In The Know: May 16, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, The Tulsa World reports on the winners and losers in this year’s budget deal. OK Policy’s David Blatt spoke with NewsOK about missed opportunities in the budget. Supplemental appropriations for education could come to a close vote, as it will require approval of two-thirds of the House for an emergency clause to prevent the money from going into the rainy day fund. Critics in the legislature are questioning Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, which has paid out $700 million in subsidies to corporations since 1993. OK Policy previously discussed the questionable rationale of economic development incentives here.

A new Oklahoma law that could give life in prison for turning marijuana into hashish could further clog the prison system and undo some of the progress of corrections reform. Gov. Fallin signed a bill to establish a hospital fee that will help fund Medicaid. On the OK Policy Blog, a guest post by Julie Miller-Cribbs, MSW, PhD, dispels some of the myths around the young and uninsured in Oklahoma. The State Chamber of Commerce is under attack for being too political, with a staff that includes several Republican politicians and political operatives.

The Tulsa World calls out lawmakers for targeting nutrition assistance for malnourished mothers and young children to score political points against Planned Parenthood. OK Policy previously described the attack on the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program here. NewsOK explains why IT consolidation needs to happen in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline discusses how Texas’ attempts to cut education budgets at a time of rapidly rising school enrollment could end up in court.

More below the jump.

In The News

Few winners in state budget accord

A budget agreement that cuts $218 million from state appropriations would seem to leave room for few real winners. And, in some cases, coming out a winner is a matter of taking less of a beating than feared. Some areas of state government, however, clearly do gain from the budget agreement working its way through the legislative process. The attorney general’s budget and responsibilities grow, and the corporation commission gets a 12 percent increase. Education is the biggest loser. While it accounts for 52 percent of appropriations, it took three-quarters of the cuts, including nearly $100 million from common education.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Oklahoma’s state budget deal features missed opportunities, analysts say from NewsOK

Previously: The FY’ 12 budget agreement: Playing your best hand with only half your cards from the OK Policy Blog

Vote on supplemental appropriations for education could be close

A lot of state legislators have colleges in their districts. Most have career tech facilities. Every one of them has public schools back home. The three levels of education represent 75.2 percent of the budget cuts. To ease that pain, the state budget includes supplemental appropriations – additional funding bills passed on top of the state’s main budget – for the school systems. The supplemental appropriations are funded with tax money that otherwise goes to the state “rainy day” fund. To spend the money, the Legislature would have to pass those supplemental funding bills with an emergency clause – and there’s the rub.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs program questioned

Oklahoma’s premier economic development program has cost the state more than $700 million since its inception in 1993. Whether that’s a good deal or not depends largely on who is asked. Some of the state’s largest employers, including Tinker Air Force Base, American Airlines, Boeing, Level 3 Communications and Chesapeake Energy, have made extensive use of Quality Jobs. But the program does have its critics. They question its actual impact and the propriety of taxpayer-funded employment subsidies. “No one has ever given me persuasive evidence of one job that came to Oklahoma that wouldn’t be here otherwise,” said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: How the tax incentives war puts states in a terrible bargaining position from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahoma’s new hashish law is unduly harsh, critics say

A new law in Oklahoma that allows penalties of up to life in prison for converting marijuana into hashish has created an unintended byproduct: accusations of an unduly harsh, unnecessary law that will further clog the state’s already-overcrowded prison system. Under the new law, which specifically creates a new felony for converting marijuana to hashish, conviction of a first offense would result in a prison sentence anywhere from two years to life in prison. Sentences would be doubled for second offenses and those convicted would be ineligible for suspended sentences or probation. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based advocacy organization said that the measure is a “throwback in time” to the Draconian sentences connected to cocaine and crack cocaine in the 1980s. It also appears to be “evidence-free” since Oklahoma officials rarely see hashish manufacturing in the state, Nadelmann said.

