In The Know: Oklahoma GOP leaders gambling on health care decision

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 you should know that the Enid News and Eagle examines the gamble Oklahoma GOP leaders are taking in doing little to comply with the new health care law before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling (expected later this morning). The percentage of Oklahoma’s economy represented by gambling is on the rise, with the biggest increase from Indian casinos.

Oklahoma was the only state that saw no change in first-quarter personal income. Nationwide, personal income rose in 47 states and fell in Kansas and Mississippi. See here the full report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Oklahoma City was ranked 22nd out of 100 cities for the progress of its economic recovery.

StateImpact Oklahoma discussed how big cuts to inmate education programs may cost Oklahoma taxpayers later. On the OK Policy Blog, John Thompson finds reasons for optimism at the Vision 2020 conference about the future of public education in Oklahoma. This Land Press summarized reporting on the man behind the Personhood campaign in Oklahoma and nationally.

A software glitch that delayed posting of Tuesday’s election results on the State Election Board’s website for about two hours. In the Journal Record, David Blatt explains why tax cuts won’t help Oklahoma’s long-term unemployed and shares what some real solutions could be.

The Number of the Day is the amount of uncollected taxes from online transactions in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Pro Publica shares numbers on the U.S.’s billion dollar and growing for-profit detention industry.

In The News

Oklahoma GOP leaders gambling in health care decision

Because of bitter opposition to the new federal health care law in Oklahoma, state officials have done little to comply with it and instead are gambling that a key provision will be struck down Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court. The move is calculated — albeit risky — for Oklahoma’s GOP leaders, who cited fears of a federal takeover of health care in declining to set up a state-run health insurance exchange. Should the law be upheld and the state doesn’t create its own exchange by November, the state would automatically be absorbed into the federal system — the very thing they’re fiercely trying to avoid.  Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, acknowledged Fallin has not decided how to proceed if the law is upheld, saying she plans to discuss those options after the ruling.

Read more from Enid News and Eagle.

Role of gambling in Oklahoma economy on the rise

Gambling – the biggest chunk coming at Indian casinos – represents 2.33 percent of Oklahoma’s economy, according to the latest Casino City’s North American Gaming Almanac. Only in Nevada, Mississippi and Vermont was gambling a bigger piece of the state gross domestic product in 2010, according to the report, the most comprehensive annual survey of gambling trends in the nation. The role of gambling in the state’s economy has been growing. In 2007, it represented 1.9 percent of the state GDP. Oklahoma gambling revenue totaled $210 million in 2010 with $99.8 million from casinos and $93.1 million through the Oklahoma lottery. The rest was at the state’s racetracks. The 2010 gambling report was essentially flat in the state – 0.13 percent lower – compared to 2009 levels. Casino revenue was up 6 percent. Lottery revenues were down nearly 3 percent and racing revenue was off more than 15 percent. 2010 marked the first year that more money was spent in Oklahoma casinos than on the lottery.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma only state with no change in personal income during first quarter

Oklahoma was the only state that saw no change in first-quarter personal income, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis stated Wednesday. Nationwide, personal income rose in 47 states and fell in Kansas and Mississippi. Oklahoma’s personal income – a measure of the income received by all residents from all sources – remained at $144.9 billion. “The reason that there was no income growth in Oklahoma is because in the fourth quarter there was a large bonus made in the industry we call ‘management of companies,’ ” said David Lenze, an economist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. “So, that made the growth in the fourth-quarter personal income rather large. Because bonuses often are paid at the end of the year, a noticeable jump in fourth-quarter earnings occurred in that category, and therefore affected overall personal income for the state. Management earnings were nearly $1.5 billion in the third quarter of 2011, then rose to nearly $2.7 billion by the fourth quarter before declining by $936 million in the first.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: State Personal Income: First Quarter 2012 from the Bureau of Economic Analysis

Oklahoma City ranked 22nd for economic recovery out of 100 American cities

A new report by the Brookings Institution shows Oklahoma City ranks in the upper third of 100 surveyed cities in what is reported to be an uneven national economic recovery.Oklahoma City ranked highest in the recovery in its housing prices (10th) with authors of “Metro Monitor” indicating the city bottomed out in a relatively mild drop a year ago. Meanwhile, 73 other cities in the survey hit bottom in the second quarter of 2012. The survey shows Oklahoma City ranking 22nd in overall recovery, with employment ranked 18th and economic output ranked 32nd. It showed improvement the past year in eight of 14 industries measured, with the largest increases of 14.8 percent in mining (including oil and gas) and 15 percent in education fields. The largest drops over the past year were construction, at 8 percent, and information, at 5 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Cuts in inmate education may cost Oklahoma taxpayers later

