we concluded that the window for Oklahoma to operate its own exchange – versus having the federal government do so – may have already closed.

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In The Know: Lawsuits flood courthouse ahead of new civil damages cap

by | November 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

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 lawsuit filings in the Oklahoma County courthouse more than tripled in October as filers rushed to get in before the cap on pain and suffering damages takes effect. Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office officials testified that they were pressured by Rep. Randy Terrill to hire former Sen. Debbe Leftwich as a transition coordinator. The OK Policy Blog interviewed business taxation expert Michael Mazerov on how Oklahoma can put an end to tax dodging by corporations in the state.

State Impact Oklahoma summarizes how the 187 new laws going into effect today will impact the state budget and surveys changes in the latest Oklahoma tax incentives guide released by the Department of Commerce. House Speaker Kris Steele spoke about what Oklahoma can learn from the success of corrections reform in Texas. Meanwhile, the Tulsa County District Attorney complained that he is not being given enough opportunities to object to reforms. A lobbying battle is growing between law enforcement and the pharmaceutical industry over requiring prescriptions for allergy tablets. Officials are still working to complete a registry to prevent people with meth convictions from buying pseudoephedrine, but new additions every day make it difficult to keep up.

A 20-something homeless man participating in the Occupy OKC protest was found dead in Kerr Park. See a video of the young man who died performing one of his poems here. For the first time, ex-smokers in Oklahoma outnumber smokers. EMSA has been transferring funds from its Tulsa division to subsidize OKC for at least seven years, with sums owed rising as high as $2 million. Rep. Jason Murphey said the next steps in agency consolidation will be pushing for more compliance with IT reforms and conducting audits of each state agency. The former chair of the DHS Commission defended the agency in a speech to Enid Rotarians.

The Number of the Day is the percentage growth in manufacturing employment in Oklahoma since the start of 2011. In Today’s Policy Note, Economix discusses a new report on the “unbanked,”  households don’t have a checking or savings account or rely on exploitative financial services like check cashing, payday loans and pawnshops. See a fact sheet here on financial fees and the unbanked in Oklahoma.

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Interview with Michael Mazerov: Oklahoma can put an end to abusive corporate tax shelters

by | October 31st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

Michael Mazerov is a Senior Fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where he specializes in state and local taxation of businesses. This interview was conducted by e-mail on October 25, 2011. For additional information on combined reporting, see Michael’s issue brief.

David Blatt: What problem is combined reporting trying to address?

Michael Mazerov: Most large multistate corporations are actually corporate groups, with a parent corporation that owns numerous subsidiary corporations.  That structure allows members of the corporate group that are subject to Oklahoma’s corporate income tax to engage in artificial transactions at artificial prices with members of the group that aren’t in Oklahoma, in order to shift profits that are earned in Oklahoma beyond the taxing power of the state.  The profits get shifted on paper onto the books of the out-of-state parent or subsidiaries that Oklahoma doesn’t have the legal authority to tax.

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In The Know: 186 new laws go into effect tomorrow

by | October 31st, 2011 | 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 186 new laws will go into effect Nov. 1, including measures to allow guns inside vehicles on CareerTech campuses, relieve prison overcrowding, take away collective bargaining rights, and restrict abortion. Governor Fallin has approved only about half of paroles recommended by the parole board. The number of the Oklahoma schools not meeting federal and state performance requirements more than doubled this year.

Testimony begins today in the bribery case against state Rep. Randy Terrill and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich. $37 million in federal housing funding has been restored to the Cherokee Nation as long as the tribe provides full citizenship rights to the Cherokee freedmen descendants. As Oklahoma City looks at adding sexual orientation to the classes protected from employment discrimination, that protection has already been added in Tulsa and Oklahoma County without spurring any litigation or additional benefits for employees.

NewsOK argues that increasing the state’s debt through bond issues to fund infrastructure improvements is badly needed and makes good fiscal sense. The Muskogee Phoenix joins those calling for sales taxes to be charged during online purchases. A representative of support personnel in the Oklahoma City School District says less than half are earning a living wage.

Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in per capita personal income growth. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress explains how Congress is helping create unemployment.

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The Weekly Wonk – October 28, 2011

by | October 28th, 2011 | 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 released a paper showing that state costs under the new federal health care law are likely to be modest and could even yield net savings.  Click here to access a 1-page summary of our issue brief: Health Care Reform and the State Budget: Savings Likely to Partly or Fully Offset Modest New Costs.

