A collection of some of our favorite publications from 2023:
Explore a curated selection of the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s work from 2023. This collection embodies our commitment to rigorous research, insightful analysis, and practical policy solutions. Join us as we showcase these data-driven explorations shaping a more informed and prosperous Oklahoma.
More from OK Policy: [All Articles & Research] | [OK Policy on YouTube] | [Policy Matters Column Archive / Journal Record]
Oklahoma is in the midst of a housing crisis. With 46,688 eviction filings in 2022, evictions in Oklahoma surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which were among the highest per capita in the country. This crisis is driven by a severe lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages, and an unequal playing field between landlords and tenants due to Oklahoma’s landlord tenant laws. Legislators made a significant investment in affordable housing during the 2023 legislative session, but missed other opportunities to expand the state’s stock of affordable housing and ensure a level playing field between landlord and tenant in eviction proceedings. It is vital that advocates continue to talk to their lawmakers about increasing investments in affordable housing and revising policies that will slow the rising tide of evictions. [Read More]
Expanding private school vouchers has been a priority for conservative advocacy groups across the country in recent years. In Oklahoma and elsewhere (including Arizona, Florida, Iowa, and Utah), they’ve found plenty of legislators — the very people we expect to improve our public schools — willing to allot unprecedented public resources to private schools. The only Oklahoma twist is the tax credit. Other states use vouchers, where the state credits a family’s account and pays the bills based on the family’s choices, with some prior review of the spending. In Oklahoma, families will manage the spending directly with little front-end oversight, leaving the Oklahoma Tax Commission to collect any misspent funds after the fact.
While this program could make private and homeschooling more practical or affordable for a few families, taxpayers will mostly be paying for people to do what they were willing to pay for on their own. As a result, we’ll be handing millions of tax dollars to the most well-off among us while propping up private schools, whose enrollment has stagnated in recent years. [Read More]
The 2023 legislative session included significant tribal-state bills and a respect for tribal sovereignty from state lawmakers
Lawmakers demonstrated including and valuing indigenous Oklahomans during the 2023 legislative session, and they should continue to exemplify what sovereign-to-sovereign relations with Tribal nations can do for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has the second-highest share of tribal citizens of any state, which helps shape the fabric of our state’s culture and communities. This year, the Oklahoma legislature demonstrated this influence by including and valuing Native Oklahomans and tribal leaders in state policy solutions this session. The 2023 legislative session included a handful of significant bills that recognized tribal governments as self-governing, sovereign entities within the state. These measures respected that tribes are responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of their respective citizens. [Read More]
For years, Oklahomans have had to travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest Mexican consulate for handling diplomatic transactions such as renewing passports, getting an identification card, or other routine services for Mexican and U.S. nationals. Commuting to the consulates specifically designated for Oklahoma residents — Little Rock, Arkansas, or Kansas City, Missouri — is a demanding process that often requires workers to take an entire day off of work just to make the long drive there and back. However, Mexico recently announced that it will open a Mexican Consulate in Oklahoma City in May 2023, making it significantly easier for over 100,000 Mexicans in Oklahoma to access the services they need without sacrificing a day’s worth of wages or more to travel out of state. [Read More]
Oklahoma ranks 46th nationally in overall child well-being — and in the bottom half of all but one of the health and well-being metrics included in state rankings — for the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring.
For the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book, Oklahoma ranks 46th overall for child well-being, with only Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico ranking lower. Oklahoma’s individual rankings on major categories were:
- 37th in health
- 38th in economic well-being
- 43rd in family and community context, and
- 49th in education (ahead of only New Mexico).
