In The Know: Governor to seek another tax cut, more money for mental health treatment

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.

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin said she will recommend more money for Oklahoma’s mental health agency in this year’s budget. Oklahoma is one of dozens of states that have slashed spending on mental health care in recent years and are now beginning to backtrack.

Gov. Fallin also said she will push for another income tax cut, and she will not propose paying for it by eliminating any exemptions or credits. Democratic and Republican legislative leaders sparred over whether the state should borrow money to repair its crumbling Capitol while also trying to cut income taxes and spend more money on education.

A NewsOK op-ed responded to OK Policy’s report laying out tax reform proposals Oklahoma. Read the full report here. The OU Daily wrote that a bill to eliminate funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council would be a costly mistake. The closing of Oklahoma’s only maximum-security facility to house violent juveniles has contributed to a dramatic increase in assaults on employees at the state’s two medium-security facilities. DHS plans to close an Enid facility for developmentally disabled Oklahomans in 2015.

On the OK Policy Blog, a guest post by Shelley Cadamy Munoz shares her personal story as the parent of a child struggling with mental illness. David Blatt’s Journal Record column assesses President Obama’s first four years. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank for the mortality rate of inmates in local jails. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shows how Oklahoma is already using Obamacare funds to improve Medicaid.

In The News

Governor to seek more money for mental health services

Gov. Mary Fallin, concerned by last month’s school shootings in Connecticut, is recommending more money for Oklahoma’s mental health agency. Fallin said the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings have caused lawmakers and policymakers across the country to look at mental health services. The incident “reminds us what can happen when mental health issues go unaddressed in a state or undiagnosed or frankly ignored,” Fallin said Wednesday. She told reporters during a legislative forum sponsored by The Associated Press she will ask lawmakers to allocate an additional $16 million for the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department, which received $193.3 million this fiscal year.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: After shootings, states rethink mental health cuts from the Associated Press

Fallin to propose another income tax cut

A one-time cut to the state’s income tax is not off the table, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday, even as she outlined about $56 million in new funding proposals for mental health programs and Medicaid. Fallin said she will urge lawmakers to consider a one-time cut in the state’s top income tax rate of 5.25 percent — without losing exemptions or deductions — when the Legislature convenes on Feb. 4. Unlike a sweeping proposal she unveiled during last year’s State of the State address, Fallin said this year’s plan would be simple and modest, although she declined to give specifics.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

Legislative leaders spar over tax cut plan

Oklahoma’s legislative leaders sparred Wednesday over whether the state should borrow money to repair its crumbling Capitol while also trying to cut income taxes and spend more money on education. Gov. Mary Fallin has said Oklahoma could sell bonds to raise money for $160 million in Capitol repairs but also has suggested trimming taxes. The Senate’s minority leader, Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, said there are too many demands on state money. “We are in no position to cut revenue,” when the state needs to spend more on its workers, its schools and the seat of government, Burrage said.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle.

NewsOK: Tax system will have a starring role in Oklahoma policy agenda

Oklahoma’s tax system is increasingly outdated, inefficient and unfair. That’s a statement with which we generally agree. It’s also a statement made by a think tank with which we sometimes disagree. The Oklahoma Policy Institute sees tax policy as an essential component for the state’s prosperity. A buzzword used in a position paper released this week by OK Policy is “shared prosperity.” At the federal level, “shared prosperity” is a euphemism for the redistribution of income — taxing the wealthy more to fund programs for those who pay little or no taxes. The same conclusion can’t be reached in Oklahoma, however.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Action Items for Oklahoma: Tax Reform from Oklahoma Policy Institute

OU Daily: Cutting state funding for the Arts Council would be a costly mistake

Arts education in Oklahoma is under fire in the state Legislature. A bill will be read for the first time in the House of Representatives on Feb. 4 that proposes ending state allocations to the Oklahoma Arts Council. As the primary state agency concerned with art and music in Oklahoma, the council is uniquely positioned to provide assistance to a wide variety of programs that directly benefit students and citizens across the state. The bill, which is being introduced by Rep. Josh Cockroft, (R-Tecumseh), would end funding to the council over the next four years. In defending the bill in the Norman Transcript, Cockroft stated he wants to funnel more state money toward education, but the primary purpose of the council is arts education.

Read more from the OU Daily.

Assaults on staff members at juvenile detention centers spike after Rader Center closing

The lack of a maximum-security facility to house violent juveniles has contributed to a dramatic increase in assaults on employees at the state’s two medium-security facilities, a legislative panel was told Tuesday. In 2011, the Office of Juvenile Affairs closed the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs. Its demise resulted in the loss of 48 beds in the Intensive Treatment Program, which was for the most-aggressive youth. Costs were part of the reason for the center’s closure, along with concerns that the aging facility wasn’t amenable to housing juveniles. In fiscal year 2011, some 12 percent of residents at the state’s secure facilities in Manitou and Tecumseh were involved in assaults on staff members, a figure that rose to 27.6 percent in fiscal year 2012.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

DHS plans to end state services at NORCE in 2015

State-administered services at Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid will end Aug. 31, 2015, according to a Department of Human Services plan. The NORCE closing plan starts with the 37 residents of Chickasaw (Rose) Building. The closing process started Jan. 1. There are 12 residents in Cherokee Circle facility and five in Alpha facility who also will begin the transition, a report from DHS stated. Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted in December to close NORCE and Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. The facilities provide care and a place to live for developmentally disabled clients. SORC is scheduled to close in 2014. Clients leaving the facilities will go either into community-based housing, or into another facility based on the decision of their parents or guardians.

Read more from the Enid News & Eagle.

Guest Blog (Shelley Cadamy Munoz): As good as it gets

Usually when I write, I try to come up with some kind of lesson, something I’m supposed to learn, some bigger picture reason for why things happen the way they happen. Today, though, I’m just amazingly angry. I just left Trinity, my 10-year-old, at inpatient psychiatric care for the second time since November. It’s her third stay – the first one was a little over a year ago. She arrived at psychiatric care via a Tulsa Police Department patrol car. The same incredibly kind police officer who showed up at our house last Tuesday (five days ago) called me after she heard our address on her radio today and said, “I’m on my way. I heard dispatch give your address, and I said “I know that kid. I’m coming over.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: Are we better off?

As President Barack Obama begins his second term, now is an appropriate time to take stock of his first term by asking a variation of the classic campaign question: Are we as a nation economically better off today than we were four years ago? Despite some failures and missed opportunities, I would argue the answer is yes. Back in January 2009, America was in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. People across the nation were suffering as unemployment soared, home values and stock prices plummeted, and major industries faced total collapse. The president took office vowing not just bold actions to stabilize the economy, but also fundamental changes that would position America for the 21st century.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Quote of the Day

OK Policy’s prescription for updating the state’s tax system is thoughtful and reasonable — which is not to say we agree with all of it.

The Oklahoman editorial board

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for the mortality rate of inmates in local jails, 209 deaths per 100,000 people in local jails in 2010

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Surprise! Oklahoma is using Obamacare to improve Medicaid

Oklahoma has made no secret of its opposition to Obamacare. The state will not build an exchange, nor will it expand Medicaid. It sued the federal government to repeal the law altogether and once returned a $54.6 million grant to “stop the implementation of the president’s federal health care exchange.” More quietly though, Oklahoma has accepted an influx of Obamacare dollars to digitize SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program. That means, even without expanding Medicaid, Oklahoma is using health reform funds to hugely overhaul how it serves the state’s lowest-income patients.

Read more from Wonkblog.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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