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In The Know: Over 69,000 Oklahomans enrolled on Affordable Care Act marketplace

by | May 2nd, 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that over 69,000 Oklahomans enrolled in private health insurance plans on Healthcare.gov during the open enrollment period. Oklahoma boasted the second-highest rate of Native Americans enrolled on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. In a survey, Oklahoma’s Native Americans ranked health problems as the most significant challenge facing them in mid-life. Enrollment in Oklahoma’s Medicaid program grew almost 5 percent while the health insurance marketplace was open, although officials say it’s too early to attribute the growth to the Affordable Care Act. On the OK Policy Blog, we explain how critics of accepting federal funds to extend coverage to low-income Oklahomans aren’t telling the whole story. Morton Comprehensive Health Services is forming a foundation to provide philanthropic support to assist in treating clients. Morton and other community health centers in Oklahoma have struggled since the state’s uncompensated care fund ran dry.

Governor Mary Fallin has raised over half a million dollars in the first quarter of her reelection campaign. MSNBC examined Gov. Fallin’s track record as governor. Joy Hofmeister, state schools superintendant challenger, has out-fundraised incumbent Janet Barresi by 4-to-1. State education associations have released a report countering Superintendent Barresi’s claim that school district administrative costs are excessive. TW Shannon’s campaign is drawing fire from some Republican groups, who charge that the US Senate candidate is frequently a “no-show” for campaign events at which his staff had confirmed he would appear.

Oklahoma Policy Institute released a statement condemning a deal that state leaders are arranging with oil and gas executives to extend the horizontal drilling tax break to all wells at 2 percent for four years. A new study suggests links a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma with oil and gas wastewater injection, making it the strongest earthquake ever linked to the oil and gas industry. StateImpact Oklahoma shared audio from a recent forum on how climate change is impacting Oklahoma. Oklahoma wheat farmers are bracing for the worst wheat harvests in decades.

A Gallup poll found that 30 percent of Oklahomans would leave the state to reside elsewhere if given the chance, a figure slightly below the national average. The Midwest Economic Survey Index, which covers nine Midwest and Plains states, hit a three-year high in April, suggesting continuing economic growth over the next three to six months. In an editorial, The Oklahoman criticized the state legislature for voting down sensible measures to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population. Oklahoma State University is one of 55 universities nationwide that is under federal investigation for its handling of sexual assault complaints. Vice News was granted an exclusive look at the Satanic monument being built for the Oklahoma statehouse lawn.

The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans who signed up on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace during the open enrollment period. In today’s Policy Note, Paul Krugman discusses how policymakers and politicians have ignored both economics and the lessons of history by pursuing budget austerity during a recession.

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STATEMENT: Lawmakers should reject deal to expand industry tax break

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on reports that state leaders are arranging a deal with oil and gas executives to extend the horizontal drilling tax break to all wells at 2 percent for four years:

Expanding this unnecessary tax break would squander our opportunity to invest in Oklahoma while the energy boom lasts. We are not securing nearly enough revenue for Oklahoma schools, public safety, and other services that are vital to our economy. Drilling is still booming in states without this generous tax break, while we give our prosperity away to out-of-state shareholders and ask Oklahoma taxpayers to make up the loss.

This bad deal to expand the tax break would be worse than no deal, because the tax break is scheduled to phase out naturally next year. The deal also ignores the will of Oklahoma voters who overwhelmingly say the tax break for horizontal drilling should be eliminated.

Whether lawmakers’ priority is to make investments in education, reduce income taxes, or anything else, extending this unnecessary tax break will make it harder. The legislature needs to reject this deal and insist on an agreement that protects the interests of Oklahoma taxpayers.

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Critics of Medicaid expansion aren’t telling the whole story

by | May 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by Kai Hendry used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Kai Hendry used under a Creative Commons license.

Opponents of accepting federal funds to expand health coverage in Oklahoma have recently been citing a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a think tank based out of Florida. The report claims that states should refuse federal funds to expand coverage to low-income residents because the uninsured rate did not fall after Medicaid expansions in Arizona and Maine during the early 2000s.

However, FGA’s analysis leaves out a lot of the story. States that expanded Medicaid saw Medicaid enrollment rise, but the uninsured rate remained flat because a significant number of Americans nationwide lost their private insurance during the study period (2002-2011). Not everyone who lost their insurance was eligible for Medicaid, and so they still went uninsured – something that, due to the Affordable Care Act, won’t happen this time.

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In The Know: Why there weren’t any doctors to prevent Oklahoma’s botched execution

by | May 1st, 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that the lethal injections in Oklahoma’s botched execution Tuesday night were not administered by a medical doctor because American doctor and nurse associations all prohibit their members from assisting in executions. The New York Times described the events of the execution as state-sponsored horror in Oklahoma. A major study of U.S. death row inmates estimates that at least 4.1% are innocent, and more than 200 innocent prisoners still in the system may never be recognized. 

