In The Know: April revenue collections fall below official estimate

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

April general revenue fund collections came in 11 percent below projections for the month. This is the first time estimates have overrestimated collections this fiscal year. While it’s tempting to blame the oil and gas downturn for the state’s budget situation, the shortfall is due to a structural budget deficit. State health commissioner Terry Cline warned on Tuesday that the Department of Health will face “dire consequences” if it receives further cuts, including possible costly loss of accreditation if the Legislature does not approve a request for bond money for a new public health lab. Nico Gomez, executive director of the state’s Medicaid agency, said that even flat funding for his agency would result in physician reimbursement cuts, which could in turn force some rural clinics to close. The state’s rural hospitals are also struggling to stay afloat.

Four Lawton elementary schools will be shut down at the end of the year due to impending education cuts. A Buzzfeed investigation has found that the state Attorney General’s office misled the US Supreme Court about the availability of certain execution drugs.  The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office employee who oversaw the reserve deputy program has resigned and the reserve deputy program has been suspended. Oklahoma Watch is sponsoring a free “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum on the topic of mental health for women on May 21 at Tulsa’s Circle Cinema. Continental Resources founder and CEO Harold Hamm said that he was not trying to intimidate state scientists in a 2013 meeting, but simply understand the proposed link between fracking and earthquakes.

Governor Fallin has signed a bill allowing schools to arm certain personnel. The Legislature is considering an override attempt after Gov. Fallin vetoed a bill that would have prevented private businesses from banning guns at parks, fairgrounds, and other recreational areas. A bill that would waive liability for anyone who breaks into a locked vehicle to rescue a child awaits the Governor’s signature. A proposal to issue $25 million in bonds to build a state pop culture museum has passed out of the Senate appropriations committee. Recent rainfall has replenished Waurika Lake, which supplies water to Lawton and Duncan and which was previously on the brink of drying up.

The Number of the Day is 30 – the number of mine-resistant vehicles owned by Oklahoma law enforcement through a program that allows the military to transfer surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies. In today’s Policy Note, PRI shares the stories of Americans who are unable to get affordable health insurance because their state has refused to expand health coverage to low-income residents.

In The News

Oklahoma revenues drop with plunging oil and natural gas revenues

State budget watchers take note. Plunging oil and natural gas prices have helped cause year-to-date state general revenue fund collections in April to drop below the official estimate for the first time this fiscal year.

Read more from NewsOK.

The state budget deficit is not just oil prices

Oklahoma lawmakers are now struggling to write a budget with $611 million less revenue available than what was appropriated last year. It’s easy to blame falling energy prices and accompanying job losses for the shortfall – until we recall that last year, when oil prices were over $100 a barrel and the state was enjoying stronger economic growth than the national average, we still faced a $188 million shortfall.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

‘Dire consequences’ ahead for state Health Department if Legislature cuts budget, an Oklahoma leader says

Oklahoma’s health commissioner said Tuesday there will be “dire consequences” if the Legislature approves a major funding cut for his agency for the upcoming fiscal year. Terry Cline said the state Health Department has seen a 19 percent decrease in state appropriations over the past five years.

Read more from NewsOK.

Health Providers: Budget Squeeze Could Shutter Rural Clinics

A top Oklahoma health official is warning that the budget crunch may force the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to cut payments to mid-level medical providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, which providers say could lead to the closing of rural clinics. Facing a $611 million budget gap, state leaders say most agencies will see spending cuts, or at best, a flat budget.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals from the OK Policy Blog.

4 Lawton elementary schools will close

Four Lawton elementary schools will be shut down at the end of the year because of impending state budget cuts to education. The decision to close Swinney, Wilson, Park Lane and Brockland Elementary was announced Tuesday. Superintendent Tom Deighan relayed the decision to parents of students at Swinney Elementary during a meeting at the school Tuesday evening.

Read more from KSWO.

