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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers must come back to special session and finish job of funding core services

by | August 13th, 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

OK Policy issued a statement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1,50 per pack  cigarette fee unconstitutional, encouraging the governor to call a special session and lawmakers to take advantage of that opportunity to fix Oklahoma’s structural budget deficit. Prior to the court’s decision Executive Director David Blatt walked us through the three funding mechanisms being challenged and speculated on what might happen if the court finds any (or all) of them unconstitutional. Blatt’s Journal Record column wondered if our biggest problem is not a large budget hole, but a deficit of compassion and understanding?

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained for us how prosecutorial discretion works, and how it has contributed to the growth of incarceration rates in Oklahoma and the nation. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam reminded us that, with Congress’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid is still an option for Oklahoma – and it’s one we should seriously consider. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update took a  look at how the legislature works between sessions with interim studies and a new tool – policy working groups.

You may have heard – we hosted our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute this month!  If you’d like to see what happened, our Twitter feed from the event is archived (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4). Go check it out!

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KFOR and Express Newsline about the legal challenges to state budget that were heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday. After the court ruled on the cigarette fee, Blatt explained to The Oklahoman the very difficult situation that state health agencies will be in until the legislature is able to meet in special session and develop a solution for the lost revenue.

Perry was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the possible effects on Oklahoma that may come from President Trump declaring a national emergency regarding the opioid epidemic. Perry also discussed last week’s sales tax holiday with Public Radio Tulsa – these holidays tend to shift when spending occurs, rather than generate more spending.

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The Weekly Wonk: Failure to repeal ACA provides opportunities to fix flaws and reconsider Medicaid expansion

by | August 6th, 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

This tax-free weekend, we reviewed Executive Director David Blatt’s blog post from last summer to remind ourselves that these “holidays” provide few real benefits and carry significant costs. Blatt’s Journal Record column addressed the recent Senate failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and encouraged lawmakers to shift their focus from repeal to perfecting the ACA. In light of the failure to repeal the ACA, Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update encourages the state legislature to reconsider expanding Medicaid.  

OK Policy Hosts 5th Annual Summer Policy Institute

OK Policy hosted over 60 students last week for our 5th annual Summer Policy Institute.  Students spent time with OK Policy staff and state leaders discussing issues of great importance to Oklahoma. The structural budget deficit, declining education funding, criminal justice reform, and systemic contributors to poverty were just some of the topics that we covered in four short days. Dr. Suzanne Mettler (Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University) gave the keynote address, tackling the growing disconnect between government and the citizens they govern. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam live-tweeted from the event – check it out on Twitter here.

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The Weekly Wonk: Blame game and political fallout after DHS announces cuts, Affordable Care Act important piece of health care in rural Oklahoma

by | July 30th, 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.

OK Policy will be hosting our annual Summer Policy Institute this week! SPI brings together more than 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and stimulating four-day learning experience. Follow along with SPI on Twitter with the hashtag #okspi 

This Week from OK Policy

Executive Director David Blatt returned to his Journal Record column this week, breaking down the blame game surrounding the Department of Human Services’ recent announcement that they would have to make cuts in some programs to deal with an inadequate budget. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discussed the political fallout of that DHS announcement, placing the removal of Rep. Leslie Osborn as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee in the larger context of legislative politics. Guest Columnmist Teresa Huggins, CEO of Stigler Health and Wellness Center, shared the importance of the Affordable Care Act in providing healthcare for Oklahomans in rural areas.

Weekly What’s That

DDSD Waivers

Some Oklahomans with developmental disabilities qualify for Medicaid services through the state’s developmental disabilities services division (DDSD) waivers. The waiver is a funding mechanism that allows the state to offer community-based services as an alternative to institutional services. Read more about the four types of waivers here.

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

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The Weekly Wonk: Do lawmakers have a backup plan for the budget?

by | July 23rd, 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

Policy Director Gene Perry broke down the latest version of the Senate Republican health care bill, pointing out that this bill doesn’t fix the core problems of their first draft – it actually makes some of them worse. Perry also urged state leaders not to neglect early childhood education in his Journal Record column.  Oklahoma has had success with our pre-school programs and we need to continue working to preserve those educational gains.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis wonders in state lawmakers have a budget backup plan if the courts find that parts of next year’s budget are unconstitutional. Perry helps us to understand the dispute between Speaker McCall and Rep. Osborn about the recent cuts announced by DHS.

