In The Know: State budget shortfall could harm education, health care

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.

Faced with spending reductions due to the state’s $611 million shortfall, agency heads warn that the shortfall could prompt teacher layoffs and less access to medical care. We’ve previously presented options for a balanced approach to solve the budget gap. The US Geological Survey is crafting new earthquake hazard maps for Oklahoma due to the state’s recent increased seismicity, and expects to release them later this year.

On the OK Policy Blog, we noted that HB 1749, which would ban payroll deductions for membership dues for school employees’ unions, essentially punishes Oklahoma teachers for speaking out. Writing in the Journal Record, Arnold Hamilton argued that the bill is a warning to all public employees. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board said that new Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu must act quickly to reform his district’s discipline system, which saw the highest suspension rates of Black and Hispanic students in the US in 2011-12.

The number of active hate groups in Oklahoma has declined sharply, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, but experts warn that the groups may simply have moved online, which makes them harder to track. Farmers across the state report that the wild hog population is growing, and is increasingly destructive to crops and farm land.  The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is hearing from Oklahoma Gas & Electric over plans to hike rates as OG&E moves away from coal-fired power plants to comply with federal pollution regulations, but some are concerned that OG&E’s plan is more expensive than necessary. 

New influenza deaths have pushed the state’s death toll for this flu season to 101, well past last year’s record of 72. As bills banning municipalities and counties from banning fracking (HB 2178, SB 809)  move through the state legislature, some officials are expressing concerns that the bills could have unintended consequences. The Number of the Day is the average premium cost change for the lowest-cost silver-level plan available in Oklahoma’s health insurance marketplace from 2014 to 2015 (from $206 to $201, before subsidies). In today’s Policy Note, Governing writes that decades of stagnant wages for workers is costing states and localities tax revenue.

In The News

Budget shortfall could hurt Oklahoma’s education, health care, agency leaders warn

Facing a $611 million budget shortfall, lawmakers are asking the state’s largest agencies how they would be affected by spending reductions. It’s not a pretty picture. Teacher layoffs and less access to medical care are two potential problems that surfaced Wednesday.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Options for a balanced approach to solve Oklahoma’s budget gap from OK Policy.

New earthquake hazard maps in development for Oklahoma

A new hazard map for earthquakes from induced seismicity in Oklahoma is expected to be released later this year, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey said. Data collection and analysis continues after Oklahoma recorded more earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.0 and higher last year than California.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Legislature has a funny way of supporting education

In February, the Oklahoma House approved a bill (HB 1749) that would ban payroll deductions for membership dues to any organization that conducts collective bargaining on behalf of public employees. This week the bill was narrowly approved by a Senate committee, and it could come before the full Senate by next week.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Teachers are not the only target

State troopers, local police and firefighters, and other public employees beware: You’re next. Oklahoma legislators won’t be satisfied with only neutering the teachers’ unions, the goal of this session’s House Bill 1749 that would eliminate payroll deduction for educators wishing to seamlessly pay their professional association dues.

Read more from the Journal Record.

OKC superintendent must quickly address school discipline issue

Superintendent Rob Neu gave a presentation to the Oklahoma City School Board on Monday night. When he finished, one board member asked a single question. There was no additional discussion. Perhaps that’s because there really wasn’t much more to be said.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

Study: Decline of active ‘hate groups’ in Oklahoma might not be as good as it sounds

For the second-straight year, the number of active hate groups, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Oklahoma declined sharply. That decline here mirrored the nationwide downsizing trend — in 2013, the SPLC tracked 939 hate groups across the nation, 17 of them in Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Wild hogs damage Oklahoma farm land, state and federal organizations work to control population

Thursday night in downtown Okmulgee, several organizations and farmers met to discuss a growing problem. Farmers are reporting wild hogs destroying crops and farm land at an increasing rate. Langston University is reporting feral swine being present in all 77 Oklahoma counties.

Read more from KJRH.

Ongoing Corporation Commission Hearing To Determine Potential 15-20 Percent Utility Rate Hike

For the past several weeks the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has heard from attorneys for Oklahoma Gas & Electric regarding the utility’s request for approval to spend $1.1 billion. It’s a little complicated, but essentially OG&E has to move away from coal-fired power plants in order to comply with federal regional haze and mercury and air toxics rules.

Read more from KGOU.

3 new influenza deaths bring Oklahoma season total to 101

A record-breaking flu season in Oklahoma has brought the state’s death total to more than 100. The Oklahoma Department of Health reported Thursday that three new deaths were recorded during the past week due to flu. The previous record of 72 deaths set last year was broken in February.

Read more from NewsOK.

Local Officials Raise New Questions as Anti-Frack Ban Legislation Makes Progress

As legislation written to prevent counties and municipalities from banning hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas activities advances through the Oklahoma House and Senate, some city leaders and their advocates say the measures go too far and could have unintended consequences.

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“We are left with a tiny fraction of the graduating class staying in Oklahoma. This happens year after year as we don’t provide a compelling reason for them to stay. Absolutely, hands down, the teacher shortage is the most important issue that affects student learning. If it is not solved, there is no way to increase student outcomes.”

– State Superintendent of schools Joy Hofmeister, arguing that most education majors in Oklahoma leave after graduation to work in states with better teacher pay (Source)

Number of the Day


Average premium cost change for the lowest-cost silver-level plan available in Oklahoma’s health insurance marketplace from 2014 to 2015 (from $206 to $201, before subsidies)

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Workers Aren’t the Only Ones Waiting for Wage Growth

By some measures, the national economic recovery is churning along. Job creation has picked up in recent months, and the economy has been growing at its fastest clip in more than a decade. One area that has yet to improve, though, is wages. That’s a concern that carries major implications for state and local governments that rely on higher wages to bolster their revenue from income and sales taxes.

Read more from Governing.

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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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