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The Weekly Wonk: A good budget deal is not “Mission Impossible”

by | October 14th, 2017 | 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

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column offers some hope for the budget negotiations during special session – a good budget deal is not mission impossible. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update broke down how those negotiations have gone thus far – push has come to shove and now those in power must get something done. Blatt argues that a repeal of the capital gains tax break should be a part of any budget deal.

Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison argued that occupational licensing requirement may be keeping some low- and moderate-income Oklahomans from decent jobs – the cost of the required education for some licenses can run into the thousands of dollars. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler walked us through Oklahoma’s sprawling criminal code – it could make a felon out of almost anyone.

Special Session Updates

Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one. OK Policy now has a set of Frequently Asked Questions intended to help Oklahomans understand the rules guiding the process and the issues being addressed. It will be updated regularly as the session continues. You can find our Special Session FAQs here.

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The Weekly Wonk: Majority of Oklahoma voters want lawmakers to pass comprehensive revenue plan in special session

by | October 6th, 2017 | 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

OK Policy released a poll Friday revealing that 67 percent of Oklahoma voters want lawmakers to pass a comprehensive revenue plan in special session that avoids further cuts and funds a teacher pay raise and other critical needs. Executive Director David Blatt, in a blog piece and his Journal Record column, reminded us that a good revenue plan must ensure that everyone pays their fair share – regressive taxes that place a heavy burden on low- and moderate-income families cannot be the bulk of our revenue plan. Policy Director Gene Perry shared with us two myths that are distorting the debate over education funding.

OK Policy in the News

The Lawton Constitution covered the Save Our State Coalition’s first community conversation last week  in Lawton – these conversations are designed to bring Oklahomans into the discussion of our budget crisis. Blatt spoke with KFOR about a recent report revealing that Oklahoma is losing an average of $90 million per year to a capital gains tax exemption.

Advocacy Alert

We’re starting week three of special session, and legislators still have not agreed on a revenue solution to the state budget crisis. They need to hear from you – revenues must be raised in order to adequately fund core services. Click here to see our Advocacy Alert to find your legislators and to get more information.

Upcoming Opportunities

The Save Our State Coalition will be hosting a community conversation in Stillwater on October 10th.  Join us for this important conversation about how to fix Oklahoma’s broken budget. Come and share ideas to ensure we are protecting the services Oklahoma families rely on every single day and hear from local educators and community members who’ve been impacted by the recent budget cuts. For more information about the event click here.

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The Weekly Wonk: Bills filed in special session put many options in play

by | September 29th, 2017 | 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 began special session this week, and Policy Director Gene Perry pointed out that there are some good options in the bills filed during the first week – in addition to the cigarette tax, bills to restore the gross production tax and increase the top income tax rate were also filed. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update was also cautiously optimistic about avoiding further cuts to agency budgets given Gov. Fallin’s announcement of her intention to veto a budget that includes further cuts.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column warned that business in Oklahoma may suffer more if the structural budget deficit is not addressed – an educated workforce and healthy citizens are crucial to attracting (and keeping) business in Oklahoma and we’re falling behind on those markers. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam pointed out that Insurance Commissioner John Doak is not helping – his recent order that Oklahoma Navigators turn over their Affordable Care Act enrollment data to his office may be detrimental to insurance enrollment in the state.

OK Policy in the News

Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator KJ McKee spoke with The Oklahoman about the importance of citizen advocacy at the Capitol during special session.  McKee was also interviewed by Fox25, where she explained how crucial it is that the legislature enact new revenues during the session – if they don’t, Oklahoma citizens are the ones who will suffer. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam weighed in on the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act – the bill might have made insurance less expensive, but at the cost of coverage for essential health benefits. OK Policy data was used by The Oklahoman for a piece about the effects of legislative term limits.

Advocacy Alert

After one week of special session, legislators are struggling to agree on a revenue solution to the state budget crisis. They need to hear from you – revenues must be raised in order to adequately fund core services. Click here to see our Advocacy Alert to find your legislators and to get more information.

