In The Know: May 5, 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, OU President David Boren said students could see a tuition increase next year of up to 10 percent, partially due to an “irresponsible (state) tax cut.” The legislature approved fee increases on collision reports and driver’s license reinstatement to fund an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper academy. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority says that all activities under the $54.6 million federal grant to build an Oklahoma health care exchange have ceased. The OK Policy Blog explains why the health network being proposed by state leaders in place of a health care exchange would be totally inadequate to both federal standards and the needs of Oklahomans.

The newly released state water plan finds that statewide water use will balloon over the next 50 years, with significant supply challenges likely in south-central and western Oklahoma. The New York Times reports on the effects of a record-long drought in the Oklahoma panhandle, in some places even worse than the Dust Bowl. The Oklahoma Gazette surveys the feuding factions within the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Oklahoma’s Fort Sill Apache Tribe has sent a letter to President Obama protesting the use of Geronimo as a code name for Osama bin Laden. The US Supreme has refused to hear an appeal from an Arkansas poultry company, which means a verdict that the company must pay $14.5 million to Oklahoma farmers for price-fixing will stand. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities debunks claims that the federal government has greatly expanded under President Obama, showing that the rise in federal spending as a share of GDP is instead caused by increased need for existing programs due to demographic changes and the recession.

More below the jump.

In The News

University of Oklahoma tuition likely to increase in next school year

University of Oklahoma President David Boren said a tuition increase is likely at OU, but he said he would cap any increase at 10 percent. Boren said Wednesday at a meeting with students and faculty members in the OU Student Union that the increase is a result of dried-up stimulus funding, “an irresponsible (state) tax cut,” inflation and rising health-care and personnel costs. “I think it is safe to say that a modest (tuition) increase is likely to happen this summer,” he said. “It’s not going to be in the double digits. I’d say that it’s going to be in the mid- to low single digits.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Fee increases for OHP academy approved, head to governor

Sen. Jonathan Nichols was successful Wednesday in resurrecting a bill to provide funding for an Oklahoma Highway Patrol academy. On Tuesday, senators rejected Senate Bill 954 by a vote of 22-17, short of the 25 votes needed for passage. The measure would increase the cost for collision reports to $15 from $7 to generate funds for the academy, which has not been held since 2009. The measure passed Wednesday by a vote of 29-9 without debate. A companion measure, SB 953, also passed, 41-2. SB 953 would increase the fee for reinstatement of a suspended driver’s license to $50 from $25.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Health Care Authority on exchange: “All grant activities have ceased.”

The office of Mike Fogarty, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, has sketched for CapitolBeatOK some details about the process involved in turning back previously accepted (but never received) grant money to design an Oklahoma health exchange. Nico Gomez, deputy CEO at the Health Care Authority, told CapitolBeatOK today (Wednesday, May 4) he had been directed to respond, “Since I have been dealing with this issue today. “We have notified our federal grant coordinator, via conference call, that Oklahoma does not intend to pursue the grant and we asked for further direction from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to officially reject the grant award.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

Short-changed on a health exchange

In the new national health care law (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA), exchanges are state-level competitive marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance. After winning a $54 million Early Innovator grant earlier this year, Oklahoma was poised to become a national leader with a high-quality, consumer-oriented health insurance exchange. Governor Mary Fallin and legislative leaders’ recent decision to reverse course by rejecting the federal grant and relying instead on state and private money to build an “Oklahoma Health Insurance Private Enterprise Network” is a symbolic victory for the most vocal opponents of  health reform.  Unfortunately, this puts unnecessary strains on the state budget and sends Oklahoma on a collision course with federal law. More importantly, it is likely to deprive Oklahomans of access to a strong, well-regulated, consumer-friendly marketplace to purchase private insurance coverage and will do nothing to actually make health insurance more affordable for Oklahomans.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://short-changed-on-a-health-exchange/.

