In The Know: Tax cuts and education funding | State has 2nd highest uninsured rate | What federal relief means for health care

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Happy Birthday ACA! And what federal COVID relief means for your health care: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law on March 23, 2010, has significantly increased the number of people who have health insurance, expanded access to care, and led to greater financial stability among low-income individuals. It has also cost less money than was originally estimated. Through the introduction of Medicaid expansion and the federal Marketplace, the ACA was a good first step in making it easier to access affordable health care. The recently passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) builds on the success of the ACA and further strengthens the health care safety net. The ARPA will provide many Oklahomans with a new or significantly less expensive pathway to affordable health care by providing additional health-related funding to states and more direct assistance to Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Republican tax cut plans could eliminate $100 million in Oklahoma education funding: Republicans say they won’t allow plans to end corporate income taxes and lower personal income taxes in Oklahoma to cut into funding for education, but offer few concrete details on how money now dedicated for schools will be replaced. Paul Shinn, a budget and tax analyst with the think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute, believes phasing out the corporate income tax will probably not increase the state’s revenue. The state’s budget is doing well now, Shinn said, but he attributes that to one-time savings and billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief from the federal government, such as unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and direct payments to the state. [The Frontier] OK Policy: Tax cuts are not free; we pay for them by reducing government services or increasing other taxes.

Oklahoma’s uninsured second highest in U.S.: Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured population in the nation, recent Census data shows. What that means and what can be done about it are questions a number of national organizations are examining. AdvisorSmith, a small business research website based in New York, is the latest to release a report based on 2019 Census data showing that 14.3% of Oklahomans – more than 550,000 people – have no health insurance. Oklahoma trails only Texas, at 18.4%, among states with a high percentage of uninsured citizens. Nationwide, 9.4% of Americans lack health insurance. [The Journal Record] OK Policy: Census data show Oklahoma still lags nation in poverty rate.

Vaccine hesitancy among guards and inmates could threaten state prisons: About two-thirds of Oklahoma prison workers and just under half of the inmates have opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the state Department of Corrections, a sign that vaccine hesitancy remains high and some facilities may not reach the immunity threshold necessary to prevent future outbreaks. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • 959 new COVID-19 cases; 31 more Oklahoman deaths [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

State Senate committee approves nominations of health commissioner, secretary of health: Two of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s top health officials received “yes” votes from a Senate committee, including in a vote to confirm Lance Frye as the Oklahoma state commissioner of health. Frye was appointed commissioner almost a year ago – during the early months of the pandemic – and the Senate committee unanimously approved Frye’s nomination. [KOCO] The Senate Health and Human Services Committee’s vote on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s nominee sends the pick to the full Senate for a vote. [AP News] The vote also included Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett to serve as state secretary of health and mental health. OHCA is currently in the middle of a transition to outsourcing management of the state’s Medicaid program as requested by Stitt. Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) told Corbett a majority of the legislature still opposes that move. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Stitt picks lawyer-philanthropist as public safety secretary: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday the selection of Oklahoma City lawyer and philanthropist Tricia Everest as his new public safety secretary. Everest currently chairs the Oklahoma County Jail Trust that oversees jail operations. She previously worked as an assistant attorney general from 2004 to 2010. [AP News] Everest’s appointment means five women currently serve in the governor’s cabinet — the most female cabinet secretaries any Oklahoma governor has had at one time. [The Oklahoman] If confirmed by the Senate, Everest will oversee over 55 agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and the Pardon and Parole Board. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma extends state income tax deadline until June 15: Following the IRS’ lead, the state Tax Commission has extended the deadline for Oklahomans to pay their state income taxes without penalty by two months. April Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said technically under law, Oklahomans still must file by April 15, however the agency won’t penalize anyone as long as they file their state returns by June 15. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma state senator hired his cousin as his legislative assistant: An Oklahoma state senator hired his cousin to serve as his legislative assistant, but then fired her after The Oklahoman inquired about whether the two were related. For months, freshman Sen. Shane Jett, R-Shawnee, employed his cousin, TaRena Reece, as his legislative assistant, which is prohibited by state law. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Federal jobless aid goes out to Oklahomans ahead of projections: Federal unemployment benefits approved by Congress this month went out to eligible Oklahomans on Monday, ahead of earlier projections and assuring no gap in payments, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa County officials face key differences in spending new federal virus relief money: Tulsa County officials are starting to plan for the distribution of funding coming from the $1.9 trillion virus relief package President Joe Biden signed earlier this month. Board of County Commissioners Chairman Stan Sallee is overseeing Tulsa County’s spending of the new aid. He said key differences between this package and 2020’s CARES Act are Tulsa County’s $126 million in American Rescue Plan funds will be delivered in two tranches over two years and proposed spending must be submitted to the federal government first. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Former US Attorney Shores: Feds should do more to stop child sex abuse within Indian Health Service: Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores said this month that alongside issues stemming from the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling and the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people, addressing child sex abuse within the Indian Health Service should be a top priority of the new presidential administration. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Library of Congress adopts ‘Tulsa Race Massacre’ term: The term Tulsa Race Massacre has largely replaced the Tulsa Race Riot label here in Oklahoma. Now it will be applied in libraries worldwide. The move was announced by the Library of Congress after librarians at the University of Oklahoma lobbied for the change. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma AG taps attorney to head parole board investigation: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Monday he’s hiring a former U.S. attorney to look into allegations against the state’s Pardon and Parole Board. [AP News] Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday announced he had appointed Brian J. Kuester as a special counsel to investigate complaints his office continues to receive “about the manner in which the Pardon and Parole Board has conducted recent agency actions.” [Tulsa World] The appointment comes as an investigation is already underway into why drug offender Lawrence Paul Anderson and another inmate were released after the parole board rejected their commutation requests. [The Oklahoman]

