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Weekly Wonk May 12, 2013

by | May 12th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

The 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.

OK Policy’s Executive Director, David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses silver linings in the tax cut debate. OK Policy was also mentioned in an Oklahoman editorial discussing adequate funding for school reforms.

Appropriations-06-14-CPIadjusted A guest post on the OK Policy blog discussed a new study out of Oregon which shows that extending Medicaid coverage greatly improves economic security and access to preventive care for low-income Americans. The blog also explained how Oklahoma lawmakers are back to being more interested in posturing against criminals than considering even the most moderate criminal justice reforms. Lastly we identified what you need to know about the most recent state budget agreement and explained why the new budget plan continues the trend of underfunding education in Oklahoma.

 

Numbers of the Day

  • 15.7 percent – Percentage of households in communities of color in Oklahoma who don’t have access to a vehicle, compared to 4 percent for predominately white communities, 2009
  • 472,400 – Number of households in Oklahoma who rent, about 33 percent of the state’s households
  • 84 percent – Percentage of jobs lost in the state’s educational services sector that were held by women – a 5,547 drop in female employment compared to 1,063 for male employment between 2009 and 2011
  • 4,600 – The number of homeless Oklahomans, 2012
  • $200 million – Amount below five years ago going into Oklahoma’s state aid school funding formula; enrollment has increased by more than 30,000 students.

Policy Notes

In The Know: Oklahoma House approves state budget plan

by | May 10th, 2013 | 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 state House passed and sent to the Senate a $7.1 billion general appropriations bill for FY 2014.  A bill that sought to use federal Medicaid money in Oklahoma while skirting some federal rules will not be considered by the legislature.  Meanwhile, a consultant hired by the state says that his firm’s “Oklahoma Plan” alternative to Medicaid expansion won’t be ready until 2015.

The OK Policy Blog shows why the new budget plan continues the trend of underfunding education in Oklahoma; the state aid funding formula has not kept up with inflation or rising enrollment for half a decade. Legislators in the House scrambled to craft and pass a plan to raise state troopers’ pay, although it’s not immediately clear how the raise would be paid for.

The Pew Research Center reports on the record share of Hispanic high school graduates enrolling in college in 2012.  The Number of the Day is the amount below five years ago going into Oklahoma’s state aid school funding formula.

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Proposed education budget leaves schools in a hole

by | May 9th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

Educating school-age children is the state of Oklahoma’s biggest responsibility. But in recent years, our investment in education has been on a severe decline. Since 2008, Oklahoma has made the third largest cuts to per pupil spending in the nation, behind only Arizona and Alabama.

Faced with an avalanche of criticism from parents and schools over these cuts, lawmakers are claiming to have boosted education funding for 2014. The proposed budget does include additional money to cover rising health care costs and various education reforms. However, it would provide little new support for the most basic budget needs of schools.

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In The Know: Oklahoma voter turnout third lowest in 2012 election

by | May 9th, 2013 | 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 barely half of the citizen voting age population in Oklahoma cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election, the third worst turnout in the nation. An Oklahoma program that uses Medicaid funding to provide health insurance to 30,000 low-income Oklahomans must change in order to keep its funding, the federal government said this week, even as a legislative plan that tries to make those changes seems stalled.

Data released by the federal government shows huge variation in charges for the same procedures at different Oklahoma hospitals. Oklahoma Watch shared a database of the charges at Oklahoma hospitals. The OK Policy Blog explained what you need to know about the most recent state budget agreement. The Tulsa World writes that state troopers were stiffed in the budget. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses silver linings in the tax cut debate. A Tahlequah woman who says employers won’t hire her because of her back problems is concerned that a new bill creating work requirements for food stamps would prevent her from getting enough to eat

Oklahoma City is planning for stricter restrictions on lawn watering in case of a brutally dry summer. The Oklahoma City Council must soon decide if it wants to shrink its bus system coverage area to improve bus frequency, leaving some transit-dependent residents without a ride. Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Michael Ming announced that he will step down to assume leadership of GE’s new energy research center in Oklahoma. 

The Number of the Day is the number of homeless Oklahomans. In today’s Policy Note, a new report by the Government Accountability Office forecasts a gloomy outlook for state and local government budgets.

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What you need to know about the state budget agreement

by | May 8th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

Last week, Governor Fallin and legislative leaders announced a state budget deal for 2014 that is being considered by the Legislature as HB 2301. Here’s what you need to know.

In real dollars, appropriations remain significantly below pre-recession years

Although the nominal value of the appropriations budget is approaching the pre-recession high, this number does not reflect the actual size of our state government. Using real dollars (adjusted for inflation with the Consumer Price Index) shows that the state budget remains below every year from 2006, when Oklahoma was just coming out of a recession, to 2010, when the most recent recession hit. Next year’s appropriations will remain 8 percent below their pre-recession peak. In real dollars, 40 out of the 73 appropriated state agencies, boards, and commissions remain 20 percent or more below FY 2009 funding levels.

