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You want insurance with that? Fast food chain covers its employees and helps its bottom line

by | September 10th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Burgerville, a small fast-food chain in the Pacific Northwest, has always made a killer fresh blackberry shake. Recently, it also made a shrewd business move: providing health insurance for employees. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on the genesis and results of this new strategy.

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Better Served: States are encouraged to broaden sales tax base

by | September 9th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

Should states be looking at broadening their sales tax bases to cover more currently untaxed services? That is the argument made in a recent paper by Michael Mazerov of  the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Most states could improve their sales taxes and their tax systems in general with some expansion of the tax base to include services. Levying sales taxes on services makes state tax systems fairer, more stable, more economically neutral, and easier to administer. Moreover, because state sales taxes are a major source of funding for schools, universities, health care, public safety, and other functions of state and local government, adding services to state sales tax bases can help states maintain their support for those functions, for instance during an economic downturn when state revenues are declining.

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Non-profits and advocates gather to size up budget situation

by | September 8th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

Last week, OK Policy convened a meeting of over 30 representatives of non-profit and advocacy organizations to discuss the state’s budget situation. We begin with a presentation on budget trends and outlooks, which can be viewed on our website; the meeting then turned to a discussion of the impact of the budget crisis on the organizations’  programs and clients, and what can be done about it.

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Summer re-run: Domestic violence programs provide shelter from the storm

by | September 4th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families, Stimulus | Comments (0)

Note: Occasionally we are re-running blog posts on topical subjects that you may have missed the first time around. Last week, the Tulsa World reported that DVIS (Domestic Violence Interventions Services) of Tulsa has been awarded a $426,335 grant from violence prevention funds that were part of the federal stimulus bill to assist clients with emergency needs. In June we ran this blog post about the important role of federal stimulus funds for domestic violence shelters facing increased demands for services from families in distress:

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Taking on tax incentives

by | September 3rd, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

In a recent post on our blog, Paul Shinn looked at state tax incentives and made the case for holding them to the same standards of accountability as direct government spending programs.  In the new blog at Tax.com, David Brunori, who is among the most knowledgeable and sharpest tax policy experts in the nation, pulls no punches in taking aim at the bidding wars that often break out between states hoping to attract or retain manufacturing facilities. In this case, he’s discussing the competition between Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee to lure Harley-Davidson to open a motorcycle assembly plant in their states. Brunori writes:

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Uninsured Oklahomans remain a problem we should take seriously

by | September 2nd, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

The News on 6 in Tulsa reported last week on Oklahomans who lack health insurance. OK Policy’s David Blatt was featured in the story, available here in both print and video, describing who is likely to be uninsured and explaining how care for the uninsured drives up premium costs for everybody.

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Womanpower shortage: Oklahoma lagging in female legislators

by | September 1st, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (0)

The National Conference of State Legislatures has developed an interesting interactive demographic map that allows you to examine the makeup of each state’s legislature by ethnicity, gender, age, religion and occupation and compare those figures to national averages. Oklahoma’s most notable, and unfortunate, variation from national demographic patterns is in the gender makeup of our Legislature.  As Jean Warner, who runs the excellent Oklahoma Women’s Network Blog, never tires of reminding us,  Oklahoma ranks behind only South Carolina  in female representation in the Legislature. Only 11 percent of Oklahoma’s 149 members of the House and Senate are women; this is less than half the national average of 24 percent. In Vermont and New Hampshire, over one-third of state legislators are women. (This 2008 American Prospect article by Harold Meyerson provides perceptive insights on the regional variations in female officeholders).

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Short on gas: Low natural gas prices hindering budget turnaround

by | August 31st, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

The continued weakness of natural gas prices and production is the most important factor accounting for Oklahoma’s disappointing revenue collections.  July collections from natural gas production to the General Revenue Fund (GRF) totaled just $22.2 million in July –  a 75 percent decline from revenues for the same month a year ago, and $42.1 million less than the estimate certified in February by the State Board of Equalization. More than half of the total revenue shortfall in the GRF can be attributed directly to falling revenues from the gross production tax on gas.

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Slate's job change map–now it's good to be a blue state!

by | August 28th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Casual Friday | Comments (0)

Check out Slate.com’s animated map of the changing job picture over the last three and a half years. If you scroll down to the map and click the green arrow at the lower right, you can watch the job picture change for individual counties on a month-by-month basis. Counties are blue when they’ve gained jobs over the most recent year and red if they’ve lost them. The red circles spreading across the country are pretty dramatic evidence of how deep and broad this recession has been and continues to be. While we should avoid being smug at a time like this, we think most Oklahomans, regardless of their political leanings, will be pleased and grateful to see that we are one of the very few states that look more blue than red.

Stimulus education programs bring promise and challenges

by | August 27th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Stimulus | Comments (0)

Our new Stimulus Update looks at the $52 billion in education funding in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA, better known as the stimulus). The education programs, in contrast to most other ARRA funds coming to state and local governments, mainly consist of a two-year increase to existing programs that are heavy on operating, not capital, costs. Some examples are:

  • Increased Pell Grants for college students ($93 million so far in Oklahoma);
  • More funding for special education, education for schools serving low-income students, and vocational rehabilitation ($276 million in Oklahoma); and
  • Expanding Early Head Start programs and serving more children at existing Head Start centers (at least $28 million in Oklahoma).

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