In The Know: Oklahoma tax refunds for the unbanked issued on MasterCard debit cards

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 law now requires that state tax refunds be issued electronically, so taxpayers without a bank account must accept their refund on a MasterCard debit card with associated fees.  Oklahoma House Democrats say jobs, education, transportation, and natural resources top their agenda for 2012.  The Norman Transcript explains why a bill that gives cities and towns control over tobacco regulations is needed to turn the corner on the state’s deteriorating health.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request that will give $500,000 to the OU College of Medicine to address a physician shortage.  Stillwater residents expressed concern about services for the state’s poor at a town hall event on the state budget.

The OK Policy Blog hosts a debate about whether or not to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, featuring the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Jessica Hawkins and former state Senator Ed Long.  The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009.  In today’s Policy Note, the Shriver Center examines the trend of states issuing public benefits through bankcards and the implications of card fees for low-income people. 

In The News

Debit cards in some taxpayers’ futures

Oklahoma law now provides that state tax refunds are to be issued electronically, so taxpayers who are owed some money only have a couple options.  Those who have bank accounts can provide the state with their information and have the refund direct-deposited. But those who don’t have bank accounts have only one option: Take the money on a MasterCard debit card.  A fee of $1.50 per month will be deducted from the refund amount after 60 days of card inactivity.  “We recommend using the card periodically to avoid the fee or use or withdraw the entire balance immediately,” the OTC website says.

Read more from the Tahlequah Daily Press at

Okla. House Democrats eye 2012 legislative agenda

Democrats in the Oklahoma House say job creation, public education, transportation and natural resources are at the top of their agenda for the 2012 legislative session.  The Legislature convenes Monday at the state Capitol.  Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City said Wednesday the legislative session will be measured by the values and priorities that come out of it. Inman says that will be reflected in the budget.  Inman says House Democrats strongly support job creation and retention, which requires small businesses to have a stable working environment.

Read more from NewsChannel10 at

Smoking, obesity push health rank to No. 48

Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma’s commissioner of Health and secretary of Health and Human Services, has been making the rounds of Oklahoma newspaper editorial boards. He outlines a legislative agenda that gives cities and towns control over tobacco regulation, a stronger graduated driver’s license law to prohibit teens from texting while driving and a health education requirement for public schools.  The tobacco lobby killed a similar local rights bill promoted in 2011 by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. This year’s proposal, House Bill 2267, is being carried by Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, whose other job is as a rural Oklahoma physician.

Read more from the Norman Transcript at

Budget Request To Correct Shortage Of Physicians

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request Thursday that will give $500,000 to increase the number of students admitted to the OU College of Medicine, pending approval by the legislature.  Oklahoma ranked as 44th in the U.S. in number of physicians per 100,000 residents in 2010, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. To address this fact, both the OU College of Medicine and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine increased medical class sizes in 2009.  In the request, called the Oklahoma Healthcare Physician Shortage Initiative, both schools asked for $500,000, as well as a $1 million allotment for two-year health-care programs around the state.

Read more from the OU Daily at

Roadshow Reaction in Stillwater: ‘I’m Concerned About Poor People’

Our State Budget Roadshow wrapped up last night in Stillwater with a packed crowd, pointed policy questions — and pizza.  It was a full house, and the discussion was almost entirely led by the audience, which came chambered with questions about the income tax, the miserable condition of some state-owned buildings, and how the state budget affects life in rural Oklahoma.  The income tax is a hot topic in Oklahoma, and the Stillwater audience — as it was in Tulsa and Oklahoma City — was eager to weigh-in.

Read more from StateImpactOK at

The pseudoephedrine debate: Available with or without a prescription?

The question of whether to require a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine (the main ingredient in medications such as Sudafed) as a means to help combat the production of methamphetamine, promises to be one of the  hotly contested issues of the 2012 legislative session. We invited a supporter and an opponent of the proposal to present their sides of the debate.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

When I go out to communities and work with them, what I hear is that we need jobs for our young people.  We need opportunities to help them establish a lifestyle so that they can stay here and that this community will be here in 40 or 50 years.

Agriculture Economist Dave Shideler

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009; 70.1 percent received their GED, just above the average national pass rate of 69.4 percent.

Source: National Coalition for Literacy

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s Poor are Paying Big Banks for Benefits

States have recently begun renegotiating with banks to lower fees on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards after pushback from beneficiaries and growing negative press coverage over the past few months.    EBT systems are a means of delivering government benefits to recipients electronically via a plastic debit-type card. A Shriver Brief blog post published earlier this year provided an overview of the transition from mailing checks to using EBT cards (i.e., direct deposit and closed-loop debit-type cards) to the current trend of issuing branded prepaid benefit cards (EPC). Forty-one states have switched from issuing paper checks for everything from unemployment benefits to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to other state public benefits to either EBT systems or, more recently, prepaid cards.

Read more from the Shriver Center at

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