OK Policy in the News

Perry spoke with The Oklahoman about the Senate Republican’s difficulty passing a health care reform package – the Affordable Care Act did benefit millions of Americans and taking away those benefits now would be reckless. OK Policy data made an appearance in two stories about education funding – the Tahlequah Daily Press discussed the consequences of cuts to higher education funding in the state, while Yahoo! News introduced us to a Tulsa teacher who is panhandling to buy classroom supplies.

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The Weekly Wonk: Interim studies could create momentum for criminal justice reform next session

by | July 16th, 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

Policy Director Gene Perry discussed cuts to education spending in Oklahoma – we were already leading the nation in cuts to K-12, and now we’re leading in cuts to higher education as well. Perry also pointed out the jobs in health care are now a larger part of the Oklahoma economy than either oil and gas or agriculture. 

Policy analyst Courtney Cullison argued that the minimum wage is not a livable wage in Oklahoma given the rising cost of living. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update is hopeful that interim studies on criminal justice reform will create momentum for changes next legislative session.

OK Policy in the News

Perry’s budget presentation at the Enid Noon AMBUCS luncheon was covered by the Enid News.  Perry discussed the recently passed budget and the current state of education funding in Oklahoma. Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins offered her take on Tuesday’s special election results to NewsOK – Democrats won two of the three legislative seats that were open due to resignations. OK Policy data was used by Arnold Hamilton for his recent Journal Record column promoting the value of higher education for Oklahoma and the nation.

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The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education, cuts to health care will negatively impact OK economy

by | July 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

Policy Director Gene Perry put budget cuts to education in context in his Journal Record column – Oklahoma now leads the nation in cuts to K-12 education and higher education – pointing out that these cuts do not bode well for Oklahoma’s future.  Perry also argued that cuts to health care may be negatively impacting our future as well, because health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam shared the story of Joshua Proffitt, a college student with cerebal palsy who depends on Medicaid for his daily in-home care.  Without this care (which would likely disappear under the Republican’s health care bill), Joshua would not be able to attend college or pursue his goal of working in radio broadcasting. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the other types of coverage that could be lost if the Republican health care plan is adopted.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with the Oklahoman about what the proposed replacement for Obamacare would mean for Oklahomans – higher premiums and worse coverage for many of us would be be the likley result. Donald Cohen of Capital & Main visited with OK Policy staff during a recent trip to Oklahoma to discover more of the political culture of “red states”.

Weekly What’s That

Block Grant

A block grant is a type of grant program transferring federal funding to states to be used for a broadly defined function. Unlike entitlements, which use a combination of state and federal dollars to administer a range of safety net programs to anyone who qualifies, block grants are capped amounts of federal money. By comparison, entitlement spending allows federal programs to expand or contract in response to need. ​Because block grants​ don’t respond to need and commonly do not increase at all year to year or do not increase as quickly as costs, they are ​in effect deep budget cuts​ that​ leav​e states on the hook for a​n increasing share of ​the funding for basic safety net programs.

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

Quote of the Week

“It is the job of state government, in my opinion, to roll out the welcome mat. And I’m concerned that today we’ve put (out) a going-out-of-business sign.”

-Steve Turner, president of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, on the effects of repeated cuts to higher education funding (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Will this be the summer when too many inmates in tight quarters combine with too few correctional officers and too many 100-degree days to spark a serious uprising in an Oklahoma prison? Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh hopes not, of course, but … Without meaningful criminal justice reform, or new prisons, “we will have a serious event,” Allbaugh told his board last week. “It’s going to happen one way or the other. You can’t keep packing people into facilities that are decrepit and expect everybody to behave.” Allbaugh’s regular use of such vivid imagery may lead some to believe he’s being dramatic in order to procure additional funding for the agency. But inmates really are being packed into decrepit buildings, and have been for years.

Numbers of the Day

  • 15% – Percentage of non-institutionalized Oklahomans who report having one or more disabilities in 2015. This is the 8th-highest percentage in the US.
  • 8% – Tax collections as a share of personal income in Oklahoma in 2014, tied with eight other states as the lowest share in the US
  • 74,000 – Non-elderly Oklahomans with disabilities participating in SNAP in an average month, 2015
  • $7,363 – Total state and local spending per capita in Oklahoma in 2014, 12th least in the U.S.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

The Weekly Wonk: Senate Republican health plan would decrease coverage, increase cost of health insurance

by | July 2nd, 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

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam broke down the Senate Republican health care plan – it would lead to many Oklahomans paying more for less coverage. Policy Director Gene Perry pointed out in his Journal Record Column that this plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan) breaks many of the campaign promises Republicans made to voters.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler argued that tough-on-crime policies don’t actually do much to reduce crime – especially drug crime. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the Republican gubernatorial candidates that will be competing for the “no-tax voters” next year.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy’s research was referenced by Huffington Post Stateline in their piece about the difficulty states are having in attempts to impose sales taxes on services. Gentzler contributed to an Oklahoma Watch article about the difficulty of reforming the criminal justice system in Oklahoma.