OK Policy testified this week before the Joint Committee on the Federal Health Care LawClick here for our presentation exploring Oklahoma’s options for implementing state health insurance exchanges, a major requirement of the new law.  Read the Tulsa World’s coverage of our paper along with a summary of the committee meeting.

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In The Know: Food stamp program hit another all-time high

by | October 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In 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 number of Oklahomans receiving food stamps reached a record high for the seventh consecutive month.  Legislative leaders predict years of consecutive state budget cuts might be ending.  Oklahoma Policy Institute’s FY 2013 budget outlook shows continued challenges ahead, with minimal restoration of the funding cuts that have been absorbed over the past three years.  The financial crisis for rural ambulance districts is worsening and will continue to deteriorate without a reliable funding stream.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education sanctioned 227 schools for not meeting federal and state performance requirements, more than twice as many as last year.  The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is partnering with the office of faith-based initiatives to recruit church families to act as foster families.  The House Pension Oversight Commission finds that recent changes to the state pension system reduced the unfunded liability for the Public Employees Retirement System by $1.7 billion.

An OK Policy Blog post points to evidence that the state’s personal income tax has very little to do with businesses’ decisions to locate in Oklahoma or elsewhere.  Jerrod Shouse looks at how lobbyists, lawmakers and advocates use social media. In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that the Affordable Care Act will not adversely affect employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of school districts in Oklahoma, 9th most in the nation.

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It's not the personal income tax

by | October 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

ConocoPhillips headquarters in the Energy Corridor area of Houston

Why do some companies choose to locate their businesses  in Texas rather than Oklahoma? During the first two meetings of the Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform, co-chair Representative David Dank has stated repeatedly that the absence of the personal income tax accounts for the cases where Texas wins out in relocation and investment decisions.

Finding hard evidence to support his case, however, has proven elusive. At a recent Task Force meeting, Wes Stucky, CEO of the Ardmore Development Authority and a widely respected leader in the economic development field, spoke of his long-standing efforts to bring investment and jobs to Ardmore. Stucky told the Task Force:

For 24 years, I’ve been conducting interviews with executives of companies that we tried to recruit to Ardmore that ended up locating elsewhere. Not once in all those years did a company that rejected Ardmore base its decisions on taxes.

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In The Know: Lawmakers hear predictions on the future of health reform

by | October 27th, 2011 | 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 state heard different predictions on when the Supreme Court will rule on challenges to the new health care law, and there remains a strong likelihood that the state will be forced to comply with most or all of the law. OK Policy released a new issue brief showing that the state cost of health care reform are likely to be modest and could yield net savings.

Rep. David Dank, the chair of the legislative task force on tax credits, said coal tax credits are the “poster child for just about everything that is wrong with this system.” Governor Fallin said she was embarrassed by the condition of the Capitol building and wants the state to find money for repairs. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services agreed to pay part of a $1.1M settlement to a young man who was sexually molested at a foster home.

At a panel discussion the legislators, Tulsa-area parents of special needs students criticized a private school voucher program for taking resources from public schools with no accountability. The White House said President Obama’s plan on college loans would allow more than 23,000 current students in Oklahoma to lower their monthly payments. Data analysis of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system has been completed by the Justice Center, and lawmakers will now move on to crafting reforms to reduce crime and incarceration.

Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for September 2011, up slightly from the previous month’s rate. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline reports on how Oregon may become the next national health care model for seeking to control costs while improving public health through community care.

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State cost of health care reform likely to be modest and could yield net savings

by | October 26th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

Under the new national health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), one major strategy for providing health insurance coverage to the 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured is an expansion of eligibility in the Medicaid program. Even though the federal government will assume the lion’s share of the costs of insurance for those who gain Medicaid coverage, this expansion has created concern and uncertainty about the impact the law will have on state budgets.

We do not yet have a comprehensive study of the projected costs and savings of the Affordable Care Act for Oklahoma’s state budget. However, as a new OK Policy issue brief shows, most studies of the impact of the Affordable Care Act have concluded that increases to state Medicaid budgets will be modest. National studies from the Urban Institute and projections developed by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority have estimated that state spending on Medicaid may grow by $200 to $800 million between 2014 and 2019 or 2020, depending on various assumptions, while increasing state Medicaid spending by under 10 percent.  The federal government will assume over 90 percent of total costs of expanded Medicaid coverage. To cite the conclusion of the study by John Holahan and Irene Headen, the Urban Institute’s experienced and widely-respected health policy analysts:

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