Filling the Hole: Options for a balanced approach to the state budget shortfall

by | March 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

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The Board of Equalization has certified that legislators will have $188 million less for next year’s budget compared to this year.  In her FY 2015 Executive Budget, Governor Fallin proposed an overall cut of 1.9 percent across all of state government and cuts of 5 percent to most agency budgets. In a new issue brief, OK Policy argues that responding to budget shortfalls by imposing deeper budget cuts is not an inevitable outcome.

The prospect of a new round of budget cuts is of grave concern for two main reasons:

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In The Know: Hillary Clinton visits Tulsa for unveiling of early childhood education campaign

by and | March 25th, 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 a new campaign has been launched in Tulsa that seeks to get more parents reading or talking with their young children. The program was officially unveiled Monday, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attending to speak about its expected impact. The number of Hispanic students in Tulsa public schools has doubled since 2007, and they now make up the largest ethnic group in the district.

With the deadline for open enrollment on the Affordable Care Act marketplace coming next Monday, the OK Policy Blog shared six reasons why Oklahomans should get covered. Members of Native American tribes who receive services at Indian health clinics are exempt from the deadline and can purchase insurance at any time.

The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week on whether Hobby Lobby and other private businesses can refuse to cover contraceptives on employee health plans. The New York Times discussed how the ruling could have repercussions beyond the issue of contraception, by creating a new barrier to laws addressing health, safety and civil rights if private business owners cite religious objections. MSNBC shared stories of challenges faced by teen parents in Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation, where the teen pregnancy rate is nearly double the national average

The Cherokee Nation is planning a series of events this year to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears. Oklahomans will begin to see large increases in flood insurance premiums as federal subsidies are phased out. Oklahoma City is looking for a way to collect millions in past due trash bills from residents who aren’t connected to the city water system and can’t be shut off for not paying. The Senate education committee unanimously approved a bill to replace Oklahoma’s Common Core standards.

Oklahoma has changed execution procedures after the state faced difficulties obtaining the drugs needed for executions. Two death row inmates are suing to challenge an Oklahoma law that bars disclosure of specifics about drugs that are used in executions. With more Oklahomans buying e-cigarettes, the number of poisonings from liquid nicotine used in the device is also on the rise, especially with children. The Number of the Day is the percentage of office-based physicians in Oklahoma with a basic electronic health record system. In today’s Policy Note, Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic discusses a major Obamacare benefit that’s gotten little attention.

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Are you covered yet?

by | March 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Taking care of the youngThe deadline to sign up for health insurance is March 31st! We’re sure you’re already signed up – but what about your friends and family? We’ve compiled a list of the main reasons why they should get covered before March 31st. 

Here’s why Oklahomans should get covered:

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In The Know: Oklahoma schools suspend black students at higher rates

by and | March 24th, 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 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 is one of 12 states in the nation that suspended both female and male black students at a higher rate than their white peers. The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded 14 earthquakes in Oklahoma since Friday morning. The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that more regulation of oil and gas wastewater injection wells makes sense because of earthquake concerns.

Supporters of U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon have created a for-profit corporation which has spent more than $300,000 in anonymous contributions for TV and print advertising in support of Shannon. Pro Publica looked at some of the people behind this new dark money group. Rep. Markwayne Mullin may face a Congressional ethics probe over his continued involvement in his family’s plumbing business.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has added new restrictions on media access to state prisons, requiring “specific authorization” for video or audio recording and members of the media to be escorted at all times. Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour wrote that Oklahoma will end up paying more for severely overcrowded prisons, whether we vote to do it ourselves or are forced to by a lawsuit. Advocates are making a case that investing more in mental health treatment could save Oklahoma millions in jail costs.

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to debate a bill today that would repeal Common Core educational standards in Oklahoma. Governor Fallin emphasized the need for standards but said she would support an alternative to Common Core. The Tulsa World examined what parts of Governor Fallin’s agenda are moving forward and what has failed in the Legislature.