About 8,000 people are released from Oklahoma prisons each year, and employment improves an offender’s odds of not returning, criminologists and corrections officials say. State prisons prepare inmates for the workforce through education and jobs skills training, which reduces recidivism and, ultimately, costs to taxpayers. But after years of state budget cuts, prison classrooms have closed, teaching and instructor jobs have been eliminated, and fewer felons are receiving education and skills training. Oklahoma is a national leader in putting people behind bars, and the state sits near the top of the list in every measure of state prisoners per capita. One in 12 Oklahomans has a felony conviction on his or her record, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. State corrections officials say that number is probably a lot higher than that.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

John Thompson: Vision 2020 brings hope

In June, the Oklahoma Department of Education hosted the Vision 2020 conference to preview the dramatic changes that are roiling school systems. I was not surprised that many educators came to the conference with feelings of dread. Yet, I left the conference with new hope. The following are the highlights from the perspective of an inner city teacher. Data-driven reformers once dismissed complaints about lack of high-quality pre-school as an “excuse” used by teachers to defend their failure to close the achievement gap. Billions of dollars were invested in computer systems for holding educators accountable, while we had not invested the relative pennies it would take to create early warning systems so truancy and other problems at school and home do not metastasize. However, Oklahoma now has a state-of-the art early warning system based on the research from the John Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

The man behind Oklahoma’s Personhood movement

Before their efforts ultimately failed, the Oklahoma legislature’s top priority this season was passing a “personhood” law. A bill that would have granted embryos personhood rights at conception easily passed the Senate but wasn’t heard in the House, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a ballot measure that would have put the issue up to voters. It caused a stir nationally when senators who opposed the bill added tongue-in-cheek amendments to forbid masturbation and took photographs of themselves holding signs that expressed their displeasure at the proposal with naughty language. Ultimately, all that was passed was a non-binding resolution expressing the legislature’s support for the idea of personhood. The resolution’s author, Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, called it “our Declaration of Independence.” Photo courtesy Flickr user benchilada. But despite seeming to be such an Oklahoma-centric issue, the man behind the state’s—and America’s—personhood movement is Keith Mason, a 31-year-old Colorado native whom Newsweek described as “a clean-cut guy with the unflappable air of a college quarterback” and “part preacher, part hipster.”

Read more from This Land Press.

Software glitch blamed for delays in reporting Oklahoma election results

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he is embarrassed by a software glitch that delayed posting results of Tuesday’s elections on the agency’s website for about two hours. The numbers were correct, but a problem occurred in the software when the early and absentee voting numbers were transferred to the website, he said Wednesday. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this,” Ziriax said. “I’m unhappy, and I’m embarrassed by it.” It’s at least the second glitch in four elections for the software for the new $16.7 million system, which went online earlier this year with election officials promising faster election results and more data. Ziriax said election officials noticed the problem almost immediately and decided to postpone adding updated election figures until the software problem was found. Although the numbers were correct, the software problem erroneously reported in some races that all the precincts had been reported.

Read more from NewsOK.

David Blatt: Real solutions for the long-term unemployed

Long-term unemployment has been an especially pernicious hallmark of the Great Recession. The number of Oklahomans unemployed for over a year more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2010. Conservatives frequently argue that small businesses provide the bulk of new jobs and that the legislators should pave the way by reducing taxes and regulations. There, we disagree. Imagine that the top income tax rate is slashed by two full percentage points. A small business owner earning $250,000 a year would see tax savings of $5,000. Would the tax savings spark a hiring bonanza that puts unemployed Oklahomans back to work? The annual wages of just one new employee at the state’s median wage is $29,568. You can’t finance a $30,000 hire with a $5,000 tax cut. It doesn’t add up.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Quote of the Day

That was seen as a very conservative idea. Since Obama got elected, it’s gone from being a conservative idea to a liberal one.
-Rep. Doug Cox,  R-Grove, speaking about health insurance exchanges

Number of the Day


Amount of uncollected taxes from online transactions in Oklahoma, TY 2012

Source: Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

By the numbers: The U.S.’s growing for-profit detention industry

The growth of the private detention industry has long been a subject of scrutiny. A recent eight-part series in the New Orleans Times-Picayune chronicled how more than half of Louisiana’s 40,000 inmates are housed in prisons run by sheriffs or private companies as part of a broader financial incentive scheme. The detention business goes beyond just criminal prisoners. As a Huffington Post investigation pointed out last month, nearly half of all immigrant detainees are now held in privately run detention facilities. Just this week, the New York Times delved into lax oversight at industrial-sized but privately run halfway houses in New Jersey. We’ve taken a look at some of the numbers associated with the billion-dollar and wide-ranging for-profit detention industry—and the two companies that dominate the market.

Read more from Pro Publica.

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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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