A county jail in east Oklahoma where an inmate escaped twice has been cited 10 times in 3 years for having not having enough jailers and a broken surveillance camera. At a community forum sponsored by Oklahoma Watch, teachers spoke about the struggles they face in coping with some of the lowest salaries in the nation and increasing demands of the classroom. State Superintendent Janet Barresi is again urging state lawmakers to approve a $6.5 million supplemental appropriation to fully fund health insurance costs for schools. In the Journal Record, David Blatt wrote that it is time to get serious about reforming out-of-control tax breaks in Oklahoma.

The OK Policy Blog discussed a bill just passed by the state legislature that seeks to deny unemployment insurance for many newly jobless workers, even if they’re laid off through no fault of their own. The House voted 86-3 to override Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of a bill that seeks to speed up purchases of federally regulated firearms like silencers and short-barreled rifles. Two national groups based in Oklahoma City are building a multistate coalition to look into the connection between earthquakes and injection wells used by the oil and natural gas industry.

Environmental and design work is underway on a new bridge to connect Lexington and Purcell. The communities have been in a major crisis since transportation officials ordered the current bridge closed on Jan. 31, after dozens of cracks were found. The president of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences wrote that rural Oklahoma will bear the brunt of a severe doctor shortage in Oklahoma. The St. John Health System told all of its doctors that prescriptions for contraceptives must not contain the St. John name or logo. Oklahoma has the 49th worst health system in the nation, a system that overall fails to provide access to care and prevent disease among the state’s adults and children, according to a report released Wednesday.

Filmmakers from the Oprah Winfrey Network collected dozens of stories from Tulsa residents for an upcoming film on the Tulsa Race Riot. The inaugural MVP: Fatherhood Weekend in Tulsa is seeking to get more men involved in the lives of their children and train more men as mentors. The event was founded by OK Policy legislative liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in a report analyzing health system performance.

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Out of work and out of luck in Oklahoma

by | April 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

Some Oklahomans who work full-time and lose their job unexpectedly are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance (UI). Created in 1935, the program provides workers with limited replacement income to help them survive while they look for another job.  A bill just passed by the state legislature will likely exclude many newly jobless workers who would otherwise have been eligible for UI benefits.  This post explains how the state’s unemployment program operates now, and how the new law could leave too many workers out in the cold.

Most workers in Oklahoma today are not eligible to file for unemployment benefits, even if they’re laid off or lose their job through no fault of their own.  In fact, even among workers who are eligible for unemployment, most claimants who file for benefits (54.8 percent) are denied.  As a result, fewer than 1 in 5 jobless workers in Oklahoma received weekly compensation between 2010 and 2012.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched

by | April 30th, 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that what was supposed to be the first of two executions in Oklahoma last night was halted when the prisoner Clayton D. Lockett began to writhe and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious. He later died of a heart attack 43 minutes after he had been first injected. Governor Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution for Charles Warner, the second scheduled to be executed last night, and has ordered a ‘full review’ of the state’s execution procedures. Oklahoma had attempted the execution with a secret, untested mix of chemicals because pharmaceutical companies increasingly refuse to supply lethal injection drugs.

Governor Fallin vetoed 15 House bills and said she would continue issuing vetoes until the House address several issues. The Governor complained that legislators had not made progress on allowing schools to hold a vote on going over their bonding capacity to fund storm shelters, setting the state budget for the coming year, funding Capitol repairs, and changing the pension system for state workers. A report by independent monitors found Oklahoma is making lackluster progress on court-ordered improvement of its foster-care system. The state Senate approved a bill to require schools to have students say the Pledge of Allegiance once a week.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters and what we can do about it. The Legislature is working on modifying the Quality Jobs Act to allow state income tax dollars to help pay for land purchases by Tinker Air Force Base. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that could impact coal plants in Oklahoma. The president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is urging farmers to think twice before plowing their fields this spring. The ongoing drought creates a risk of dust storms and wind erosion that could be worsened by plowing.

The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa announced it will become the first United States affiliate to the GRAMMY Museum, based in Los Angeles. Fox23 reported on the work of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which is pushing for comprehensive sex education in schools. The first century of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School was celebrated in a new documentary film that premiered at the Circle Cinema.

The Number of the Day is how much new revenue Oklahoma could bring in if the state adopted combined reporting, a reform that prevents corporations from shifting profits to out-of-state tax shelters. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times discussed how schools can build affordable storm shelters using concrete domes.

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Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters. Here’s what we can do about it.

by | April 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)
Photo by JD Hancock.

Photo by JD Hancock.

