In The Know: Obama to visit Oklahoma on Sunday; tornado damage could top $1 billion

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 President Barack Obama plans to visit Oklahoma on Sunday to meet with those affected by Monday’s EF5 tornado. With everyone who had reported missing accounted for, the death toll has been revised down to 24. Insurance Commissioner John Doak said that the damage could top $1 billion, and the insurance industry is preparing for a deluge of claims

The New York Times profiled residents of Moore who plan to stay in the town despite the treat of tornadoes. David Blatt’s Journal Record column honors the courage of teachers who put their lives on the line to protect children. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne praised Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole for putting pragmatism above ideology in the wake of natural disasters.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss how April’s state revenue boost was likely a one-time increase due to federal tax changes. In the Huffington Post, Rep. Doug Cox criticizes Oklahoma legislators for using the final days of session to pass laws blocking women’s access to preventive health care. The Tulsa World writes that Governor Fallin’s decision not to accept federal dollars to extend Medicaid is already leading to job losses in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the percentage drop in state appropriations for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management since FY 2009. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities maps out the differences in teen birth rates across the U.S.

In The News

Obama to visit Oklahoma on Sunday; tornado damage could top $1 billion

President Barack Obama plans to visit Oklahoma on Sunday to meet with those affected by Monday’s EF5 tornado, which killed 24 people and injured 353 more. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president will view the tornado damage first-hand. He also plans to meet with victims and first responders. A spokeswoman for Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said that while an official damage estimate has not been released, Doak believes that the damage could top $1 billion. Other reports speculated that it could be as high as $2 billion. The death toll remained 24 on Wednesday. Everyone who had been reported missing had been accounted for.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tornado has insurance industry poised for deluge of claims

As Oklahoma communities grapple with the devastation caused by this week’s deadly tornadoes, the financial impact from the loss of homes and other property remains unclear. It could be weeks before an accurate picture emerges on the extent of the damage. But, viewing the hard-hit areas of the state, losses will be in the billions of dollars. Hundreds of insurance agents and claims adjusters are expected to gather in Moore in the coming days to help those affected by the destruction and assess the insurance needs.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

In cross hairs of tornadoes, a town’s residents stay put

Along a nearly 20-mile path of caved-in buildings, upside-down cars and muddy rubble, there was a different sort of stunning sight on Wednesday — a homeowner, broom in hand, sweeping the driveway, trying to make at least one patch of land here the way it used to be. For more than a century, this Oklahoma City suburb has taken a battering in Tornado Alley. At least 22 tornadoes have struck in or near Moore, killing more than 100 people, since the town was incorporated in 1893, according to the National Weather Service.

Read more from the New York Times.

Good job, teach

Of all the heart-wrenching images of Monday’s devastation and despair, chaos and compassion, the one that affected me most was of two survivors who emerged from the rubble of Briarwood Elementary School. A young boy is wrapped in the embrace of his teacher, who has one arm around the boy’s waist, the other holding up his head. We can’t see the boy’s face but the teacher’s face shows at once deep anguish and firm resolve. As terrible as the toll was from Monday’s tornado, we know it would have been far worse but for the heroic efforts of many, including the teachers and staff of Briarwood and Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Oklahoma needs help, not ideology, after tornado

While listening to an NPR report out of Moore, Okla., this week, I was genuinely shocked. Not by the scale of the devastation or the tenacity of people who have grown stoically accustomed to the damage tornadoes can do but by a political sentiment that, in almost any other era, would not have been surprising at all. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican who lives in the very neighborhood that was overwhelmed, was talking about a call he received from President Obama. Hearing Cole, I realized how strange it is these days for politicians to speak in human terms about someone in the other political party — especially if that someone is named Barack Obama.

Read more from the Washington Post.

April Fools? Strong revenue growth may reflect one-time tax changes

Last week’s announcement of April General Revenue (GR) collections seemed to signal great news for the state. Revenues were up almost $90 million, or 14.7 percent, from the same month a year ago and exceeded the estimate by 15.1 percent. After lagging behind prior year collections for much of the year, April’s surge pulled total year-to-date GR collections ahead of last year by 0.9 percent. April’s revenue growth was due almost entirely to a spike in income tax collections, which rose $70.6 million, or 19.8 percent compared to April 2012. For the year, income tax collections are now $183.2 million, or 9.4 percent, above FY 2012. But rather than reflecting real strength in the state economy, April’s income tax collections may instead have been a temporary and one-time response by taxpayers to recent changes in federal tax policy.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Doug Cox: Oklahoma Legislature’s wrong priorities during crisis

The eyes of the entire country have turned to Oklahoma this week in the wake of Monday’s devastating tornado. The tornado tore through seventeen miles of ground, destroying homes, schools, and hospitals in its path. Twenty-four lives have been lost, including 10 children. It is these kinds of tragic disasters that bring people together. As a physician, as a parent, as a state legislator who takes my oath to put my constituents interests first, I can’t be silent when — at a time of need for care, empathy, and community — my colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature are using the last days of session to further restrict Oklahoma women’s access to health care.

Read more from the Huffington Post.

Fallin’s Medicaid decision leads to job losses here

The negative fallout resulting from Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to reject the Medicaid expansion element of Obamacare continues to mount. Thanks to her refusal to participate in the expansion, St. John Health System says it is being forced to eliminate about 2 to 3 percent of its workforce by the end of June. So let’s see if we can tally all the bad outcomes arising out of her decision that we know of so far: An estimated 150,000 or more uninsured Oklahomans won’t be able to obtain Medicaid coverage who would have qualified under the expansion; another 9,000 Oklahomans currently covered by the state-subsidized Insure Oklahoma program likely will lose their insurance at the end of the year; and as many as several hundred hospital workers will be out of a job.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

It’s pretty unusual in my state to go through a year without a tornado disaster, and it’s pretty unusual to go through a year without a drought disaster. Each time, we’ve come and asked for help from the federal government; each time, we received that help. Undoubtedly, we’ll be doing that again in the near future. It would be hypocritical, in my view, to fail to do for people in the affected region what I and, I know, many others have routinely asked for our own regions.

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, explaining in January why he would support a $50 billion Hurricane Sandy aid package. Cole was one of just 49 House Republicans (out of 228) who supported the aid.

Number of the Day

43.7 percent

Percentage drop in state appropriations for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management since FY 2009, a more than $500,000 cut.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The new geography of teen mothers

This week, we’ve been exploring the inequality of access to last-resort birth prevention measures. We know that teen birth rates in this country are still far too high, with 34.2 out of every 1,000 teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 becoming mothers. Nonetheless, states are continuing to restrict abortion, and easy access to emergency contraception is still a matter of debate. Today, we turn to state-level data on the rates of teen births. The Martin Prosperity Institute’s Zara Matheson charts the patterns for teen birth to gain insight to who, and where, stands to benefit or lose the most by increased access to abortions as well as emergency contraception.

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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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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