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have many good options to fill the budget hole during special session

by | September 22nd, 2017 | 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

Policy Director Gene Perry reminded us that lawmakers have many good options to fill the budget hole during special session – but they will need to find the will to use them. In a Tulsa World editorial, Executive Director David Blatt implored lawmakers to take advantage of this second chance and fix a budget that was not meeting the needs of Oklahomans even before the court’s ruling. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued that the worst thing legislators could do is adjourn special session without raising revenue to address the structural budget deficit.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt lamented that more and more Oklahomans have had enough – discouraged by year after year of budget cuts, Oklahomans are chosing to leave the state to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler walked us through the provisions of State Question 788, the medical marijuana ballot initiative that Oklahomans will vote on next year.

Advocacy Alert

As the legislature enters special session on Monday, they have many options to fix the state’s structural budget deficit. But they need to hear from you – revenues must be raised in order to adequately fund core services. Click here to see our Advocacy Alert to find your legislators and to get more information.

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The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma falls further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rate

by | September 15th, 2017 | 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

Policy Director Gene Perry informed us that Oklahoma has fallen further behind the nation as a whole on poverty and the uninsured rate, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Executive Director David Blatt adds that the loss of federal funds to prevent teenage pregnancy means we’re likely to undo much of the progress we’ve made on that front as well.

Blatt explained that the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent rulings striking down the cigarette fee and upholding the removal of a sales tax exemption for motor vehicles strike a balance on the taxation rules put in place by State Question 640. Blatt also pointed out the importance of government and its programs, especially during disasters – because there are no libertarians in a flood zone. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update laments the lack of progress that has been made on criminal justice reform.

OK Policy in the News

Perry was interviewed by the Stillwater News Press and Public Radio Tulsa about Oklahoma’s lack of progress on poverty and the uninsured rate – at a time when the national average was going down, our numbers were flat and still higher than the national average.

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The Weekly Wonk: Special session a second chance for lawmakers to get the budget right

by | September 10th, 2017 | 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

After Governor Fallin’s announcement that she is calling a special session beginning September 25, OK Policy released a statement urging lawmakers not to waste this second chance to get the budget right. State Question 640 is a significant hurdle to good budgeting in Oklahoma, and Rep. Marcus McEntire argued in a guest post that it’s time to revisit SQ 640 so government can work effectively for its citizens. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler implored Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA recipients after President Trump’s decision last week to end the DACA program.

Executive Director David Blatt suggested in his Journal Record column that the recent court decision upholding the partial repeal of the state sales tax exemption on motor vehicles should be seen as a blow to special interests – they can no longer argue that their tax exemptions have special constitutional protection. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argues that the court decision sets a new course for Oklahoma politics – the majority party now has leeway to remove tax exemptions (effectively raising taxes) with only a majority vote.

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman about the Legislature’s options for fixing the budget in special session – lawmakers have many good options, like removing some tax exemptions that don’t benefit the average Oklahoman. The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University cited OK Policy data in an editorial expressing disapproval of the President’s decision to end DACA.

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

by | September 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (1)

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

OK Policy issued a statement following Thursday’s ruling upholding a law that partially ends the state sales tax exemption for auto sales – the ruling confirms that lawmakers have many options to fill the budget hole in a special session. Policy Director Gene Perry argued that, if lawmakers wait until the next regular session to address the budget hole, it will be too late.  The longer we wait to fix the problem, the worse it will get.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt found reason for optimism in Oklahoma’s recent attempts to make the Affordable Care Act work better for Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update was  less optimistic about Oklahoma’s approach to education policy – inadequate school funding and a lack of support for teachers has led Oklahoma to an education crisis.

OK Policy in the News

The Guardian used OK Policy materials for a story about the fiscal crisis in Oklahoma, and Blatt was interviewed by WHSU public radio about the crisis.  Connecticut is also facing fiscal challenges, though for different reasons.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler spoke with Public Radio Tulsa about disparities in court debt between affluent and poor neighborhoods in Tulsa. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Occupational Licensing Task Force was mentioned by the Oklahoman Editorial Board for their editorial in support of licensing reform.