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Misled Supreme Court About Letter On Execution Drug Availability

The Oklahoma attorney general’s office misrepresented the facts behind a key argument about the availability of certain execution drugs in its filings at the U.S. Supreme Court, BuzzFeed News has determined. The false statement — which relates to discontinued availability of the drug pentobarbital — is clear from a review of previous court filings and comments from the lawyer for a pharmacy that the state claimed had previously supplied for its lethal injections.

See more from Buzzfeed.

Another top Sheriff’s Office official to resign, reserve deputy program on hold

The head of operations for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is set to resign and the entire reserve-deputy program has been put on hold, officials confirmed Tuesday. Maj. Tom Huckeby, who oversaw the task force that conducted an April 2 gun-buy sting which led to the fatal shooting of a suspect, will resign Aug. 1, Sheriff’s Office officials said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Watch to Hold Forum in Tulsa on Mental Health for Women

Oklahoma Watch will sponsor a free community forum on May 21 in Tulsa on the topic of mental health for women. The “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum will be held from 6-7 p.m. Thurs., May 21, at Circle Cinema at 10 S. Lewis Ave. in Tulsa.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Hamm says he wasn’t pressuring Okla. scientist, but seeking information

Continental Resources Inc. founder, chairman and CEO Harold Hamm says he wasn’t trying to bully Oklahoma’s state seismologist when he sought a meeting in 2013, but simply trying to learn what proof the scientist had for saying hydraulic fracturing was causing earthquakes. “We care about the industry,” Hamm said. “When people disparage parts of it, I want to know why. I want to know what basis they have for doing that.”

Read more from EnergyWire.

Gov. Fallin Signs Bill Allowing Armed Staff In Schools

Oklahoma school districts could allow teachers and staff with certain firearms training to carry handguns on school property under a bill signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. It allows local school boards to designate school employees to carry a handgun on school property if they’ve attended either an armed security guard or reserve peace officer training program.

Read more from KGOU.

Veto override attempt considered after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin rejects gun bill

One year ago, Oklahoma legislators completed their first override of a veto from Gov. Mary Fallin. They were able to negate her decision on a bill involving firearms. Advocates for gun rights are hoping history will repeat itself.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Legislature approves unattended children measure

Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk is the next stop for legislation that waives liability for anyone who breaks into a locked vehicle to rescue a child. The Oklahoma House approved the measure in a 92-1 vote on Monday and sent it to the governor to be signed into law.

Read more from NewsOn6.

OKPOP Museum’s $25 Million Bond Issue Clears Senate Committee

A proposal to issue $25 million in bonds to build the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa has passed its first legislative hurdle. The Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget voted 27-13 Tuesday for legislation that would authorize funding for the museum, known as OKPOP.

Read more from KGOU.

Waurika Lake Gets New Life as Desperately Needed Rain Finally Falls

Before the consistent, heavy rains over the past week, Waurika Lake — the main source of water for Lawton and Duncan — was on the very brink of drying up too much to be used. Years of punishing drought led to the crisis, but what a difference a few days can make. Now, the lake is 43 percent full, and rising

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“They will go [to emergency rooms] or to a federally qualified health care center. The problem is a lack of money – it’s not there. I don’t have an answer.”

– State Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove), discussing the effects of proposed reductions to the state Medicaid budget, including provider reimbursement cuts. Some providers have said that the cuts could force them to close clinics, leaving many Medicaid patients with access only to costly emergency rooms and underfunded federally qualified health centers. (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of mine-resistant vehicles owned by Oklahoma law enforcement through a program that allows the military to transfer surplus equipment to law enforcement agencies

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘The waiting is tearing me down’ — low-income Americans struggle in anti-Obamacare states

The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was designed to drastically cut down the number of people without health insurance. It worked. Yet millions of people are still trapped without insurance, caught in what’s known as the “coverage gap.” One of the law’s key provisions expanded eligibility for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income individuals. Under the Affordable Care Act, people with incomes at or below 138 percent of the poverty level were now eligible.

Read more from PRI.

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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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