In The Know: U.S. adds 80,000 jobs, unemployment rate holds steady

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.

The U.S. economy added 80,000 net new jobs in June, while the unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent.  State revenue collections for this fiscal year were 7.7 percent higher than the previous fiscal year.  Gross collections of oil and gas production taxes were down more than 42 percent for the month of June, compared to the same month in 2011.

Delayed action on a state insurance exchange is also holding-up determination of a ‘qualified health plan’ for Oklahomans to satisfy the individual mandate.  Rep. James Lankford told constituents that online health insurance exchanges could, ‘accelerate free market competition.’  Former Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson explained why the state has nothing to lose and a lot to gain from health reforms.

The Oklahoma County jailhouse school is one of several successful alternative education programs operated in nontraditional settings across the state.  The OK Policy Blog examined state laws and sentencing practices that condemn thousands into a downward spiral for one mistake.

The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is stepping up efforts to insure that kids who rely on school meals during the year don’t go hungry during the summer.  Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, is pushing deep cuts to food programs for the poor in Farm Bill negotiations.

The Number of the Day is the number of employees the Department of Corrections workforce has lost since FY 2001.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Healthcare Quality Report graded Oklahoma health care and delivery services among the worst in the nation for 2011.

In The News

U.S. economy adds 80,000 jobs in June; unemployment rate holds at 8.2%

The U.S. economy continued to struggle in June, adding 80,000 net new jobs while the unemployment rate remained at 8.2%, the government reported Friday.  The new figures were a marginal improvement over May’s dismal job-creation numbers, which were revised up to 77,000 from the initial report of 69,000. But June’s figures fell below economists’ projections of about 100,000 net new jobs.  The private sector created 84,000 jobs in June, but the total was brought down by continued cuts in government workforces, which lost 4,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported.

Read more from the Los Angeles Times at,0,3197473.story

State revenues up 7.7 percent from previous fiscal year

Gross revenue collections for the last fiscal year were 7.7 percent higher than the prior year, according to figures released Thursday by State Treasurer Ken Miller.  Gross revenue collections brought in $10.99 billion during fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30. The figure is an increase of $782.03 million more than collections for the prior fiscal year.  The figure includes income, sales, gross production and motor vehicle taxes, and other sources.  “I think all things considered, it was a good year for us,” Miller said. “We are continuing a healthy recovery. Our unemployment rate is stellar compared to the national average and really compared to our history.”

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Decline in energy taxes slows Okla. growth rate

Oklahoma’s treasurer says the state’s economy continues to show positive signs, but that declining revenue from oil and natural gas production is slowing the state’s economic growth.  Figures released on Thursday by Treasurer Ken Miller show gross collections of oil and gas production taxes in June dropped more than 42% compared to June 2011. It was the seventh consecutive month that gross production taxes fell compared to the same month of the last year.

Read more from KTUL at

State still unsettled on qualifying health plans

With the prospects of a 2014 tax hit for anyone who doesn’t have “qualifying” health insurance, a prudent person might want to know if his or her insurance qualifies.  Unfortunately, there’s no telling, and Oklahoma hasn’t started the process of resolving that question.  Starting in 2014, Americans must report on their income tax returns whether they have qualified health insurance. If they don’t, they have to pay the higher of $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income. In 2015, the tax rises to $325 or 2 percent of taxable income. In 2016, the tax rises again, to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income.

Read more from NewsOK at

Rep. James Lankford answers constituent questions about health care

Rep. James Lankford told about 60 constituents Tuesday at a town hall meeting that changes are needed in the health care industry and that he could support creating an online program allowing consumers to compare health insurance companies. Although Lankford wouldn’t discuss whether Oklahoma should set up an online health care exchange as required by federal law, he said such exchanges could accelerate free market competition.

Read more from NewsOK at

Obamacare the most important health law since Medicare and Medicaid

For individuals who refuse to get insurance, a small fine will be imposed to help pay for the federal act. Why should the rest of us continue to pay for their health costs in the most expensive venue — the emergency room?  Young people can stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. Four million already have; by 2016, the number will be 20 million.  You can no longer be denied health coverage for pre-existing conditions, which helps tens of millions to get care.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma City high school behind bars provides hope for incarcerated juveniles

The jailhouse school is one of several alternative education programs operated through the Oklahoma City Public School’s Extended Education Services. Similar programs are operated at the juvenile justice system, in hospitals and other nontraditional facilities.  Mihalcik has been teaching at the Oklahoma County jail for about four years.  He and another teacher are currently responsible for educating 23 kids, but that number fluctuates daily.  All of their students are pre-sentence, and so any one of them could be released or sent to another institution without notice.

Read more from NewsOK at

The next criminal justice reforms: Escaping the downward spiral

Oklahoma’s prisons are in a crisis. The state ranks 1st in the nation for incarceration of women per capita and 4th for men. With budgets not adequate to oversee an ever-growing inmate population, the corrections system is severely understaffed. And all of this incarceration is not paying off in public safety—the state’s violent crime rates remain above the national average.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Students need most help from Food Bank during summer

The hot weather is hard on many relief organizations looking to help the needy of Oklahoma, but for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, it’s not the biggest challenge over the summer.  “The Tulsa Public School system has said that 79 percent of the kids in the Tulsa Public School system are on the free and reduced meals for breakfast and lunch,” said Food Bank spokeswoman Susan Tilkin.  Students who are out of school for the summer don’t get that benefit over the break.  “So a family who has kids going to school, that were on free and reduced breakfast and lunches,” she said, “are now looking at two meals a day that they just simply were not needing to take care of.”

Read more from KWGS at

House farm bill cuts deeper

The House Agriculture Committee leadership rolled out its vision of a new five-year farm bill Thursday, a 557-page draft that builds on the Senate passed-plan but makes deeper cuts from food stamps while restoring target prices sought by Southern growers.  The action begins a long uphill climb for Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who must contend with tepid support from the top GOP brass and a fractious class of Republican freshmen who have never been through a farm bill debate before.

Read more from Politico at

Quote of the Day

Everybody’s going to make mistakes; some are going to be worse than others.  It doesn’t mean you can’t learn, it doesn’t mean you’re a nobody and it doesn’t mean when you get out that you’re not going to be the boss.

Deauntre Smith, a 17-year-old student awaiting disposition in the Oklahoma County jail and attending high school through the Oklahoma City Public School’s Extended Education Services

Number of the Day


The number of employees the Department of Corrections workforce has lost since FY 2001; they’ve added 3,000 more inmates since then.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

2011 National Healthcare Quality Report

A federally agency has graded Oklahoma health care and delivery services one of the worst in the nation.  The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality announced the rankings as part of a annual nationwide review of state health care.  Oklahoma received a “weak” overall for 2011 and scored a “weak” or “very weak” in 10 of the 12 categories. The state’s lowest measures were home health care and heart disease.

Read more from KJRH at

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