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Pick your poison: Suffocating or amputating state services?

by | February 4th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

As we discussed in this recent blog post, the State Department of Health has been among the state agencies hit hardest by successive rounds of budget cuts the past two years. State appropriations have been reduced by $11.3 million, or 15 percent, since 2009. The agency has some 250 fewer staff today than at the beginning of FY ’10 as a result of attrition and two rounds of voluntary buy-outs. It has cut dental health programs, tobacco prevention programs, services for children with developmental delays, jail inspections, and other services. According to a summary of actions prepared by the Department, which is led by Commissioner Terry Cline, the cumulative effect of the cuts has been to put the state’s core public health infrastructure in critical danger:

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In The Know: Feb 4, 2011

by | February 4th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org.

CapitolBeatOK has a long interview with Rep. David Dank on Oklahoma tax issues. Dank calls for eliminating many tax incentives as well as replacing the state income tax with a consumption tax. You can find more on all aspects of our state’s taxes and budget in OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide. As we grapple with the current shortfall and plan Oklahoma’s tax structure over the long-term, we must be careful to preserve a revenue base for the core public services that make up at least 90 percent of the state’s budget.

A new report by the American Human Development Project shows where those services may be falling short. Oklahoma was ranked 46th among the states for life expectancy and quality of life. Oklahoma Mission of Mercy expects thousands to line up early in the cold for their free dental clinic in Oklahoma City. At a clinic last year, more than 1800 patients filled the Tulsa Convention Center, with many waiting in line all night long.

These stories and more below the jump.

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Why education reform is not like musical chairs

by | February 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (3)

High on this year’s agenda for Governor Fallin and education reform groups is to put more money into Oklahoma classrooms by reducing administrative costs. Two bills filed for the upcoming session seek to accomplish this by mandate — HB 1493 by Rep. Brumbaugh and HB 1746 by Rep. Nelson would respectively require 70 percent and 65 percent of education funds to go towards direct instruction by 2014.

Critics often point to the large number of Oklahoma school districts. Oklahoma has nearly half as many school districts as Texas with only about 15 percent of the population. District consolidation is a perennial controversy in Oklahoma, especially for rural areas that depend on their local school as a community center.  While the drawbacks are clear, consolidation could still be worthwhile if it freed up resources for the classroom.

But would it?  While sending more money to classrooms is a laudable goal, it’s unlikely that this can be accomplished solely by taking from administrative costs. To understand why, we can compare how education spending is divided up in Oklahoma, the region, and nationally:

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In The Know: Feb 3, 2011

by | February 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org.

Today you should know that President Obama accepted Mary Fallin’s request to declare an emergency disaster for Oklahoma, which allows the state to receive FEMA aid. Kurt Hochenauer points out on his Okie Funk blog that Oklahoma has the third highest number of declared disasters in the nation, behind only the much larger states of California and Texas. With the state of emergency, an anti-price gouging law has gone into effect.

Employment is showing slow growth in about half of Oklahoma counties, but the state’s jobless numbers dropped by only 0.1 percentage points. As the budget crisis continues, the legislature may consider suspending per diem and travel reimbursements for legislators who live more than 50 miles from the capitol. For more on Oklahoma’s key economic and budget trends, see OK Policy’s latest Numbers You Need.

These stories and more below the jump. Also: pictures of snow!

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In The Know: Feb 2, 2011

by | February 2nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org.

Oklahoma is still digging its way out from under a record-breaking blizzard, but there’s plenty of activity to prepare for the debates of the upcoming legislative session. Yesterday OK Policy released the updated 2011 Legislative Overview. This popular resource provides a concise, user-friendly summary of the Oklahoma legislative process.

The Tulsa World has an editorial in favor of the proposed hospital provider fee that would bring in more revenue from federal matching funds than it would cost the hospitals that pay it. Meanwhile NewsOK warns against copying Arizona’s immigration law after looking at how it has worked out in other states. More on these stories and others below the jump.

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In The Know: February 1, 2011

by | February 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of the latest Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for items to include to gperry@okpolicy.org.

For up-to-the-minute updates on the state’s new white blanket, check out the #okice and #okwx hashtags on Twitter.  But if you prefer to stave off the cold with the latest Oklahoma policy news, read on…

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Now Available: The 2011 Legislative Overview – your program and playbook for the legislative session

by | February 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (0)

Do you know who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee? Who serves as Governor Fallin’s Secretary of Energy? When the deadline is for passing bills out of their original chamber? How much money there is in the Rainy Day Fund? The answers to these questions – and more! – are now available from OK Policy’s fully updated 2011 Oklahoma Legislative and Budget Process Overview.

If you follow Oklahoma legislative issues, the Overview will serve as a handy, informative reference guide, whether you are a veteran lawmaker or a novice advocate. We can honestly say that our Overview is the only resource that compiles updated 2011 information about such topics as legislative leadership, members of the Executive, and appropriations history in a single place. To take advantage of this unlimited time offer, just go to our website where the Overview can be viewed online or downloaded for the insanely low price of free – although should you wish to make a donation to help us continue to make resources like this available, we would certainly appreciate it.

We hope you find the Overview useful, and we hope you will stay informed and engaged over the course of the upcoming legislative session.

Where the Money Is

by | January 31st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

With the state anticipating large budget shortfalls – estimated by Republican legislative leaders as in the vicinity of $600 million –  for the upcoming fiscal year, there is renewed talk from state leaders about the need to protect “core public services” from the full impact of potential cuts. While the interpretation of core public services varies, most officials define the term to include education, health (which may encompass human services), public safety and transportation.

The graph below presenting the allocation of current year (FY ’11) state appropriations shows why the task of balancing the budget without cuts to core services or new revenues is so difficult, if not outright impossible:

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Come stop by y'all – Oklahoma City Meet & Greet, February 3rd – POSTPONED

by | January 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

**Mother Nature said ‘not so fast’. Due to the inclement weather, we will be hunkered down in Tulsa this week. We look forward to rescheduling this gathering sometime soon.

On Thursday, February 3rd, OK Policy is hosting an informal meet & greet at McNellie’s in Oklahoma City (located at 10th and Walker) from 4:00 to 5:30. This is a chance to meet our new staff – Kate Richey and Gene Perry – and hear a bit about what we’ll be working on in the coming months. There will be appetizers and a cash bar. Everyone welcome; no need to RSVP, although you can tell us you’re coming on our Facebook events page. Hope to see you there!

What's On Our Mind-Clouds

by | January 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (1)

Word clouds can be an effective and visually striking way to capture frequent and important themes from online content.  Although we had an intuitive sense of what’s been on our mind, we thought it would be fun to see what an actual count turns up.

Here is a graphic representation of the most frequently used words found on the OK Policy Website:

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