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The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts are putting higher ed out of reach for many Oklahoma students

by | August 27th, 2017 | 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

Executive Director David Blatt  reminded us that, after the recent events in Charlottesville, that addressing racial inequality requires more than simply denouncing overt white supremacy. Blatt also pointed out that recent tuition hikes as a result of budget cuts to higher education are making college unaffordable for many Oklahoma students.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam introduced us to reinsurance – part of Oklahoma’s plan to lower health insurance premiums and attract more insurers to offer policies on the healthcare exchange in Oklahoma. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler brought to light that pattern of court debt in Oklahoma – residents of poor areas are much more likely to be facing high levels of court debt than other Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update talked us through the multiple ways that a special legislative session could play out this year.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke twice this week with the Oklahoma News Report on OETA – about severe cuts in state support for higher education and about the $215 budget hole now facing the state since the court finding that the cigarette fee was an unconstitutional tax. Blatt also talked with the Tulsa World and with The Oklahoman about how we ended up with the budget shortfall and our options for dealing with it.

OK Policy data was used by the U.S. News & World Report for a piece about the connection between Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and school science curriculum in the state. Gentlzer was interviewed by the Journal Record for their coverage of Kris Steele’s appointment to the Pardon & Parole Board – there is a bottleneck in the parole process in Oklahoma that needs to be addressed. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Reform Task Force was covered by the Journal Record – this is an issue where there is bipartisan consensus.

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The Weekly Wonk: Legislature has a second chance to fix the state budget

by | August 20th, 2017 | 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

Summer Intern Leslie Briggs advocated for bail reform as a solution to over crowded jails – about 80% of Oklahoma County jail inmates haven’t yet been convicted of a crime, but can’t afford bail to get out of jail while they await trial. Executive Director David Blatt walked us through some of the options that might be taken up in special legislative session to fix the budget hole created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s finding that the $1.50 per pack cigarette fee is unconstitutional. 

In his Journal Record column, Blatt implores the legislature to make good use of this second shot at the state budget and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the regular session. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update echoes that theme, encouraging lawmakers to avoid political gamesmanship and engage in real statesmanship to fix our budget crisis.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was a guest on Studio Tulsa to discuss the legislature’s options for filling the budget hole that was created by the striking down of the cigarette fee – you can listen to the entire episode here. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman and the Red Dirt Report about the state of education funding in light of the petition drive in Oklahoma City proposing a temporary city income tax to raise money for teacher stipends.

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The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers must come back to special session and finish job of funding core services

by | August 13th, 2017 | 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

OK Policy issued a statement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1,50 per pack  cigarette fee unconstitutional, encouraging the governor to call a special session and lawmakers to take advantage of that opportunity to fix Oklahoma’s structural budget deficit. Prior to the court’s decision Executive Director David Blatt walked us through the three funding mechanisms being challenged and speculated on what might happen if the court finds any (or all) of them unconstitutional. Blatt’s Journal Record column wondered if our biggest problem is not a large budget hole, but a deficit of compassion and understanding?

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained for us how prosecutorial discretion works, and how it has contributed to the growth of incarceration rates in Oklahoma and the nation. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam reminded us that, with Congress’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid is still an option for Oklahoma – and it’s one we should seriously consider. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update took a  look at how the legislature works between sessions with interim studies and a new tool – policy working groups.

You may have heard – we hosted our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute this month!  If you’d like to see what happened, our Twitter feed from the event is archived (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4). Go check it out!

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KFOR and Express Newsline about the legal challenges to state budget that were heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday. After the court ruled on the cigarette fee, Blatt explained to The Oklahoman the very difficult situation that state health agencies will be in until the legislature is able to meet in special session and develop a solution for the lost revenue.

Perry was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the possible effects on Oklahoma that may come from President Trump declaring a national emergency regarding the opioid epidemic. Perry also discussed last week’s sales tax holiday with Public Radio Tulsa – these holidays tend to shift when spending occurs, rather than generate more spending.

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