The Weekly Wonk: Cuts are not inevitable, lawmakers have their sights on the wrong credits, and more…

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

On the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that the Governor’s new budget proposals show that cuts are not inevitable. Last week, we shared a menu of options for the budget emergency. Blatt’s Journal Record column argued that the real choice legislators face is closing the budget gap or doing nothing. An op-ed by Policy Director Gene Perry in The Oklahoman warned of lawmakers’ plans to go after tax credits for low-income parents and workers to fix the state’s revenue problems instead of reversing recent tax cuts for the wealthiest.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update suggested that the closing weeks of the legislative session could bring the greatest test for this generation of lawmakers. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler illustrated why raising the felony theft threshold is smart and overdue. A guest post by Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jimmy Curry explained how worker benefit denials are keeping Oklahoma’s unemployment rate artificially low. A guest post by Christiaan Mitchell detailed how education funding cuts hurt more than just our children.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke to Rich Fisher on Studio Tulsa about Governor Fallin’s recent budget recommendations and the Health Care Authority’s proposal to extend health coverage. The Journal Record covered an Incentive Evaluation Commission meeting where Blatt presented. Gentzler spoke to KWGS about criminal justice reform measures that passed successfully out of the legislature. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam talked with Oklahoma Watch’s Warren Vieth about proposed Medicaid cuts

The blog okeducationtruths cited OK Policy data while pushing back against the suggestion that education vouchers could alleviate the budget crisis. The Tax Justice Blog included OK Policy’s recent poll showing that most Oklahomans prefer an income tax increase over funding cuts in a roundup of state tax news. The Oklahoman cited OK Policy in a piece on mental health funding



My clients with disabled children are getting their monies from DHS cut from $36/month to $36/quarter. They will have to pick which services to continue as they are barely making ends meet to begin with. – April Merrill (Tulsa) 

This testimonials, and the multitude of others like it, show what’s at risk if the budget crisis isn’t fixed. Join Together Oklahoma’s campaign to tell lawmakers that we can’t cut our way to prosperity, and need to protect core services and raise revenues. Join #DoSomethingOK here.

Let’s Fix This: A Day at the Capitol for Regular Folks Who Care

On Wednesday, April 27th, join “regular folks who care” at the Capitol at 8:30am to meet with legislators and discuss the budget crisis. As the event’s organizer, Andy Moore, says, “The state may be broke, but we’re not broken – there are a lot of totally reasonable, common-sense solutions for increasing revenue available. We just need to encourage our lawmakers toward them.” Learn more here

Calling all college students!

  • We are now accepting applications for our (paid!) summer internships. Our interns are treated as full members of the OK Policy team, and they have the opportunity to gain experience in nearly all aspects of what we do. Intern tasks may include collecting data, conducting research, assisting with advocacy efforts, writing blog posts or reports on state policy issues, strategizing policy goals, and helping to coordinate events on a wide range of topics. Learn more and apply here.
  • We are also accepting applications from undergrad and graduate students for our fourth Summer Policy Institute (SPI)! SPI brings together highly-qualified college students from across the state from July 31 to August 3 for a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields. Learn more and apply here.

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. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“When will the political will manifest itself and rise up and say, ‘Enough is enough — we’re going to invest in our people, in our families?’ When are going to make a serious attempt to intervene early in people’s lives?”

– Mike Brose, CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, on the state’s persistent underfunding of mental health and substance abuse treatment (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Arnold Hamilton, Journal Record

It is not melodramatic to suggest the Legislature’s fiscal malpractice could end up killing Oklahomans. Misplaced taxing and spending priorities at NE 23rd and Lincoln Boulevard precipitated the recent closure of hospitals in Sayre and Frederick. As many as 40 others – many in already medically underserved rural areas – teeter on the financial brink. A cash-strapped state Health Department recently announced it had eliminated the state’s Uncompensated Care Fund that helps offset losses sustained by community health centers serving the uninsured working poor.

Numbers of the Day

  • 12,000 – Projected reduction in the number of Oklahomans experiencing symptoms of depression if the state accepts federal funds to expand health coverage
  • 44,675,747 – Total number of retail prescription drugs filled at pharmacies in Oklahoma in 2015
  • 68.9% – Percentage of affordable housing units in Oklahoma that are situated in a rural setting
  • 8.3 years – Mean difference in life expectancy between top and bottom income quartiles for the Oklahoma City area
  • 6,100 – Decrease in the number of jobs in Oklahoma between March 2015 and March 2016

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • A new sign Obamacare is helping the people who really need it [Washington Post]
  • “Throwing money at the problem” may actually work in education [Washington Center for Equitable Growth].
  • Why the Poor Get Trapped in Depressed Areas [New Republic]
  • The Obama administration is making it easier for people with criminal records to find housing [Vox]
  • Leaked documents show strong business support for raising the minimum wage [Washington Post]


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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