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In The Know: After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash

by | January 17th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash: Oklahoma paid more than half a million dollars to a company after federal regulators levied a massive fine for workplace hazards, records show. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Alfa Laval nearly $500,000 for dozens of serious workplace safety violations at its Broken Arrow site, including five repeat offenses. The fines were issued in May 2015 and the amount was eventually lowered to $348,500 in a settlement agreement. Then last year, the company claimed more than $500,000 through Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, a state-run incentive that supports companies that expand or move here [NewsOK].

States can offer a lesson as GOP proposes deep cut taxes: President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who have pledged to cut federal taxes to boost the economy might consider looking first at lessons learned in GOP-controlled states that adopted similar strategies, only to see growth falter and budget gaps widen. The situation is worrisome enough in Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana that lawmakers are now debating whether to reverse course and raise taxes. And political leaders in states that have seen expanded Republican control, such as Arkansas and Iowa, are signaling caution about any new tax-cut proposals [Associated Press]. Two-thirds of states are facing budget challenges this year [Associated Press].

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators: A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma’s bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general. His response: Put on the brakes. Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further [New York Times].

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The Weekly Wonk: Health care law repeal threatens chaos, budget hearings highlight need, and more

by | January 15th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. 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 from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Carly Putnam described how the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act could affect Oklahomans’ health care. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis noted that recent budget hearings illuminated agency needs. Executive Director David Blatt argued in his Journal Record column that the time has come for a higher gas tax

As part of the Together OK #betterok Budget Bootcamp, we shared eight key facts about Oklahoma’s budget and eight key facts on education in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Sequoyah County Times cited OK Policy data in an article on how recent criminal justice reform measures on the ballot affect the county’s sheriff. The education news site The 74 cited OK Policy data in a piece on Tulsa Honor Academy. OK Policy Board member Andrew Tevington was featured in an Oklahoma Gazette article on a partnership between the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

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Budget hearings illuminate needs of Oklahoma’s major agencies (Capitol Update)

by | January 13th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | Comments (0)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

To better inform more House members about the state budget, Speaker Charles McCall has made budget briefings by some of the major state agencies available to all House members. They’ve been held in the House Chamber with all members invited. This is a good idea, especially with the budget crisis the Legislature is facing and with 32 new House members. Usually these briefings, although they are open to everyone, are for the benefit of and mostly attended by the members of the Appropriations and Budget Committee.

There are going to be some difficult votes for legislators, regardless of what direction they take. The more the members know about the budget problems, the more open they’ll be to finding and supporting solutions. Also, the better they’ll be able to explain their votes to constituents. After all, the votes are, or should be, cast in the best interest of constituents. Representing is more than waving a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. It’s also about digging beneath the surface and doing the right thing for the public. To do the right thing members must be able to feel they can explain what they did and why they did it.

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In The Know: Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase

by | January 13th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase: New House Speaker Charles McCall is endorsing a pay increase for Oklahoma teachers that would phase in a $6,000 pay raise during a three-year period. McCall said in a statement released Thursday that he believes House Republicans will support the bill by Broken Arrow Republican Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. …McCall has said increasing teacher pay will be one of the caucus’ top priorities, but it’s not clear how lawmakers plan to pay for it [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers discuss teacher shortage at TPS legislative breakfast: A group of Oklahoma lawmakers at an annual Tulsa Public Schools legislative breakfast Thursday seemed stumped on solutions to the state’s teacher shortage, one asserting that legislators must find a way to provide funds for teacher pay raises and another saying they would lose that “funding battle.” The Tulsa-area legislators discussed the issue after hearing a presentation from TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist that included examples of the how the district has struggled to recruit and retain teachers on Oklahoma salaries [Tulsa World].