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In The Know: Standardized testing problems affect 9,100 Oklahoma students

by | May 8th, 2013 | 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that State Department of Education officials acknowledged that 9,100 students across the state had standardized tests disrupted by the testing vendor’s computer problems last week – more than triple the initial estimates. A bill allowing new state employees to opt into a defined contribution pension plan was approved by the Legislature. More than 100 Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers were at the Capitol on Tuesday asking lawmakers to reconsider a decision not to give them a pay raise.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma lawmakers are back to being more interested in posturing against criminals than considering even the most moderate criminal justice reforms. A consultant hired by Oklahoma to help create a plan for covering people without health insurance has delivered a draft report on its findings to state officials, but officials refuse to release the report. A Journal Record editorial argues that public funding for OETA is necessary and important.

A central Oklahoma transportation official wrote that inadequate public transit is a blemish on Oklahoma City. A proposal by Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas would cut food stamp nutrition assistance by $20 billion over 10 years. The Number of the Day is the percentage of jobs lost in the state’s educational services sector that were held by women. In today’s Policy Note, a study by Demos finds that due to low-paying government contractors, U.S. taxpayers employ more low-wage workers than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s combined.

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The life and death of justice reinvestment

by | May 7th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (2)
Photo by Sal Falko used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Sal Falko used under a Creative Commons license.

For several days in April, the Tulsa County Jail refused inmates arrested on municipal charges. The drastic measure was taken in response to severe overcrowding. At the height of the crisis, the facility contained 1,968 prisoners, which is over 300 more prisoners than the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office said they could safely hold.

The number was brought down significantly after officials worked to streamline processing of offenders and release some of those who posed no risk to public safety. Even so, the jail remains over capacity and vulnerable to any spikes in arrests in the future. It was another sign that Oklahoma’s criminal justice system is near the breaking point.

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In The Know: Tribes protest Gov. Fallin’s handling of tobacco compacts

by | May 7th, 2013 | 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 Native American tribal leaders are asking for an explanation of why Governor Fallin is participating in the tobacco compact negotiations or allowing the extension of existing compacts set to expire June 30. A letter by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his counterparts in 12 other states is asking the EPA not to regulate fracking, while six northeastern states are threatening to sue the agency if it does not. Bloomberg reports that George Kaiser is exploiting a loophole in IRS regulations that allows his for-profit businesses to benefit from activities of his charity.

The Legislature approved an extended tax credit for converting cars to hydrogen and compressed natural gas. The Oklahoman writes that this year’s state budget deal puts Capitol office space ahead of public safety. The Tulsa County Commission on Monday approved the purchase of 200 new portable beds to ease crowding at the Tulsa Jail.

A guest post on the OK Policy Blog discusses a new study out of Oregon which shows that extending Medicaid coverage greatly improves economic security and access to preventive care for low-income Americans. The Tulsa World writes that the Oklahoma plan being developed by two Republican legislators to accept federal funds for health care is a decent compromise.

The Number of the Day is the number of households in Oklahoma who rent, about 33 percent of the state’s households. In today’s Policy Note, the Tulsa Initiative Blog discusses a new paper showing that common Payday loan industry practices put consumers at long-term financial risk and often serve as “debt traps.”

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Oregon Medicaid study strengthens case to expand Medicaid (Guest Blog: Judy Solomon)

by | May 6th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Judy Solomon is Vice President for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where she focuses on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and issues related to the implementation of health reform, particularly policies to make coverage available and affordable for low-income people. A previous version of this post appeared on the CBPP’s Off the Charts blog.

Judy Solomon

Judy Solomon

The New England Journal of Medicine reported encouraging new findings last week from the Oregon Health Study, a landmark, ongoing study of the state’s Medicaid program.  Medicaid beneficiaries were more likely than the uninsured to access preventive care, such as mammograms for women, and they had far less financial hardship caused by health care spending.  In fact, Medicaid coverage “almost completely eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures.”  The researchers also report significant improvements in diagnosing depression and diabetes among the Medicaid recipients they tracked.  This report confirms earlier results from this study, which is often described as the “gold standard” for research.

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s budget agreement has winners and losers

by | May 6th, 2013 | 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 this year’s state budget agreement provides boosts for Medicaid, DHS, mental health, and the Legislature, but it leaves the Department of Corrections with flat funding and provides no pay increase for state workers. Education advocates had limited praise for the proposed small increase in education funding after years of big cuts. The okeducationtruths blog writes that even as overall state revenue recovers, funding for education has not. The budget agreement doesn’t address a possible hundreds of millions in lost revenue due to a court ruling on capital-gains tax deduction

Nearly $3.5 million is available to implement the Justice Reinvestment Act in the state budget agreement, but support for reform is faltering without any champions in the Legislature or Governor’s office. Former DHS Commissioner Steven Dow was among the first appointees to the new citizen advisory panels being set up to replace the Commission. Proposed legislation to overhaul state pension plans into one will not be taken up this session. OK Policy discussed why a last-minute push to overhaul pensions without time for public debate would be reckless.

KFOR examined the increase of suburban poverty in Oklahoma, much of which is caused by going bankrupt due to medical problems. The number of Oklahomans on federal disability programs has grown to nearly 8 percent of the working-age population. CBS News reported on how Oklahoma offers a universal pre-K model for the nation.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of households in communities of color in Oklahoma who don’t have access to a vehicle. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shares five strategies to smooth out the ups and downs of state tax dollars.

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