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The Weekly Wonk: Lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session may cost Oklahoma

by | June 25th, 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

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column laments the lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session – smart-on-crime policies would be more effective than our current approach of incarceration. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam warns us that care for seniors and people with disabilities could be at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall – the agency needed $733 million this year to maintain these services, but received only $700 million.Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the difficult decisions facing state health care and social service agencies as they try to deal with budget shortfalls – in addition to the cuts at DHS discussed by Putnam, the State Department of Health is considering cuts to Child Abuse Prevention Programs.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with The Oklahoman about the potential effects of the DHS budget shortfall – adult daycare facilities will be especially at risk – and about the American Health Care Act currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.  Senator Lankford is undecided about the bill, and Putnam recommends they vote no. The bill could have dire consequences for Medicaid recipients in Oklahoma.

Executive Director David Blatt was interviewed by KOSU for a story about State Question 640. The recent years of revenue shortfalls and budget cuts have caused many people to rethink their support of SQ 640. OK Policy data was used by Adam Kupetsky in his editorial encouraging Oklahoma to get serious about adequately funding public education.

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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy reviews legislative session marked by missed opportunities, finds reasons for optimism

by | June 18th, 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

OK Policy released our annual recap of the legislative session this week in a two-part blog post.  This session was marked by several missed opportunities – the structural budget deficit was not addressed, most of the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force bills were not passed, and a teacher pay raise was not enacted.  But there are reasons for hope as well.  The income tax cut trigger was repealed, the health care safety net was left largely intact, and Governor Fallin vetoed the expansion of predatory lending.

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column reminded us that there really are reasons for hope in Oklahoma politics – we’ve solved big problems in the past and we can do it again with the right approach. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained that, though the criminal justice reforms enacted under State Question 780 will certainly save Oklahoma money next year, it’s difficult to predict exactly how much. In a guest post, Amy Smith (a graduate student in Disability Studies) encourages those who are living with disabilities, or caring for someone with a disability, to become advocates for their community by becoming involved with Partners in Policymaking. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update encourages teachers to become more vocal advocates by looking back at the 1989 special legislative session called to address what Governor Bellmon called an “emergency in education funding.”

OK Policy in the News

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam spoke with media outlets this week about how the proposed federal budget could impact Oklahoma. In an interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Putnam argued that the proposed 25% cut to the food stamp program (SNAP) would very likely result in fewer needy families receiving benefits and a reduction in benefits for those families still on the program. The Trump budget achieves the 25% cut in federal spending on SNAP by shifting part of the cost of the program to states – as Putnam explained to CNHI, that would mean Oklahoma would have to find an additional $221 million in the state budget to fully fund SNAP.

Perry spoke with the Tulsa World about the potential effects of Oklahoma following in Kansas’s footsteps and rolling back our income tax cuts on the top bracket – if Oklahoma were to increase the income tax on the top bracket to 5.7% we could see $400 million in new revenues. OK Policy data was used by the Red Dirt Report for a story about summer food programs for children who receive free/reduced-price lunches during the school year – Oklahoma is trying to raise awareness about summer food programs to increase participation in the program.

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The Weekly Wonk: Next year’s budget will start with a $400 million hole, Recurring revenues may be at risk due to legal challenges

by | June 11th, 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 gave us a preview of next year’s budget challenges – nearly 40 percent of the revenue for this year’s budget comes from one-time sources, so Oklahoma will be starting next year over $400 million in the hole. And some of the recurring revenues in this year’s budget may be at risk – Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the possibility that these revenues (like the cigarette fee, the sales tax on motor vehicle sales, and the increase in the gross production tax on horizontal wells) may be found unconstitutional by the courts. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison turned our attention to national legislation in her discussion of the Financial CHOICE Act – if passed, this bill would remove the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers from predatory lending practices.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explains why raising taxes in Oklahoma is so challenging – the three-fourths majority required to raise taxes is increasingly difficult to achieve in contemporary politics defined by increasing partisanship and the influence of money. Kansas did manage to raise taxes this year – the state legislature voted this week to override Governor Brownback’s veto of legislation to roll back most the 2012 tax cuts. A guest post by Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, argues that this decision to reverse tax cuts will put Kansas back on the path to fiscal stability.

Weekly What’s That

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval.

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

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