Statewide water use expected to balloon over the next 50 years

Over the next 50 years, demand for water in Tulsa and the surrounding region will increase by 33 percent and cost about $6.2 billion just to meet the projected drinking water infrastructure needs, according to a statewide water plan being developed. Despite the increased needs, the Tulsa region should experience no severe deficits in its water supply as long as existing reservoirs continue to be available, according to the proposed plan. Other areas of the state though, including the south-central and western portions, will face potential water supply “challenges,” according to the report, released by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Survivor of Dust Bowl now battles a fiercer drought

While tornadoes and floods have ravaged the South and the Midwest, the remote western edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle is quietly enduring a weather calamity of its own: its longest drought on record, even worse than the Dust Bowl, when incessant winds scooped up the soil into billowing black clouds and rolled it through this town like bowling balls. With a drought continuing to punish much of the Great Plains, this one stands out. Boise (rhymes with voice) City has gone 222 consecutive days through Tuesday with less than a quarter-inch of rainfall in any single day, said Gary McManus, a state climatologist. That is the longest such dry spell here since note-keeping began in 1908.

Read more from this New York Times article at

Factions feuding within the Oklahoma Republican Party

Shortly after the November 2010 election, there were hints that such a division in the caucus could occur, when Republicans picked up veto-proof majorities in the Legislature and every statewide elected office, including Gov. Mary Fallin. Some conservatives publicly worried business interests would be the driving force behind this legislative session, and the party’s social agenda would be neglected. Since then, however, House leadership and a handful of GOP legislators have regularly clashed. Meanwhile, the division in the Legislature and perceived lack of socially conservative legislation have spurred some politicos to say challenges may be on the horizon for those Republicans not deemed conservative enough.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

Oklahoma tribe seeks apology over use of code name Geronimo for Osama bin Laden

The leader of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe is asking President Barack Obama for a formal apology for the government’s use of the code name “Geronimo” for Osama bin Laden. Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser sent a letter to the president Tuesday, saying equating the legendary Apache warrior to a “mass murderer and cowardly terrorist” was painful and offensive to all Native Americans. The letter was posted Wednesday morning on the Oklahoma tribe’s website.  “Right now Native American children all over this country are facing the reality of having one of their most revered figures being connected to a terrorist and murderer of thousands of innocent Americans,” Houser wrote.

Read more from this KJRH article at

See also: The full text of the letter from the Fort Sill Apache

Oklahoma poultry farmers declare victory after US Supreme Court decision

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by an Arkansas-based company that was ordered to pay $14.5 million to Oklahoma poultry farmers. The court declined without comment on Monday to hear the appeal by Fort Smith-based O.K. Industries Inc.  That means the lower court’s verdict against the company will stand. Oklahoma poultry farmers who had contracts to supply the company with chickens filed the lawsuit in 2002 claiming that the contracts were anti-competitive. The farmers said O.K. Industries used its power as the only poultry buyer in the area to manipulate lower prices for chickens.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Quote of the Day

It’s time people take a stand and make a decision. Do you want some services from your government that improve your quality of life, or do you want tax cuts? You have to pick one or the other. You can’t have both.

OU President David Boren, who said OU students should expect a tuition increase next year of up to 10 percent due to state budget cuts and increased costs.

Number of the Day


Average monthly participation in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program in Oklahoma, 2010

Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Federal spending should meet costs of today’s responsibilities

Economist John B. Taylor argued in the Wall Street Journal recently that President Obama has dramatically expanded the federal government and that we should return federal spending roughly to pre-recession levels as a share of the economy.  Both parts of this argument are seriously flawed. First, the spike in federal spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) in the recession doesn’t represent an expansion of government. Its two main causes are a sharp drop in economic growth and a sharp increase in the number of people eligible for programs like unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and SNAP (formerly food stamps), mostly because of rising unemployment.  These factors will recede as the economy and the labor market improve. Second, at the same time as the economy improves, demographic and economic factors will drive up the cost of meeting longstanding federal commitments.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 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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