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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that DHS found about $10 million in one-time funding to avoid proposed hikes in child-care subsidy co-payments and lowered assistance to families with developmentally disabled children. OK Policy previously warned about the harm those cuts would do to low-income working families and kids. A state legislator said he intends to file legislation to break up DHS into three separate departments, but a DHS Commissioner argued that would create additional bureaucracy and “run the cost up.” Rep. Mike Shelton wants to remove an exemption from a law mandating liability insurance for day care operators.
The KIPP middle-school in Oklahoma City wants to expand to an elementary school and high school and partner with other inner-city schools to spread its success. The OK Policy Blog explains why higher education remains a strong investment for Oklahomans and the state as a whole. The House Agriculture Committee is heard testimony on recycling and the feasibility of a beverage-container deposit law.
EMSA has used Tulsa’s ambulance fees to subsidize $800,000 in shortfalls for the Oklahoma City division. NewsOK writes that we need thorough, numbers-based analysis, not platitudes, in the tax reform debate. NewsOK also argued against a push by the state Supreme Court to curtail public records posted online.
In today’s Policy Note, an economic historian shows that consumer spending, amplified by government outlays, are what created most growth in the last century, not business investment.
In The News
DHS finds funding for child-care subsidy, legal defense
About $10 million in one-time funding has been found in the budget for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to avoid cutting benefits in two low-income programs and to add $1 million to defend a class-action lawsuit. On Tuesday, the commission overseeing the agency approved the expenditures, which include avoiding proposed hikes in child-care subsidy co-payments and avoiding lowering monthly assistance to a program for families with developmentally disabled children. Commissioners also voted to use the money toward the class-action lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights alleging abuse in the foster care system. DHS Director Howard Hendrick said the funds are from amounts carried over from previous years. He said a new process allows officials to identify carryover funds earlier. Hendrick said without new funding in the 2013 budget, these cuts may still need to be made.
Previously: Child care cuts deal a blow to low-income working families and kids from The OK Policy Blog
DHS Commissioners tell lawmakers they are working to improve agency
The new chairman of the Department of Human Services pledged to a small group of lawmakers Tuesday that the agency director’s performance would be reviewed and the sprawling agency’s organizational chart would be reviewed within a year. Rep. Richard Morrissette said he intends to file legislation that would break up the state’s largest agency into three separate departments. One would oversee children’s services, another would administer services for the elderly and the third would handle services for the developmentally disabled. DHS Commissioner Richard DeVaughn, who formerly served as commission chairman, said such a proposal would create additional bureaucracy and “run the cost up.” DeVaughn said funding cuts the past three years have hindered the agency, with its state money cut by $129 million during that time and the agency forced to lose about 1,000 employees during the same time period. Yarbrough said DHS has complied with most findings of a 197-page audit released in February 2009, except those that involve additional money, such as increased pay for foster parents.
All day care operators should carry liability insurance, Oklahoma lawmaker says
An exemption that allows some day care operators not to carry liability insurance coverage should be removed, a state lawmaker told a legislative panel Tuesday. More than 1,500 home-based day care operators and nearly 140 day care centers in the state don’t carry liability insurance because of an exemption included in a law passed three years ago, Rep. Mike Shelton told members of the House’s Human Services Committee. If a day care operator is unable to obtain a policy for financial reasons, the new law will still allow the operator to remain in business if the Department of Human Services and all parents and guardians of children in the day care are notified in writing. The same is true if an underwriter can’t be found for the policy or if policy limits have been exhausted.
KIPP school poised for growth in Oklahoma City area
Principal Tracy McDaniel is shooting for the tipping point. For the past 10 years his school — KIPP Reach College Preparatory — has been taking predominately low-income middle school students from northeast Oklahoma City and helping them surpass the academic achievements of their more privileged peers. KIPP school poised for growth in Oklahoma City area But McDaniel says one school that serves about 280 students isn’t enough. He wants to expand to an elementary school and high school. He wants to partner with other inner-city schools to spread the success of KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program. “If we can do some things to share, to open the doors and to be a tipping point for Oklahoma City,” McDaniel said. “I want all those schools to be successful, not just KIPP.”
