In The Know: Rural Oklahomans least likely to have health insurance

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 Oklahomans in the more rural areas of the state are least likely to have health insurance, and the state is sixth-worst overall for percentage uninsured, according to new Census numbers. Improving state education funding and urging the state to join the Medicaid expansion are top priorities of the regional One Voice agenda of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the new hope and opportunities for undocumented immigrants brought to Oklahoma as young children.

Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate, already the lowest among the nation’s large cities, fell to 4.8 percent in July. LeFlore County had the highest unemployment rate last month in the state, at 10.1 percent. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett responded to criticisms of the Vision2 sales tax proposal. Americans Elect will not be on the Oklahoma presidential ballot in November, and a state group was denied in their attempt to put Libertarian candidates Gary E. Johnson in the Americans Elect slot.

Both the Oklahoma Policy Institute and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs are calling for reforms to allow citizens to better monitor state budget decisions. McClatchy writes that Gov. Fallin’s speech at the Republican National Convention omitted major chunks of federal government involvement in Oklahoma’s history. The Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting growth of anti-government groups in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the annual average employee contribution for a family health insurance plan in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities discusses a new report on the mismatch between available jobs in American cities and the workforce’s education background.

In The News

Rural Oklahomans least likely to have health insurance

Oklahomans in the more rural areas of the state are least likely to have health insurance while suburban areas have the highest coverage rates, according to data released Wednesday by the United States Census Bureau. More than one in five Oklahomans younger than 65 are without health insurance, putting the state at sixth-worst in the nation for an insured population, according to bureau figures. Tulsa County reported 21.8 percent being uninsured, an increase of 6.8 percent in 2009 and just below the state average of 21.9 percent. The state had a 3.7 percent increase in uninsured residents from 2009 to 2010. Cimarron and Harmon counties had uninsured rates higher than 30 percent while Cleveland, Rogers and Canadian had rates lower than 18 percent.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Medicaid, education funding top priority list for Tulsa Metro Chamber

Improving state education funding and urging the state to accept a huge increase in federal Medicaid money through the Affordable Care Act are two of the top priorities of the regional One Voice agenda of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. The agenda – approved Wednesday by some 350 people at the chamber’s regional legislative summit – also calls for opposition to any state personal income tax cut that reduces the size of the state budget. The One Voice agenda represents more than just the legislative priorities of the Tulsa business community. The chamber brings in other area chambers and gets metropolitan-area city councils to sign off on the agenda, which is presented to lawmakers as a regional legislative platform. Although education funding was the top One Voice agenda item last year also, the Medicaid endorsement and the tax policy are new positions.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

On the right path

Gabby is a native Guatemalan, brought to the United States by her mother at age 4. She graduated from high school in Oklahoma City and is attending Oklahoma State University, where she plans to study education or medicine. She has not been back to Guatemala since leaving and knows no one there. Miguel was 8 when he arrived from Mexico with his mother and older sister. Initially speaking no English, he eventually graduated from high school in Sand Springs and finished a drafting course before enrolling at Tulsa Community College. Both Gabby and Miguel, who were recently written about in the Tulsa World, are typical Oklahoma youths in their commitment to pursuing an education, finding a decent job, and raising a family here. But because they were brought into the country illegally as children, both have been threatened with deportation. Now, however, Gabby and Miguel have new hopes and opportunities.

Read more from the Journal Record.

OKC again posts best jobless rate among large U.S. cities

Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate, already the lowest among the nation’s large cities, fell to 4.8 percent in July. The metro-area jobless rate declined 0.2 percentage points from 5 percent in June, according to figures issued Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department. It was the sixth consecutive month the Oklahoma City metro area has had the lowest rate among the largest 49 cities in the country. However, Oklahoma City shed 7,800 jobs in July, with most of the losses in the local government sector, according to nonseasonally adjusted data. “That’s education,” said Lynn Gray, chief economist for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. “You’ve got teachers not working during the summer so they’re coming off of their contract for the academic year. They’ll come back in September.”