KGOU reported on a poll showing falling voter support for personal income tax cuts in Oklahoma. Less than half of Oklahoma voters now say they support income tax cut plans, and opposition jumps to more than 60 percent when voters learn more about the plan. OETA reported on implications of a study that ranks Oklahoma near the bottom in the nation for family financial security. KSWO reported on a bill moving through the Legislature that would prohibit Oklahoma cities from raising their minimum wage.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of black male students in Oklahoma who received an out-of-school suspension in 2011-2012. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discussed research on states and cities that have increased the minimum wage, and none of the dire predictions of job losses have come to pass.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Graph of the Day: State tax rates and drilling activity show no correlation

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

In recent years there has been a tremendous growth of horizontal drilling for oil and gas across the United States.  In Oklahoma, this has led to growing concern that the state’s tax breaks for horizontal drilling are growing out of control at the expense of adequate funding for our schools and other critical services.

Oklahoma taxes traditional production at 7 percent but provides for a lower tax rate to support certain kinds of production seen as especially risky or costly. As the result of a tax break first enacted in the 1990′s, horizontal production is taxed at only 1 percent for the first four years of production. The state is now forsaking some $250 million in revenue from this tax break.

Some proponents of the tax break for horizontal drilling claim that it is working just as it supposed to by encouraging drilling activity that benefits that state’s economy and treasury. They assert that state tax policy is an important factor in determining where energy companies chose to invest. If that were true, we’d expect that states with the lowest tax rates would see more growth in horizontal drilling while states with the highest tax rates would see less. Instead, no such correlation seems to exist.

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In The Know: Health care signups expected to surge before March 31 deadline

by and | March 20th, 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 groups working to help Oklahomans sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are seeing a surge of interest as the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches. News 9 reported on how more than 100,000 Oklahomans are blocked from obtaining affordable insurance while the state refuses to accept federal funds. National Affordable Care experts spoke to members of the LGBT community in Tulsa on how to enroll under the law.

A new poll shows that over the last year, support for cutting Oklahoma’s personal income tax has dropped significantly among voters statewide, and less than half now support the plan to reduce the state’s top rate. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses 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.

Despite Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates, a Senate committee approved a half-dozen bills Wednesday to increase the penalties for various crimes. They voted to dramatically increase fines for maintaining a house of prostitution and distribution of obscene materials. They also approved lengthening mandatory sentences for offenses related to child pornography, human trafficking, arson, stalking, and drug trafficking.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators have approved tentative rules that would require more testing and data-gathering at wastewater injection wells, as part of an effort to determine causes of increased earthquake activity in the state. A chemical plant in Pryor run by LSB Industries has reached a settlement with the EPA over violations of the Clean Air Act. They will pay $725,000 in penalties and reduce their emissions of nitric oxide — an atmospheric pollutant and lung irritant.

The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that repealing Common Core standards could actually increase federal control of Oklahoma schools, because we could lose waivers exempting us from parts of the No Child Left Behind law. The Number of the Day is the percentage of registered Oklahoma voters polled who support income tax cuts. In today’s Policy Note, a freelance political cartoonist in Texas shares her family’s experience with health insurance under Obamacare.

continue reading In The Know: Health care signups expected to surge before March 31 deadline

Poll: Support for tax cuts has dropped significantly

by | March 19th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

2014-pollA new poll shows that over the last year, support for cutting Oklahoma’s personal income tax has dropped significantly among voters statewide, and less than half now support the plan to reduce the state’s top rate. Support drops even further when voters learn of the disparity in the size of the cuts across income groups. Very large majorities oppose cutting funding for state services such as education, public safety, and health care to pay for tax cuts.

The results are similar to polls done in 2012 and 2013, and they show a growing disconnect between elected officials and Oklahoma voters on this issue. The more voters learn about the tax cut proposals, the less popular they become.

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