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All articles by Courtney Cullison

The Weekly Wonk: Education cuts hitting all aspects of public education

by | February 23rd, 2018 | 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

In our fourth, and final, post on key bills to watch this session Strategy & Communications Director Gene Perry ran down the education bills we’ll be paying attention to. Executive Director David Blatt reminded us of the consequences of cuts to education funding over the last decade. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained how SQ 780, that went into effect last July, is already making a difference in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.

Blatt’s Journal Record column argues that there is still hope for a budget deal that will address our structural budget deficit and adequately fund core services. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update implores legislative leadership to find a deal that can pass – that means it will have to be acceptable to both political parties.

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In The Know: Budget bill with no new revenue advances

by | February 20th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, 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.

In The News

Budget bill with no new revenue advances: The Oklahoma Legislature began its second special legislative session seeking to build a budget without cuts, but it looks as though that is improbable…On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will solve the budget hole with nearly $50 million in cuts, more borrowing and no new revenue measures. [Journal Record] House adopts $45.7 million in agency spending cuts to finish out current budget year [Tulsa World] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy]

Food-stamp boxes distract from program’s real challenges: Trump’s budget plan is bringing back the old chestnut of beating up on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as food stamps. This time, the twist is to replace the benefits with an “America’s Harvest” food box. [Ginnie Graham/Tulsa World] Food Security Resources [OK Policy]

Is a Teachers Strike Imminent?: Budget cuts to education are mounting. And on Monday, the Oklahoma House moved to reduce funding for state agencies for the current fiscal year. The state Education Department stands to lose $16.2 million. Combined with higher education and other education agencies, the losses would be nearly $22 million. Many Oklahoma teachers say they are fed up, and there is talk of a strike. But could it happen? [Oklahoma Watch] Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy] 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

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In The Know: Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma public schools under consideration

by | February 19th, 2018 | 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.

In The News

Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma public schools under consideration: The idea of replicating the public school shutdowns seen across Oklahoma in 1990 is beginning to circulate. The superintendent and some school board members in Bartlesville are responding to teacher interest in the idea by visiting with local parents and conducting an online survey to gauge the opinions of district leaders across the state. [Tulsa World] Teacher walkout talk reminds what happened during the push for House Bill 1017 [Tulsa World] 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

Quest for more state revenue fraught with peril: For all the talk and all the enthusiasm from Oklahoma’s business community, especially in Oklahoma City, the “Step Up” initiative seems to have never had much of a chance. House Bill 1033, the special session package in which more than $588 million in new taxes was wrapped, went down hard and fast on Monday. [Tulsa World] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy]

Oklahoma agencies brace for more cuts: Every state agency is bracing for another round of cuts as lawmakers said Thursday they must slash budgets to keep Oklahoma’s government afloat. State Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, who serves the chamber’s appropriations chair, said no agency will be sheltered from cuts that will save the Legislature about $45 million. Agencies will have to reduce spending by about 2 percent a month from March through June when the current 2018 budget cycle ends. [CNHI]

continue reading In The Know: Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma public schools under consideration

The Weekly Wonk: Key bills we’ll be watching this legislative session

by | February 16th, 2018 | 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

We released our first three posts in a series on key bills to watch this legislative session. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison previewed some promising (and some not so promising) efforts to improve the economic well-being of Oklahoma families. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler wondered if this will finally be the year the legislature gets serious about criminal justice reform. And Policy Director Carly Putnam ran down the list of bills that threaten to cut Oklahomans’ access to health care.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column directed our attention to a bill, moving quietly through the legislature, that would greatly increase the power of future governors. A guest post by Effie Craven told us about lunch shaming and an effort to end the practice in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KTUL about what the Step Up plan would mean for taxes in Oklahoma. OK Policy’s statement on the failure of the Step Up plan made an appearance in a KFOR piece. Gentzler talked with NonDoc about SQ 788, the medical marijuana question that will be on the ballot this summer.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Key bills we’ll be watching this legislative session

Bill Watch: Ways to help Oklahoma families build wealth this legislative session

This post is the first in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. 

Last session, working families saw little in the way of help from the Legislature.  As the budget crisis continued, core services suffered further cuts and teachers and state employees did not see the raises that many legislators promised would be a priority. Too many Oklahomans are still struggling with financial instability, but there are opportunities for the legislature to make some strides this session.

We identified several goals related to economic opportunity and security in OK Policy’s 2018 legislative policy priorities. Here are some key bills related to those goals:

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In The Know: Monday vote expected in state House on bills backed by Step Up Oklahoma

by | February 12th, 2018 | 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.

