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Fog has yet to clear on state budget (Capitol Updates)

by | April 14th, 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.

Nine weeks down and seven weeks to go in this session, and the fog has yet to begin clearing on the FY-18 budget outlook. House appropriations Chair Leslie Osborn sent a shot over the bow recently when she asked agencies to report what they would do with a 14.5 percent budget cut. The results reported by most agencies were unacceptable by most any measure. But there still exists no public proposal by legislative leadership for a package of revenue measures that would come close to closing the budget gap.

It seems clear that a deal has been made to end the 10-year, fifty one-hundredths of one cent ($0.0050) tax credit earned on every kilowatt of electricity produced by wind facilities going into production after July 1, 2017. The credit is a refundable tax credit, which means it’s money that is paid directly out of the state treasury, and it has cost more than was ever anticipated. This, however will have no impact on the FY-18 budget so it will be no help in solving the budget gap. The budgets it will affect will occur in FY-19 and beyond.

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Budget cuts would hit Oklahoma’s small towns hard

by | April 13th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (7)

Atoka Public Schools Schools is a district that serves 996 students in K-12, employing 70 teachers and professional staff and 127 total employees. Since 2009, it has seen its funding decrease by $500,000. This year, it is one of 100 school districts, primarily in rural Oklahoma, that have gone to a four-day school week to cut costs.

While we often associate state government with the State Capitol and Oklahoma City, in reality, the money spent by the state flows out across Oklahoma’s 77 counties and nearly 600 towns and cities. In nearly every community, state dollars are spent on grade schools and colleges; roads and bridges; hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and substance abuse counselors; parks, historical centers  and libraries; correctional facilities, in-home care providers, agricultural inspectors, and myriad other public and private entities.

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In The Know: Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April

by | April 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Tapped-out state revenue sources cost public schools another $17.4 million in April: Public schools learned Wednesday that their monthly payment from the state of Oklahoma would be shorted by an additional $17.4 million, bringing the total reductions since January to nearly $87 million. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools notifying them that state revenue collections continue to fall far short of expectations in both the 1017 Fund and the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund [Tulsa World]. We’ve become accustomed to mid-year cuts. It’s a sad but true fact. They still hurt. Every month is a new stomach punch [okeducationtruths].

Criminal justice reform measures survive House committee gauntlet: Three key pieces of Gov. Mary Fallin’s initiative to reduce the state’s high incarceration rates through criminal justice reform survived two committee hearings and some major alterations in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. Senate Bills 649 and 689, by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Edmond, and SB 786, by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, all made it through the House Criminal Judiciary and Public Safety committees, but laden with questions and reservations that must be resolved before any comes close to final passage [Tulsa World]. Recommendations from the Justice Reform Task Force could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Bill that would allow Ten Commandments back at Oklahoma Capitol passes Senate committee: A controversial bill that would pave the way for historical statues on public grounds has passed another hurdle. In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments Monument that was housed at the Oklahoma State Capitol violated the Constitution. That decision led to the monument being removed from the Capitol grounds [KFOR].

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Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

by | April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

Brenda Granger is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Today is Oklahoma Arts Day at the State Capitol.

Arts and culture promote civility and transcend all boundaries. Arts and culture bring people together. Arts and culture are rooted in partnerships of all kinds, especially public-private partnerships. Arts and culture organizations offer transformational experiences to everyone across our great state and beyond. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution. Funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), and through them, arts and cultural organizations in our state, is important to our Oklahoma education, economy, communities, workforce, and future.

Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy. In the next months, Oklahomans for the Arts, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and several arts and cultural organizations, will have the latest economic impact numbers to share. It is expected the numbers will exceed those of the last study in 2010 of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that showed that the industry had a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy, supported 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generated more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.

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In The Know: Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent

by | April 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent: The state’s general revenue allocation fell 9 percent below expectations in March, causing the state to take $31 million from agency revolving funds, officials said Tuesday. In fact, officials admitted earlier this month that the state’s constitutional reserve — known as the Rainy Day Fund — has been emptied in order to pay bills and meet payroll. Doerflinger repeated earlier assurances that enough revenue will come in during the final three months of the fiscal year to replace the borrowed money, but said the situation still calls for new revenue sources [Tulsa World].

Drastic cuts could be coming for Medicaid patients in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is warning, if their state appropriation is cut for fiscal year 2018, many programs and benefits for Medicaid patients could be eliminated. Some of the programs and benefits being considered are pharmacy, behavioral health, durable medical equipment, the breast and cervical cancer treatment program, the waiver-funded Medically Fragile program and Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, private duty nursing services, adult organ transplants, dialysis, hospice services, physical and occupational therapy, and speech, hearing and language disorder services [KFOR].

Why should Oklahoma subsidize lenders who prey on the poor? The payday lending industry is advancing House Bill 1913 on the premises that high-interest loans are required in the free market. But I’d like to offer a conservative, market-oriented argument against HB 1913. HB 1913 seeks to compel government courts to help the private payday lending industry collect its debts. HB 1913 doesn’t merely require Oklahoma to allow excessive consumer debt. HB 1913 actually requires the state of Oklahoma to subsidize excessive consumer debt through its court system [Rep. Kevin Calvey / Tulsa World]. “Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families [OK Policy].