New license plate proposed to fund teacher recruitment efforts: No one is arguing whether an improved education system would better entice businesses to move into Oklahoma; they’re arguing how to pay for it. As education officials continue asking legislators for money for teacher salary increases, a handful think they might have more luck asking someone else. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican, worked with the Oklahoma Department of Education to introduce a bill that would create a specialty license plate to pay for statewide teacher recruitment efforts [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue

by | January 12th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue: School districts across the state are learning of the first state funding reduction of the fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools that will be shorted by a total of $9.7 million, but there are indications the trend could continue. All but 37 school districts — whose local tax revenues are too high — receive state aid, the primary source of state funding for public schools [Tulsa World]. A year ago at this time, we were just beginning to learn the depths of our state’s revenue failure [okeducationtruths]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Criminal justice task force says it can save the state nearly $2 billion: Gov. Mary Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force expects to announce later this week recommendations it says will save the state almost $2 billion over the next 10 years. Details are sketchy, but initiatives nationally and in Oklahoma suggest that the recommendations are likely to include sentencing modification and changes to the pardon and parole process. “It’s been interesting to be exposed to some of the data,” Jennifer Chance, Fallin’s general counsel and a task force member, said Wednesday. “It’s been shocking — I mean jaw-dropping shocking.” [Tulsa World] Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

Oklahoma finance officials say revenue continuing to lag behind projections: Oklahoma finance officials say collections by the state’s main operating fund are continuing to trail projections, setting up the possibility of a budget hole even deeper than first predicted. Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger released figures on Wednesday showing collections to the state’s General Revenue Fund missed December’s monthly estimate by more than 12 percent [KFOR]. This is the third straight year of sizable shortfalls [OK Policy]. 

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Affordable Care Act repeal plans threaten chaos for Oklahomans’ health care

by | January 11th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

Repealing the Affordable Care Act has been a hallmark of Republican platforms since the signature health care reform law passed in 2010. Now, with the GOP holding both houses of Congress as well as the White House, efforts have already begun for Congress to make good on its promises to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): a resolution filed in the first full day of Congress of 2017 formally kick-started the process, and it will likely be voted on late tonight or early tomorrow. Although significant uncertainty surrounds both repeal and whatever might come after, we have some idea of what both could look like – and what they mean for Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost

by | January 11th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Today In The News

Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost: The agency that oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma is requesting an additional $200 million, mostly to maintain its current level of health care services for low-income residents, the agency’s new leader told state lawmakers on Tuesday. Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, outlined her agency’s budget during a hearing Tuesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee [Associated Press].

DHS budget crisis could leave hundreds without care: The Department of Human Services is begging the state legislature to give them more money to make it to the end of the fiscal year. If they don’t, thousands of people will be left on their own, many children, the elderly or the disabled. Tuesday we met David. He loves cars. And thanks to dedicated therapists, he’s living on his own. “[They’re] no longer stuck away where people can’t see them,” says Sally Allen, Human Resources Manager for Center State Community Service [KTUL].

House investigation of sexual harassment claims expanded to include Fourkiller, chairman announces: A special committee that will look into the settlement of a wrongful termination claim will expand its investigation to examine all sexual harassment complaints filed against sitting lawmakers, including Rep. Will Fourkiller, the panel’s chairman said Tuesday. “I haven’t a clue what this is about,” Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, said. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, asked the House Rules Committee to investigate a sexual harassment and wrongful termination claim against Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: Oklahoma DHS seeks $42M cash infusion to prevent furloughs, rate cuts

by | January 10th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Today In The News

Oklahoma DHS seeks $42M cash infusion to prevent furloughs, rate cuts: The director of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services says the agency could be forced to furlough workers or cut provider rates if it doesn’t receive an infusion of more than $42 million before the current fiscal year ends in June. DHS Director Ed Lake presented his agency’s budget request to lawmakers on Monday, urging them to pass a supplemental appropriation bill after they reconvene next month [Associated Press].

Oklahoma revenue slumps two years in a row: Revenue to Oklahoma’s government contracted for the second calendar year in a row, according to figures released by Treasurer Ken Miller. The continued downturn in state receipts is blamed on a less active oil and gas sector, but the treasury has shown positive signs from that industry over the past three months. On Monday, Miller said one silver lining of the data pouring into his office is that December tax collections from energy production rose more than 4 percent over the same month last year [NewsOK].

Answering the call: Oklahoma continues effort to recruit foster parents: Ashley Kehl kept a watchful eye on her foster daughter as the little girl bounded back and forth from her bedroom to the living room, carrying book after book, her small feet pattering against the hardwood floor. As the 2-year-old girl flipped through the pages of a “Wizard of Oz” book, she paused at a picture of the Cowardly Lion [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000

by | January 9th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000: Hundreds of state employees got pay increases of $5,000 or more in 2016 even as Oklahoma faced historic budget problems. Information provided by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services showed 554 increases in this category totaling just over $5 million. The hikes came as appropriations to most state agencies were cut amid a $1.3 billion budget hole created by an oil industry downturn, tax cuts and generous tax credits to industry [NewsOK].