Oklahoma continues to rank in the bottom half of states in 15 of the 16 primary metrics used for the survey. The only metric where Oklahoma ranked in the top half of states was its percentage of children living in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, where Oklahoma ranked 20th. However, this issue continues to be a problem that affects 1 in 4 Oklahoma families, a share that is likely to increase with the current housing and rental market. [Read More] | [2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book] | [Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Data Profile] | [Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Data Center]
Oklahoma’s democracy is inaccessible to many Oklahomans, especially those in historically marginalized communities. We’ve consistently had among the nation’s lowest rates of electoral participation, with only 4 in 10 eligible Oklahomans voting in the November 2022 midterm election. Despite this low participation rate, Oklahoma has made it increasingly difficult to vote by requiring absentee ballots to be notarized and failing to deliver an electronic voter registration system. Studies show laws that make it harder to vote disproportionately impact marginalized communities, two of which are American Indian/Alaska Natives and naturalized citizens. We cannot fully understand Oklahoma’s voting equity and accessibility issues without understanding how Oklahoma’s diverse communities are disproportionately affected by these issues. Making voting harder decreases voter turnout, which means that our democracy is less representative of Oklahoma than it should be. [Read More] | [VIDEO: 2023 Initiative Petition Interim Study Presentation]
FY 2024 Budget: Lawmakers diverted taxpayer dollars to private schools, but missed opportunities to support everyday Oklahomans
The FY 2024 budget is $11.8 billion. Notably, it passed with far fewer tax cuts than was expected when the session began. The budget makes some investments in Oklahomans, including long-awaited agency increases and a promising new housing program. It also, however, includes several programs that prioritize corporations and the wealthy, rather than the inflation relief for low- and middle-income Oklahomans that lawmakers promised in the early months of the session. [Read More] | [FY 2024 Budget Highlights] | [VIDEO: Why Taxes Matter: OK Policy’s 2023 State Budget Update]
2022 Census data: Oklahoma remains among the nation’s poorest states; policy solutions can help reverse this trend
Data from the Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey released Sep. 14 show that Oklahoma’s poverty rate was 15.7 percent, which was the nation’s 8th highest. The national poverty rate in 2022 was 11.5 percent, and Oklahoma’s ranking among states remained unchanged compared to 2021.
The data show that poverty is especially concentrated for Oklahoma’s children with 19.5 percent, or almost 1 in 5 children, living at or below the federal poverty level. For a family of three, this means the child lived in a household that earned around $23,000 or less in 2022. While Oklahoma was one of 11 states that saw a decrease in child poverty, Oklahoma had the nation’s 8th highest rate of children living in poverty during 2022. Oklahoma children continue to live in poverty at rates well above the national and overall state averages. However, due to systemic and historic racism, not all Oklahomans are struggling equally; Black, Hispanic, and Native Oklahomans experiencing poverty at disproportionately higher rates. One place where Oklahoma has seen improvement is health insurance uninsured rates, which continue to decline thanks to Medicaid expansion and pandemic-relief coverage. [Read More]
With the overall occurrence of youth delinquency and detention at a historic low, Oklahoma has the opportunity to invest more resources in delinquency prevention and alternatives to incarceration in the youth legal system. The legislature has taken action in recent years to bring needed reforms to the youth justice system, including reducing and eliminating of some fines and fees assessed on justice-involved youth and their families (House Bill 3205), creating a juvenile expungement process (HB 1799), and the prohibiting the housing of youth in adult jails (HB 1282). However, there is more that legislators can do to make our youth legal system more fair for youth. [Read More] | [VIDEO: 2023 Improving Youth Justice Interim Study Presentation]
In What Ways Can the Federal Government Make the Economy Work For Oklahomans? (Testimony for U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Field Hearing)
Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, was invited to testify during the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Field Hearing on the “State of the American Economy: The Heartland.” The hearing was held March 7, 2023 in Yukon, Oklahoma. During the hearing, Kantz shared how low- and moderate-income residents are faring and how federal investments — especially in childcare, Paid Family Medical Leave, an increased minimum wage, and targeted tax credits — can help the economy and Oklahoma families. [Read More] | [VIDEO: Field Hearing on the State of the American Economy: The Heartland]
It is a hopeful sign that Governor Kevin Stitt has demonstrated his continued commitment to criminal justice reform by creating a new task force called MODERN (Modernizing Operations through Data and Evidence-based Restoration Now) to work until February 2, 2024. The task force is directed to “study, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding policies and programs and propose legislation” to improve the criminal justice system. [Read More]
Proposed under the guise of inflation relief, sweeping cuts to the personal income tax will favor the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. Two decades of poorly targeted tax cuts have left core programs and services underfunded, and the funding problem gets worse each year due to population growth and inflation. Protect #MyOklahoma is a collection of research, analysis, and resources to combat the passage of sweeping revenue cuts in the Oklahoma Legislature. [Read More] | [VIDEO SERIES: Protect #MyOklahoma on YouTube]