By most measures of the economy, Oklahoma shouldn’t have a budget shortfall this year. At a time when the economy is improving nationwide and most states are debating what to do with budget surpluses, Oklahoma lawmakers are looking at creating a budget with $188 million less than last year.

Part of the reason for the shortfall is skyrocketing tax refunds going to corporations. Through January 2014 of this fiscal year, Oklahoma paid out $75.0 million in corporate income tax refunds. That’s more than double the refunds paid over the same period last year ($31.4 million). Corporate income tax revenue going to Oklahoma’s General Revenue Fund is down $100.1 million, or 33.9 percent from this time last year. It’s a symptom of a larger problem — numerous tax loopholes for corporations that shift the burden onto individuals and small business.

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In The Know: Oklahoma governor signs income tax cut into law

by | April 29th, 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure into law that schedules automatic cuts to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate in future years. The first phase of the tax cut will provide an average of $29 to middle-income families while reducing revenues for services by about $135 million, and when fully implemented the tax cuts will cost more than $250 million. Lawmakers are discussing the possibility of paying for American Indian Cultural Center and Museum through an appropriations bill that would stagger funding over three years.

Under new Quality Jobs Program contracts, four companies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have pledged to add jobs with millions of dollars in subsidies from Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog pointed out that a poll claiming to show Oklahomans oppose ending a tax break for horizontal drilling is not being transparent about its questions or methodology. The Okie Funk blog discussed reports showing that federal government has known for decades about a connection between injection wells and earthquakes.

Governor Fallin signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion because a fetus would not survive long after birth to be informed about perinatal hospice servicesAn experimental anti-poverty program by Community Action Project of Tulsa County is giving vulnerable mothers access to high-quality preschool as well as to life coaching, financial incentives and intensive job training in in-demand fields. KTUL discussed how poor reading and school funding, zero tolerance, and suspensions are creating a school to prison pipeline for Oklahoma children.

Oklahoma is set to execute two men within two hours of each other on Tuesday, a rare occasion in the 21st century. Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County following a tornado that struck Quapaw and killed at least one person. Norman residents have waited years without funding for storm shelter rebates from a federal program. Oklahoma has not seen a wave of party switching from Democratic to Republican this year, even though several major races may be decided in Republican primaries.

The Number of the Day is the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent ($689/month) in Oklahoma working 40 hours a week. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the National Employment Law Project finds an economy-wide shift to low wage jobs that has continued every year since the Great Recession.

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It’s hard to evaluate polls if one of them is secret

by | April 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

2014-poll-breaksOn Friday, The Oklahoman published an editorial discussing two recent polls about Oklahoma’s horizontal drilling tax breaks. A poll commissioned by OK Policy  found Oklahomans overwhelmingly favor ending the horizontal drilling tax break and using the savings to invest in core services. Another poll conducted by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates claimed to find Oklahomans favor keeping the tax rate at 1 percent for horizontal drilling.

The Oklahoman editorial quoted Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates president Pat McFerron casting aspersions on OK Policy’s poll, saying “While there is little doubt creative polling could create a question to get a different result, if messaging is removed and the simple facts are evaluated, it is clear this is an issue with an ideological edge and potentially an important electoral issue, especially for Republican primary voters.”

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In The Know: Attorney General Scott Pruitt to rewrite medical marijuana petition

by | April 28th, 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Attorney General Scott Pruitt is rewriting an initiative petition to permit the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana. Once a final version is submitted, supporters have 90 days to collect 155,216 voter signatures needed to get it on the ballot. The New York Times examined Oklahoma’s rapidly growing use of e-cigarettes. On May 1st, OK Policy executive director David Blatt will participate in a debate between supporters and opponents of accepting federal funds to expand health coverage for Oklahomans.

With nearly the lowest pay in the U.S., school districts across Oklahoma are facing large teacher shortages. NewsOK reported that mold problems in the state Capitol have caused employee health problems and come close to violating Health Department standards. Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said the agency needs $26.5 million in additional funds just to maintain existing services and will have to make cuts with a flat budget. The Enid News & Eagle wrote that lawmakers need to reign in tax breaks to stop a self-inflicted budget crisis.

The Tulsa World discussed how huge health disparities still remain between rich and poor areas of Tulsa County, but intensive efforts by community health clinics and funders are beginning to make a difference. A group protested outside the Governor’s mansion against Governor Fallin’s approval of a ban on minimum wage increases in Oklahoma cities. A high school curriculum adopted in Mustang Public Schools, billed as a way to teach archaeology, history and the arts through Bible stories, also tells students God is always there in times of trouble and that sinners must “suffer the consequences” of disobeying. NBC News reported on the last few residents of Picher, Oklahoma, which was abandoned due to severe pollution from lead and zinc mining.

The Number of the Day is the average Oklahoma teacher salary in 2012-2013, 49th lowest out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains what you need to know about the most important economics book of the decade.

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