In The Know: Some budget bills may finally surface amid Oklahoma’s record funding shortfall

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Some budget bills may finally surface amid Oklahoma’s record funding shortfall: The first budget bills may get a vote in the House in about a week as lawmakers finally begin to deal with what has been the elephant in the room all legislative session — a record $1.3 billion revenue hole. House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Earl Sears said the governor’s office along with Republican leadership in both chambers agree on some legislative approaches that will take the form of bills likely to be heard the second week in May [NewsOK]. The agreement could threaten broad-based tax credits for hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income working families [OK Policy].

The Oklahoma State Budget Explained by Puppets: Quite possibly, the one thing everyone can agree on, regardless of political belief, is the thought of a working budget. After analysts pointed heavily at the oil bust, Oklahoma isn’t doing so OK these days. $1.3Billion in the hole, firing teachers, threatening senior and child medical care… You could say these folks are tired of a budget that doesn’t work. Enter Together Oklahoma [z94 The Rock Station]. See the puppet videos and the #DoSomethingOK Campaign for a Better Budget here.

Schools, students expect tuition hikes: Students can expect to pay more next fall to attend Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities following $112 million in cuts to higher education this fiscal year and expected future cuts. The colleges and universities will submit their requests for increases in tuition and mandatory fees in June, after the Legislature approves the 2016-17 state budget. Johnson said higher education likely will get a smaller piece of the pie. Don Betz, president of the University of Central Oklahoma, said Thursday tuition increases for the next school year depend on that number. [NewsOK]

School districts to present staffing plans to help compensate budget crisis: Tulsa and Sand Springs superintendents are preparing to present staffing plans at school board meetings, Monday evening. The districts will be proposing drastic cuts to help compensate the revenue shortfall for the 2016-2017 academic year. Tulsa Public Schools will present its plan of cutting 142 teaching positions. The proposal also calls for significantly increasing class sizes to as much as 32 students. [KTUL]

The Google effect: Global giant shaking up small-town life in Pryor: When Karen Cook counts her blessings these days, she’s grateful for what she isn’t doing right now. She isn’t figuring out which teachers to cut from Lincoln Elementary’s faculty. She isn’t reworking her school’s schedule to squeeze five days’ worth of student instruction into four. “Look around us — Locust Grove and probably Chouteau are going to four-day school weeks. It’s devastating what’s happened to education in Oklahoma, but we’re going to be in good shape,” said Cook, a longtime principal. “I’m blessed to be in Pryor.” [Tulsa World]

‘Cut taxes’ mentality jeopardizing state, Boren says: “It really worries me we’ve gotten into such a mindset,” said Boren, a former legislator, governor and U.S. senator. “What do we want to leave as a legacy? Better schools? Better health care? “If we don’t change, we’re going to lose the millennial generation.” Boren is the public face of a ballot initiative for a 1 percent statewide sales tax for education. The tax would raise an estimated $615 million if passed. [Tulsa World]

State Question 779’s powerful message to legislators — lead or get out of the way: Supporters of a proposed 1-cent state sales tax increase to support education say they have gathered more than 300,000 signatures on their petition, more than twice the number needed. There are still processes for the petition to go through, including verification of the number of signatures, but it looks increasingly likely that State Question 779 will go before voters in November. It’s powerful evidence that thousands of Oklahomans want real action now on education funding. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

DHS monitors fret over budget cuts impacting child welfare: Big gains have been made in eliminating shelter use for abused and neglected children, but problems persist in maltreatment of foster children and finding placements for kids with special needs, according to a progress report released Friday. But the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall is a significant concern from the monitors of an improvement plan for Oklahoma’s child-welfare system. The three-person oversight committee of the Department of Human Services’ Pinnacle Plan, which is the agreement stemming from a federal class-action lawsuit, found a mixed bag of results since its last report in December. [Tulsa World]

Lawton Children’s Shelter Will Close: The J. Roy Dunning Children’s Shelter is closing after 53 years. After an extended period of consideration and debate, the shelter’s board voted during its regular meeting last week to close May 31. The move was prompted by a multitude of factors chief among them an operating deficit of $122,000 during the shelter’s last fiscal year. Bill Schenider, chairman of the board, said an Oklahoma Department of Human Services policy, the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan, now dictates that children be immediately placed in available foster care rather than being taken to shelters. [The Lawton Constitution]

Child abuse statistics show how budget policy matters: The Tulsa World began a series on child abuse Sunday that reminds us the problem in Oklahoma is getting worse, not better. Last year 15,252 cases of child abuse or neglect were confirmed by the Department of Human Services. That’s compared with 7,248 cases in 2010, and the number has increased every year between 2010 and 2015. Foster care placements have hovered at about 10,500 to 11,000 children since 2013. The article identifies factors such as mental health, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, lack of education, economic stress and generational poverty as contributors to the problem. [OK Policy]