Higher education – A better investment than gold
Last month, Governor Fallin released her plan to increase by two-thirds the number of students graduating from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities. At the same time, some Oklahoma lawmakers and other critics are questioning the state’s spending on higher education, arguing that colleges and universities should face the same budget cutbacks as other areas of government and the legislature should limit tuition increases. Tuition and fees in Oklahoma remain comparatively inexpensive, but we have not avoided the nationwide trend of rising costs at both public and private universities. We certainly should take this trend seriously and work to ensure college is affordable and accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Yet even though the cost is rising, the value of a college education remains very high.
Speakers debate usefulness of bottle-deposit, recycling laws
It sounds like a good idea to incentivize recycling of glass containers by requiring beverage purchasers to pay a deposit on each bottle or can, which they can redeem when they take the containers to a store or redemption center. But beverage containers make up only 1.6 percent of all solid waste, Kevin Dietly told the House Agriculture Committee Tuesday. He said that about 32 percent of waste comes from packaging. The committee is undertaking an interim study of the feasibility of a beverage-container deposit law. It was requested by Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, who acknowledged that he has a glass plant in his district that might benefit from the recycling of bottles. Dietly, with Massachusetts-based Northbridge Environmental, a consulting company, said that about one-third of waste is recycled, including about 40 percent of nonalcoholic-beverage bottles and cans.
EMSA’s Tulsa fees subsidize OKC shortfall
EMSA has used Tulsa’s ambulance fees to subsidize $800,000 in shortfalls for the Oklahoma City division, the Tulsa World learned Tuesday. Kent Torrence, chief financial officer for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, told the World that Tulsa’s eastern division has been subsidizing operations shortfalls for the western division, which includes Oklahoma City. Torrence said as of the end of September, the western division owed $800,000 to the eastern division. EMSA is a government agency that manages ambulance services for more than 1 million people in Tulsa, Sand Springs, Jenks and Bixby, as well as Oklahoma City and numerous suburbs in that area. The agency receives about $4.8 million a year from a monthly utility bill fee paid by Tulsans. It also receives revenues from a utility bill fee in Oklahoma City.
NewsOK: Thorough analysis, not platitudes, should drive tax reform debate in Oklahoma
After surveying the slopes of the economy, state Treasurer Ken Miller concludes that Oklahoma has done well relative to states with no personal income tax and neighboring states with higher income tax rates… Miller’s numbers show that Oklahoma’s per capita personal income gain between 2000 and 2010 was better than in all but one neighboring state. And that one exception wasn’t Texas, the only state in the region with no personal income tax. Also, the state’s gain was greater than all but one of the nine states that have no personal income tax. The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, is attempting to slow the cable car taking GOP leaders to the no-income-tax mountaintop. That’s an indication of how serious Republicans are about getting this done before the sun sets beyond the summit. This is a debate in which numbers-based analysis, not platitudes, should drive the pitons as the state moves toward tax reform.
NewsOK: More arguments against curtailing online records
The Oklahoma Supreme Court is taking public comment through early next month on its proposal to restrict public records online. Some of those who’ve spoken out so far make points that we hope justices will thoughtfully consider. Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, an advocate for open records during his time in office, has said he has concerns with any rule or legislation that limits the public’s right to know. Certainly that’s what would occur if the court follows through on its proposed rule. The rule would have parties in criminal, civil, divorce and all other types of cases remove such information as dates of birth, home addresses, driver’s license numbers, children’s names and “other personal identification numbers.”
Quote of the Day
Our school day is from 7:15 a.m. to 5:515 p.m., and teachers are available for phone calls at night for homework help till 9 p.m. I can’t even tell you why teachers are here in this building, other than the satisfaction of results.
–Tracy McDaniel, principal of the KIPP Reach College Preparatory middle school in Oklahoma City
It’s consumer spending, stupid
As an economic historian who has been studying American capitalism for 35 years, I’m going to let you in on the best-kept secret of the last century: private investment — that is, using business profits to increase productivity and output — doesn’t actually drive economic growth. Consumer debt and government spending do. Private investment isn’t even necessary to promote growth. This is, to put it mildly, a controversial claim. Economists will tell you that private business investment causes growth because it pays for the new plant or equipment that creates jobs, improves labor productivity and increases workers’ incomes. As a result, you’ll hear politicians insisting that more incentives for private investors — lower taxes on corporate profits — will lead to faster and better-balanced growth. But history shows that this is wrong.
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