Read more from this Fox News article at

Gov. Mary Fallin signs hospital fee measure

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure Friday that allows eligible hospitals to pay a fee in order to draw more matching federal dollars. House Bill 1381, called the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program, would require hospitals that treat Medicaid patients to pay a 2.5 percent fee on net patient revenue. The assessment would generate about $152 million in funds that would draw federal matching dollars of $269 million. The combined funds would go to reimburse participating hospitals for patient care.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Young and uninsured in Oklahoma

The number of uninsured individuals in Oklahoma has reached approximately 600,000 individuals. Almost half of Oklahoma’s uninsured are between the ages of 19-34. Despite this high number, little is known about why these young adults are underinsured or what strategies might encourage them to obtain coverage. A state-wide survey and focus groups were designed to capture the opinions of young Oklahomans ages 19-34 regarding access to and the use of Oklahoma’s health care system in the absence of health insurance. Although it has been suggested that the young adults believe that they do not need health care coverage, results of the survey suggest otherwise.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://guest-blog-julie-miller-cribbs-msw-phd-young-and-uninsured-in-oklahoma/.

State Chamber criticized for being too political

Some state lawmakers are calling the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce a political organization rather than an advocate for businesses. The State Chamber recently began an online legislative watch in which it labels some lawmakers as anti-business. “The State Chamber has moved from pro-job and growth to become a fundamentally political organization due to new leadership,” said Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, who was on the chamber’s most wanted list for anti-business votes earlier in the week. Former House member Fred Morgan is now president and CEO of the State Chamber. Morgan served 12 years in the House before making a failed bid for Congress.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Tulsa World: Local health agency still a target

Despite ample evidence of the good the agency does for Oklahomans, lawmakers seem intent on kicking Tulsa’s Planned Parenthood out of a federally funded nutrition program for mothers and children. Our hope is there’s still a chance the majority of the Legislature will put aside the misguided politics driving the attack on the local Planned Parenthood and come to the conclusion most reasonable Oklahomans have already: that there’s no good, rational reason to exclude Planned Parenthood from administering the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program in this area. Here’s the crux of the matter: In kicking Planned Parenthood out of the WIC program, lawmakers won’t be punishing Planned Parenthood. They’ll be punishing poor women who chose to have their babies and are trying to take care of them.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Previously: Out of the mouths of babes: Legislature moves to cut child nutrition benefits from the OK Policy Blog

NewsOK: IT consolidation needs to happen in Oklahoma

When the job of chief information officer was created in 2009, supporters estimated that person could find millions in savings in the first two years. Fallin’s budget proposal for this year called for savings through consolidation of IT services and personnel, and she sought a $100 million bond issue for IT purposes. Any savings would be helpful in a year when the state faces a $500 million shortfall. But legislators, no doubt tugged at by agencies that prefer the status quo, haven’t approved anything allowing for these changes. If something were to happen in the waning days of the session, which legislative leaders say is still a possibility, any savings wouldn’t accrue until down the road but at least we’d be headed in the right direction.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

I think it just goes to show how far we have to go with cultural attitudes in the state among prosecutors and others that, although we’ve taken a couple of good baby steps, here we’re doing something that’s directly opposed to that.

House Speaker Kris Steele, speaking about lawmakers approving a possible life sentence for converting marijuana to hashish on the same day that they approved reforms to reduce overcrowding in Oklahoma prisons. Steele previously voted to approve the hashish measure.

Number of the Day

6.8 percent

Growth in Oklahoma manufacturing employment between March 2010 and 2011.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In Texas, school growth clashes with a shrinking budget

It’s impossible to understand the fiscal challenge ahead of Texas until you realize how fast the state’s population is growing. Texas grew feverishly throughout the past decade, not only in the boom years before the recession but right through the recession years, as well. In all, the state added 4.3 million new residents, a 21 percent surge that surpasses any of the other five largest states. Texas is taking in massive numbers of school-age children, an increasingly large share of whom do not speak English as a native language. On average, the state’s schools enroll more than 500 new students every school day. The influx of the young and foreign-born would seem to demand heavy spending on education. Instead, a conservative Republican governor and legislature are slashing school expenditures and refusing to raise taxes. That is why, a few years from now, Texas’ fiscal future could be determined in a courtroom.

Read more from Stateline at

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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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