In The Know: Law enforcement says budget cuts are putting everyone at risk

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

Today you should know that Oklahoma’s public safety officials told lawmakers that budget cuts have left them dangerously understaffed with antiquated facilities and equipment.  Foster care abuse in Oklahoma has taken an enormous toll on affected children and cost the state several million dollars in damages.  The state’s chief medical examiner told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that reaccreditation of his agency was impossible with its current “decrepit” facility.

The OK Policy Blog pointed out that Gov. Fallin’s state of the state address acknowledged our urgent unmet needs but was ambivalent about how to pay for them.  StateImpact Oklahoma used a word cloud visualization to compare Gov. Fallin’s state of the state speeches.  The Tulsa World reported that the state’s current system taxes rich and poor alike at a similar rate.  The Children’s Defense Fund ranked Oklahoma near the bottom in child welfare, measuring poverty, health, hunger, early childhood development, education and youth at risk.

Oklahoma doctors expressed grave concern over proposed ‘personhood’ legislation, including its effect on routine in vitro fertilization treatments.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans killed to date by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In today’s Policy Note, PolicyLink looks at the disproportionate impact of foreclosures on low-income people and communities of color and lifts up innovative local approaches to assist homeowners.

In The News

Oklahoma public safety officials seek more funding

Following three years of budget cuts, Oklahoma’s public safety officials told lawmakers Tuesday their budgets need a boost to restore workforce levels and replace antiquated facilities and equipment.  The heads of Oklahoma’s public safety agencies told members of a House budget subcommittee that deep budget cuts during the national economic downturn that trimmed millions of dollars from their budgets had affected their ability to do their jobs.  “We’re literally just putting these guys at risk,” Thompson said. “We need the manpower. We’re approaching the point now that we’re really irrelevant.”

Read more from the Durant Daily Democrat at

The High Cost of Foster Care Abuse

More than 500,000 children in the U.S. reside in some form of foster care. Within one year of their initial placement, at least 15 percent of them will experience neglect, abuse, or other harmful conditions.  Since 2005, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has paid out more than $3.4 million in civil lawsuit settlements. In a recently settled class action lawsuit involving foster care abuse, Oklahoma DHS spent $7 million in outside attorney fees in defense of the lawsuit, with $2 million more set aside for future costs.

Read more from EIN News at

Plan to fund new Oklahoma ME’s Office through Master Lease Program raises concerns

Some lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday about a proposal to pay for a new state Medical Examiner’s Office.  “What is plan B?” McIntyre asked Dr. Eric Pfeifer, the chief medical examiner.  The office would abandon hopes of becoming reaccredited, Pfeifer said, adding that he was told that reaccreditation of his agency could not be accomplished with its current “decrepit” facility.  The office lost its accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners in 2009 after 18 consecutive years of accreditation.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

State of the State Analysis: Gov. Fallin is playing catch-up

In her State of the State address, Governor Fallin laid out numerous areas where Oklahoma needs to invest to fix serious problems. She mentioned the shortage of troopers on the highways, the millions still owed to local governments to reimburse emergency expenses, the dilapidated state capitol and medical examiner’s office, crumbling bridges, high infant mortality, a beleaguered foster care system, and unfunded teacher health benefits.

Read more from OK Policy at

Rich or poor, both pay similar tax rate in Oklahoma

In 1988, the Legislature cut the tax rate, but it did so by eliminating the top eight brackets. That meant the new top tax rate – 10 percent – started at a net income of $23,000 a year. Since then, the Legislature has cut taxes the same way several times, by eliminating the top bracket, but lawmakers never indexed the remaining tax brackets to inflation, so the top tax bracket has gotten progressively lower as inflation has driven relative earnings higher.  And so, in Oklahoma, a poor man can feel like a millionaire because they’re paying taxes at the same rate.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

In Oklahoma, support for children lacking; study says state ranks 49th

Oklahoma ranks poorly in the three key statistics in a recent national study that looks at poverty, health, hunger, child welfare, early childhood development, education and youth at risk in each state.  According to the Children’s Defense Funds’ annual Children in the States Fact Sheets, Oklahoma ranks 49th in per-pupil expenditures, 34th in infant mortality rate and 29th in the percentage of babies born at a low birth weight.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Anti-abortion Oklahoma lawmakers continue push

But Crain’s bill, which was approved earlier this week in a Senate committee, already is prompting some doctors to express grave concerns about the chilling effect it could have on reproductive medical services.  “These are bills that have very vast and a plethora of unintended consequences,” said Dr. Eli Reshef, a reproductive endocrinologist and the medical director of the Bennett Fertility Institute at Integris Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City. “In vitro fertilization is the process where we take the sperm and the egg, put them together in a laboratory. All of a sudden in the lab now we’re stewards of persons?”  Reshef accused Crain and other Oklahoma lawmakers of “pandering to the extreme right” and said these types of bills contradict another goal of Republicans, which is fostering a pro-business environment in the state.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Quote of the Day

If we fund things to help break the cycle I think it will not only be better for the state now but better for the long run.

Tom Taylor, executive director of Emergency Infant Services

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans killed to date by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: The Washington Post

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Fostering Equitable Foreclosure Recovery

This report provides essential information to inform policy discussions about foreclosure recovery. It presents information about the foreclosure crisis and its consequences, describes the federal program created to help communities recover from the impacts of foreclosures, shares case studies of foreclosure recovery efforts in three regions and suggests policy recommendations for ensuring equitable recovery and building a more just system of housing finance for future generations.

Read more from PolicyLink at

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