Rural hospitals seek new designation to keep doors open: Mike Carter’s staff won’t be able to deliver babies after June 1 if the state continues with its plan to dramatically cut funding. The CEO of Poteau’s Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center said he will close the hospital’s obstetrics unit if the Oklahoma Health Care Authority reduces Medicaid reimbursement rates by 25 percent. Carter said he doesn’t like the idea of eliminating an entire ward, but he’s facing a dire situation. State support is shrinking, so he’s doing everything to avoid closing the facility. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma health care provider: Potential cuts would cripple nursing homes: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, facing the possibility of major budget reductions, is threatening to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by 25 percent. If that happens, it’s impossible to overstate the health care crisis we will face in Oklahoma. Nine out of 10 nursing homes would be in danger of closing, potentially leaving more than 16,000 vulnerable and elderly Oklahomans homeless and without medical care. Almost 17,000 nursing employees would lose their jobs. [Tandie Hastings / NewsOK]

Governor Fallin vetoes vaccination bill: Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that she said could have led to a drop in vaccination rates and increase chances for communicable disease outbreaks. House Bill 3016 would have required doctors to give parents written material about vaccinations at the time children receive these injections. She said the material could be “confusing and intimidating, resulting in a drop in vaccination rates.” Fallin also said the bill amounted to an unfunded mandate on healthcare providers. [NewsOK]

Corporation Commission approves OGE’s $500 million coal plant upgrade: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a plan by the state’s largest electric utility to spend about $500 million to upgrade its coal-fired power plant in northern Oklahoma. The three-member regulatory panel voted unanimously on Thursday that the plan by Oklahoma Gas & Electric to install dry scrubbers at its Sooner Power Plant near Red Rock was “reasonable” to meet federal requirements on air pollution while dealing with tougher emission standards. Commissioner Dana Murphy didn’t sign the order but said she concurred with the result. [OK Energy Today]

’89er Day parade excludes Indian history, protesters say: Organizers of the annual ’89er Day Parade say they will unveil a new name for the parade at the conclusion of this year’s event. The new name will more accurately reflect the spirit of the parade and is in response to concerns expressed by indigenous people that its current name implies celebration of the Land Run, said parade co-chairman Stefanie Brickman [NewsOK]. Next year, the event will be called Norman on Parade [Norman Transcript].

Institute for Justice attorney: An example of need to fix Oklahoma forfeiture laws: While driving through Muskogee County, Eh Wah had more than $53,000 in cash seized by the sheriff’s department. Wah and the other owners of the cash — including a Burmese Christian rock band and a Thai orphanage — became the latest victims of Oklahoma’s “civil forfeiture” laws, which allow law enforcement to take property without obtaining criminal convictions. But they successfully fought back, thanks to a new lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm. [Dan Alban / NewsOK]

Toll on children another reason for continued corrections reform in Oklahoma: In the discussion about the need to revisit crime and punishment in Oklahoma, much of the focus, naturally, is on the cost to the state. The Department of Corrections received $484.9 million from the Legislature a year ago, and could use more to better manage the annual growth in the inmate population. Not all the costs are strictly dollars and cents, however. A report issued last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlighted the significant impact that incarceration has on the children of those who wind up behind bars. [Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Quote of the Day

“It is deeply concerning that DHS may not maintain all planned activities in this reform effort due to Oklahoma’s reported revenue failures. The gains made by DHS since 2012 are fragile, and in many instances have not taken root firmly within the agency. Following the investment of new resources to set this agency on a trajectory of reform, it could be a shattering setback for children, DHS, and this reform, if efforts now halt and progress is reversed.”

-A report by court-ordered monitors of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ efforts to fix serious deficiencies in the state’s child welfare system (Source)

Number of the Day


Estimated number of unsheltered homeless persons in Oklahoma (20.5% of the total homeless population).

Source: Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Mental health tops list of hunger’s health costs: At the very least – $160 billion. That’s how much a recent Bread for the World Institute study estimates that hunger costs the U.S. economy in poor health outcomes and additional healthcare expenses every year. The U.S.’s hunger bill is much greater than we may realize, affecting educational outcomes, labor productivity, crime rates, gross domestic product, and much more. But according to the study, the most expensive hunger-induced health problems are by far those surrounding mental health. [Bread for the World Institute]

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Some budget bills may finally surface amid Oklahoma’s record funding shortfall

  1. Read all notifications received via FB and then share. I’m Diligently monitoring the status regarding the 25 % budget cut to Medicaid.
    Your posts are always very informative, what an Epic Failure the current majority is directly responsible for creating.
    There is NO JUSTIFICATION for a society that deletes Health Care for our most high risk, vulnerable, debilitated, lowest income frail Elderly… NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.
    Thank You for keeping us informed !

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