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Southeastern Oklahoma counties post highest unemployment rates in July from the Associated Press

Tulsa mayor responds to criticisms of Vision2 sales tax proposal

While I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinions I am also a believer that everyone is not entitled to their own set of facts just to support their own opinions. This is especially true if the facts they use to support their opinions are either incorrect or untrue. Good public debate based upon true representations is always healthy. False representations undermine an honest public conversation. Such is the case with the recent UTW article “Seeing Double” by Bill Leighty regarding the progress the City of Tulsa has made to implement PlaniTulsa. Since the adoption of PlaniTulsa the City has moved forward on a number of fronts. The first and most important implementation step we took was to hire a highly qualified planning director to guide the process. After a national search, we turned the implementation over to the qualified hands of Dawn Warrick. Mr. Leighty might have forgotten that the City had not had a planning director for many years.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Americans Elect, Libertarian candidate won’t appear on Oklahoma ballot

Americans Elect will not be on the ballot in November, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Wednesday. The agency sought legal advice after it got reports from the national group that conflicted with a group claiming to be the state chapter. Earlier this year, the national group notified the Election Board that it was terminating its status as a qualified party in Oklahoma and would not be picking electors for president and vice president. The group had hoped to get a bipartisan presidential ticket that could challenge both parties. But a group calling itself the state party told the Election Board it was moving forward with electors who supported Libertarian candidates Gary E. Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, for president and James P. Gray for vice president. The Libertarian Party failed to secure enough signatures to become a recognized political party in Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Liberal, conservative groups agree on need for more open Oklahoma state budgeting process

Oklahoma’s secretive budget process has achieved a rare thing in a highly politicized age: unifying liberals and conservatives. Both the Oklahoma Policy Institute and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs are calling for budget reforms to end the secrecy and allow citizens to monitor spending decisions at the Oklahoma Capitol. OK Policy supports an activist role and increased funding for many government programs. OCPA touts free markets, low taxes and smaller government. On most issues, the think tanks are on opposite sides. But as The Oklahoman’s Michael McNutt reported, officials at both organizations agree Oklahoma’s secretive budget process is a disservice to citizens.

Read more from NewsOK.

In bashing Obama, GOP ignores federal role in business

In their zeal to counter President Barack Obama’s statement that businesspeople “didn’t build that,” Republicans at their convention this week are rushing so far in the other direction that they’re all but denying any government role in American history. … In pushing that theme this week, though, some of the speakers have left out part of the story. In a convention floor speech Tuesday night, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin boasted that people rushed into her state in the Great Land Run of 1889 with only their own grit to thank, and no help from the federal government. “And in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money – not the federal government’s money – to drill Oklahoma’s first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone,” she told conventioneers. However, Fallin’s characterization omitted major chunks of federal government involvement, including the Dawes Act of 1887 and other measures that forced Indian tribes onto reservations, freeing “open” surplus lands for white settlers.

Read more from McClatchy.

Southern Poverty Law Center finds growth of anti-government groups in Oklahoma

Twenty years ago this month, federal agents surrounded a remote cabin in northern Idaho after the man inside, Randy Weaver, refused to surrender on weapons-related charges. Before the end of that nine-day standoff, Weaver’s wife and son would be killed along with a deputy U.S. marshal. And the repercussions of the siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, would help fuel the anti-government militia movement of the 1990s. Now, the nation and Oklahoma are seeing a resurgence of the so-called patriot movement beyond levels from that decade, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based nonprofit that tracks alleged hate, militia and patriot groups. … SPLC lists 10 patriot groups as operating in Oklahoma in 2011, compared to a single group in 2008.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Quote of the Day

Lawmakers have simply approved lump sums to agencies in recent years instead of program-specific line-item appropriations, largely for political reasons. The recession forced spending reductions, but lawmakers didn’t want to take the heat for specific program cuts. So they refused to specify details in legislation. If lawmakers can’t defend their decisions, they don’t deserve re-election.

-The Oklahoman editorial board

Number of the Day


Annual average employee contribution for a family health insurance plan in Oklahoma in 2011, up $731 from the previous year

Source: Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Education and job requirements: The great mismatch

For a person to get a job, there must be a job opening. Call that Step One. Step Two is that the person seeking said job has the requirements to actually do that job. For many U.S. metropolitan areas, Step Two is the hard part. There are job openings in the U.S. But the people living near those jobs don’t have the relevant education or training to get them, according to a new report out today from the Brookings Institution. The report looks at education, job openings and unemployment in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. between January 2006 and February 2012 and finds that the overall unemployment picture in metro areas gets a lot worse when the workforce’s educational background doesn’t match up with the requirements of employers.

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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