An Oklahoma prison will close as the federal government moves away from using private facilities: The Biden Administration’s move away from the use of private prisons will shutter a facility in the western Oklahoma town of Hinton that houses federal inmates. [The Frontier]

Tulsa man gets 24 years in police officers’ shooting; son, widow of officer speak: A Tulsa County judge imposed a 24-year prison sentence Monday against a man for his role as an accessory in the shootings of two police officers last year, saying in support of his decision that the man’s cooperation with authorities only appeared to come about once an attorney intervened. [Tulsa World]

Health News

State’s attempt to build a health information exchange isn’t a reboot, latest project’s leader says: Two separate health information technology contracts merged into one last week are “eerily similar” but not a duplication of the state’s prior unsuccessful attempt to build a health information exchange from the ground up, according to the latest project’s leader. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

The Frontier to host live virtual forum on evictions: The forum will be broadcast on Facebook Live at noon on Wednesday. Guests include Jeff Jaynes, executive director of Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa, and Eric Hallett, statewide coordinator of housing advocacy at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. [The Frontier]

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools ’21-’22 calendar set with plans for in-person classes five days a week: Tulsa Public Schools’ 2021-22 school year calendar is set with plans to be back in the classrooms in person five days a week. As unanimously approved at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, the school year will start on Aug. 19 and, if none of the five built-in snow days is used, will end on May 26. [Tulsa World]

General News

Voices: Let’s build an inclusive future that benefits us all: In the 1980s, Dennis Neill, an employee of our family business, came out as gay to my late father, Charles Schusterman. Coming out in Tulsa during the height of the AIDS crisis was a risky thing to do, and it could have cost Dennis his job. But my father embraced Dennis and assured him that his job was safe. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Local News

  • JoBeth Hamon: OKC at ‘an inflection point of asking what public safety means’ [NonDoc]
  • Legislature honors former Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard [Tulsa World]
  • 36 Degrees North reports $375.5 million economic impact on regional economy over last 4 years [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“If we’re trying to attract new business, how well we invest in public education will be a deciding factor.”

-Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association President, speaking about potential cuts to education funding that might stem from revenue reductions in HB 2041 and HB 2083. She noted that the National Education Association currently puts Oklahoma schools 49th nationally in per pupil spending. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Number of uninsured Oklahoma children estimated to gain insurance when Oklahoma expands Medicaid on July 1, 2021

[Source: Urban Institute]

Policy Note

Medicaid Expansion Has Helped Narrow Racial Disparities in Health Coverage and Access to Care: The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion has helped narrow longstanding disparities in health coverage and access to care for people of color, and preliminary evidence suggests it is also improving their health outcomes. The 36 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented expansion have made the greatest progress in increasing health coverage since the ACA’s major coverage provisions took effect in 2014, and these states have narrowed the gaps in uninsured rates between Black and Hispanic people and white people far more than states that haven’t expanded. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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