Today In The News

Monday vote expected in state House on bills backed by Step Up Oklahoma: Showdown votes are expected Monday afternoon on the state House floor on a series of tax increase and government restructuring measures backed by Step Up Oklahoma. House members also may be asked to vote on proposed $5,000 pay increases for teachers. [The Oklahoman] What are the Step Up plan bills the House will vote on Monday? [Tulsa World] Changes to Step Up income tax plan will bolster working families [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Medicaid providers could face rates cuts in March: Medicaid providers could face a cut again as soon as March, particularly if the nasty flu season continues. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority faces a budget shortfall in the coming months because of problems with federal and state funds. [The Oklahoman] Flu season could cause Health Care Authority to run out of money by March, official says [KOCO] Don’t go there: Block grants for Medicaid and SNAP could wreck America’s safety net [OK Policy]

Criminal justice reform measures face uncertain future: Several bills designed to significantly reduce Oklahoma’s prison population have been sent to a Legislative conference committee, where they could be amended before reaching a final vote. Criminal justice reform advocates hope the bills won’t be watered down from their latest versions. [The Oklahoman] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

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The Weekly Wonk: Follow the new legislative session with OK Policy’s 2018 Legislative Primer

by | February 9th, 2018 | 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

The legislature returned to the Capitol on Monday and it’s been a busy week at OK Policy! If you’re looking to follow along this session, we released our 2018 Legislative Primer this week to help with that. We also issued statements on Governor Fallin’s State of the State address and the changes to the Step Up Coalition Plan that were announced this week. The plan now includes a restoration of the EITC – Strategy & Communications Director Gene Perry explained why that’s a good thing.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update pointed out that the legislature’s first task will be cleaning up last year’s budget mess. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column reminded us that budget cuts made in previous years had real consequences – especially for public education.

Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison told us about Oklahoma’s rank in a new economic well-being scorecard released this week – we’re 40th and that’s not good. A guest post by RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor (advocates for parents of children with developmental disabilities) argued against proposed changes to the leadership structure of state health agencies.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt sat down to chat with Public Radio Tulsa about the new legislative session, and spoke with the Tulsa World about changes to the income tax code proposed by the Step Up plan. Outreach & Legislative Director Bailey Perkins talked with The Oklahoman about the budget challenges that are still on the table as the legislature returns for regular session.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Follow the new legislative session with OK Policy’s 2018 Legislative Primer

Oklahoma slips in new economic rankings

Recent good news about gains the national economy – lower unemployment, small declines in the poverty rate, and a booming stock market – is not reflected here in Oklahoma. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard paints a picture of many Oklahoma families struggling to make ends meets and build a better future for themselves. Oklahoma’s 40th place ranking is a decline from our 37th place score last year – which itself was a decline from 34th the year before.

The Prosperity Now Scorecard uses the most recent data available from several sources to offer the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, move out of –and stay out of – poverty, and create a more prosperous future. It also evaluates 53 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing their residents.

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In The Know: Early vote expected on Step Up Oklahoma revenue measures

by | February 5th, 2018 | 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.

Today In The News

Early vote expected on Step Up Oklahoma revenue measures: Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall said Thursday he’s optimistic he can get enough Republican votes to pass Step Up Oklahoma’s plan to resolve the state’s budget impasse if as many Democrats will vote for the plan as voted for a revenue bill that failed last year. [The Oklahoman] Step Up Oklahoma plan adds to the consensus that new revenues are essential [OK Policy]

Budget remains biggest challenge for Oklahoma lawmakers: When members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives return Monday to the state Capitol to begin this year’s regular legislative session, there’s little debate about which issue will confound them the most. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma’s budget outlook is improving, but major challenges remain [OK Policy]

Fallin hopes to put state on firm financial footing for her successor: In her final State of the State speech on Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin will stress the urgency of the moment, the need to resolve chronic budget problems without digging around in couch cushions for coins. [The Oklahoman] Mary Fallin doesn’t plan to limp away from the governor’s office [Tulsa World]

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The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy announces new staff and expanded leadership team

by | February 2nd, 2018 | 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

There have been some exciting changes at OK Policy! We have two new staff members – Sabine Brown is our new Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator, and Jessica Vazquez has joined us as a Communications Associate. We’ve also expanded our leadership team. Bailey Perkins and Carly Putnam have joined the leadership team, with Bailey as Outreach & Legislative Director and Carly as Policy Director. The previous Policy Director, Gene Perry, is now serving as Strategy & Communications Director.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column ran down the unfinished business facing the legislature when they return to the Capitol next week. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued that new revenues in the Step Up Oklahoma proposal are a good start – but they’re just a start toward fixing our structural budget deficit.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler told us about the epidemic of debtor’s prisons in Oklahoma. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison wrote an oped for the Tulsa World about the troubling new direction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt made two appearances in the Tulsa World this week. He weighed in on the legislature’s decision last year to “decouple” from the federal standard deduction in light of changes to federal income tax rules, and expressed concerns about the income tax proposal in the Step Up plan. Gentzler’s work on debtor’s prisons made an appearance in Esquire Magazine.

OK Policy’s statement on last year’s Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of repealing tax exemptions with a simple majority vote of the legislature provided context for a piece in The Oklahoman. OK Policy data was used for a story in the Christian Science Monitor about recent proposals to roll back incentives for the wind power industry in Oklahoma.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy announces new staff and expanded leadership team