8 key facts about Oklahoma’s budget: “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” This quote by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is an important starting point when we think about the state budget. Like a family that acts out its values when deciding how much to spend on things like saving for retirement, investing in education and activities for children, or paying for basic needs like food, shelter, and health care, the state of Oklahoma expresses our values through the budget for core public services like education, public health and safety, and infrastructure [Together Oklahoma].

Oklahoma’s education system is in 47th place and falling further behind: While our elected officials have been busy getting grades for schools and school districts, someone else was evaluating the state’s performance, and it’s pretty bad. The annual Quality Counts report card of state education systems puts Oklahoma in 47th place among the 50 states and District of Columbia. By consistent inadequate funding of public schools, the state of Oklahoma isn’t providing the opportunity for its next generation to succeed, and the results are apparent in academic performance and any other legitimate measure of education achievement [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster; Six takeaways from Oklahoma’s new budget estimates; & more

by | January 8th, 2017 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. 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 from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained how Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster. Executive Director David Blatt shared six takeaways from Oklahoma’s new budget estimates. In addition, we shared a statement on December’s revenue certification and what it means for the state budget. 

In his Journal Record columns, Blatt wrote that a “repeal and delay” of the Affordable Care Act would disrupt care for millions, detailed how lawmakers can restore a tax credit that works, and hoped that leadership’s recognition of the state’s revenue problem could prompt meaningful action

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke to NewsOK about the possibility of raising the gas tax, and to the Altus Times about options for filling the budget hole. The Tahlequah Daily Press quoted our statement on the December revenue certification, and Think Progress cited OK Policy data in a discussion of state safety net funding and anti-abortion legislation. 

The Oklahoma Gazette profiled Together Oklahoma’s work helping Oklahomans connect with their legislators and advocate effectively, coordinated by OK Policy staffer Kara Joy McKee. You can learn more about Together Oklahoma here. The Tulsa World selected former OK Policy economic opportunity and poverty policy analyst DeVon Douglass, who recently moved into a position as the city’s chief resilience officer, as one of Tulsa’s People to Watch. 

Weekly What’s That

Dual-eligible

The term “dual-eligible” refers to people who are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid at the same time. They usually qualify for Medicare Part A (primarily covers hospital care) and/or Part B (medical insurance; mostly covers doctor’s visits, outpatient procedurse, health care supplies, and preventive care), as well as 1) a Medicare Savings program, or 2) Medicaid benefits. Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“For those who say that we don’t have a revenue problem, I will say this, ‘You don’t have to say it with words because your actions are showing it.’ If you have to use a half a billion dollars every single year in your budget to spend more than your recurring revenues will allow, that shows a revenue problem.”

– State Treasurer Ken Miller, on the revenue shortfall for next year (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Norman Transcript

The state of Oklahoma projects a significant budget deficit. Gov. Mary Fallin’s solution is to increase sales taxes. Sound familiar? We’ve already been through this earlier in 2016, when a looming $1.3 billion budget deficit and failed cigarette tax increase dominated headlines in the first quarter. Now, facing another massive deficit quickly shooting toward $1 billion, Fallin has suggested the cigarette tax again, in addition to eliminating some sales tax exemptions, to fill the gap.

Numbers of the Day

  • 11.2% – Percentage of Oklahomans who have Type 2 Diabetes, 2014
  • 31% – Estimated share of non-elderly Oklahomans with pre-existing conditions for which insurance coverage could be declined under pre-Affordable Care Act health insurance practices, about 706,000 people
  • $560 million – Yearly cost of uncompensated care in all Oklahoma hospitals
  • 19 – Number of women legislators in the upcoming 2017 Oklahoma legislative session. Only Wyoming will have a smaller share of female legislators in 2017 (11 percent, versus Oklahoma’s 13 percent)
  • 56% – Percentage of high school graduates meeting college readiness benchmarks on the ACT and SAT, 2014
  • 31.4% – Percent of Oklahoma adults who reported not participating in any physical activity in the last month in 2012
  • 3rd – Oklahoma’s national rank in heart disease mortality, 2012
  • 46% – Percent of Oklahoma nursing homes that received a 1- or 2-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and MedicaidServices in 2015. The rating scale for nursing homes is 1-5 stars, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

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