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Extended family leave for new parents would boost economy while addressing some of Oklahoma’s worst health rankings

Too many Oklahoma parents face an impossible choice – continue to work full-time and miss precious opportunities to bond with a new child, or leave work and put their finances and career at risk. Oklahomans shouldn’t face this choice.  New parents should be able to take leave to bond with and care for a new child without putting their family’s future at risk.

Senate Bill 549, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee, is a good first step in the modernization of family leave in Oklahoma. [UPDATE: SB 549 passed committee with a 14-0 vote and will next go to the full House.] Under federal law, most American workers are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and several states have provided further paid or unpaid leave. SB 549 would extend that to 20 weeks of unpaid leave for Oklahoma’s state employees.

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OK PolicyCast Episode 28: Mid-Session Update

by | April 11th, 2017 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (1)

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at policycast@okpolicy.org.

Now that we’re just past the halfway point in the Legislative session, Kara Joy and Gene talk about which key bills are still alive, which are dead, and what’s at play in negotiations over the state budget. To find out how you can take action on bills during the rest of session, see OK Policy’s Advocacy Alerts page, and to join efforts for a better Oklahoma state budget, visit Together Oklahoma.

You can subscribe at the links above, download the podcast here, or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Oklahoma governor to decide fate of wind energy tax credits

by | April 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma governor to decide fate of wind energy tax credits: The Oklahoma Senate gave final approval Monday to a measure ending income tax credits for wind production more than three years early. House Bill 2298 now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin, who asked for the early sunset legislation in February. Leadership in both chambers have praised the bill, citing it as one way the state can reclaim revenue in future budget years [NewsOK]. While it is true that subsidies for the wind industry have been rising, the reality is that they pale in comparison to those the state provides to oil and gas producers [OK Policy].

Senate Committee Passes Three Controversial School Bills: A state Senate committee passed three controversial bills dealing with schools on Monday. The bills cover disciplining students with disabilities; a grading system that’s been called institutional racism; and schools reportedly using four day school weeks as a teacher incentive. House Bill 1684 would require school districts planning to go to four-day school weeks to simply submit a plan to the state Department of Education. Right now, schools aren’t required to do that [News9].

State Medicaid leader: ‘We will be putting people’s lives at stake’ when services are eliminated: Low-income Oklahomans will have limited access to a range of health care services if the state Medicaid agency moves forward with a slew of cuts to the publicly funded health care program. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, announced Monday that, as the agency prepares for whatever money the Legislature provides, the authority will consider provider rate cuts of up to 25 percent to balance the agency’s budget [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Format change for Medicaid services could cost state federal funds

by | April 10th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Format change for Medicaid services could cost state federal funds: Oklahoma could unintentionally lose hundreds of millions of dollars after privatizing part of its Medicaid system, health care experts said. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is preparing to select a company that will eventually coordinate care for the state’s aged, blind and disabled population. However, a recently adopted federal rule cuts off an important revenue source for states that move to a managed care system. [Tulsa World]

Repeal push complicates state efforts to get ObamaCare waivers: A number of states are readying blueprints for substantial changes under an ObamaCare waiver program, but a renewed push to repeal the law is complicating their plans. The Affordable Care Act’s 1332 State Innovation Waiver lets states skip some of the law’s regulations if their healthcare plan covers a comparable number of people without increasing the federal deficit. States can apply for the waivers starting this year. But a revived attempt to repeal the health law is throwing a wrench in those plans, since states don’t know what a new bill will entail. [The Hill]

Oklahoma DHS expresses concerns about ‘ potentially devastating service reductions’ in 2018: Officials say even if DHS receives a ‘flat appropriation’ for the upcoming fiscal year of $680 million, the agency would be forced to cut more than $50 million in services beginning on July 1. “With the recent state revenue failure and the lead time necessary to enact many of our budget options, we may have to begin implementing some of these plans sooner rather than later.” [KFOR] See Director Ed Lake’s previous statement on the impact of proposed budget cuts for DHS.

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Weekly Wonk: Rainy Day Fund 101 Update, Oklahoma is not a poor state, prosperity districts would not create prosperity for all, and more

by | April 9th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, 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

Executive Director David Blatt reminded us how the Rainy Day Fund works and what it can be used for in light of recent news that the  fund currently has a balance of $0, and contended in his Journal Record column that Oklahoma is not a poor state and we can afford to invest more in our future. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update wonders if there may be longer term consequences of the recent allocation of money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam explained that SB 548 would allow the sale in Oklahoma of insurance plans that provide almost no coverage. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison pointed out the potential dangers in the proposal to allow the creation of “Prosperity Districts” in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins was interviewed by KFOR for a story about HB 1913, and bill that would allow new high-cost loans to be offered in Oklahoma. Policy Director Gene Perry’s op-ed arguing against allowing the suspension of students as young as third grade was published in the Enid News, and Perry was quoted by Oklahoma Watch arguing against the same bill (SB 81). OK Policy’s work in opposition of HB 2132, a bill that would allow the creation of “Prosperity Districts” in Oklahoma, was acknowledged by former Attorney General Drew Edmondson in his op-ed for the Norman Transcript.

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