In The Know: Director says DHS must be ready for ‘unprecedented cuts’

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

Director says DHS must be ready for ‘unprecedented cuts’: In an email to agency employees and contractors, Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake said “many cuts detrimental to clients, employees and our partners will have to be implemented.” The state agency was hit with a $45 million deficit early this year and faces a projected $46 million shortfall headed into the next fiscal year. In total, DHS is bracing for an estimated $150 million shortfall through a combination of state and federal funding reductions, Lake said [NewsOK]. You can read the full letter here.

Budget woes threaten to derail home health: An Illinois River diving accident more than three decades ago left Jerry Spencer paralyzed from the chest down. Spencer, who lives alone, is one of an estimated 23,000 disabled or elderly Oklahomans who could qualify for placement in a nursing home, but chooses to live at home. It’s possible because they have access to home health care services through the state’s Medicaid ADvantage program, which is funded through a federal-state partnership. But the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall and expected budget cuts to accompany that threaten to derail the program [Claremore Daily Progress].

Democrats struggle to be heard in state Legislature: They introduced a resolution declaring a “leadership disaster.” They invited the governor, legislators and the public to a bipartisan meeting to ensure the budget isn’t written in a “backroom deal.” They found a way to gum up the works and keep lawmakers in session until 11 p.m. Thursday. Democrats are trying hard to stay relevant during an election year in which they hope to pick up seats in the Republican-dominated House and Senate. [NewsOK]

Closing weeks of session may bring the greatest test for this generation of Oklahoma legislators: It looks like the next few months are going to be a rough ride. To actually make a budget, members are going to have to do things some thought they would never do. They are going to have to find a way to raise some revenue. In addition, the governor has proposed borrowing through bonding for completion of the state Capitol repairs and to free up operational money from roads and highways to fund other areas of state services. And even after all that, there might be cuts to areas like education, human services and higher education that will be unpalatable. [OK Policy]

Healthcare realities in rural Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s rural healthcare is going up in flames, and state leaders won’t take the steps necessary to douse the fire. The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority oversees Medicaid and Sooner Care in the state. It recently announced a 25% Medicaid reimbursement cut effective June 1, citing a $1.3 billion shortfall in the state’s budget. The size of the reduction is unprecedented and will be a death sentence for many rural hospitals, because much of our revenue comes from Medicaid payments. A death sentence for rural hospitals is a death sentence for the people who rely on those hospitals. [Landon Hise / Modern Healthcare]

State Chamber CEO: An Oklahoma solution to health care crisis: Hospitals are businesses. While some people view health care delivery as a governmental service like education or public safety, health care is a business. It’s the largest private industry in the state, employing approximately one out of 10 Oklahomans. This is especially true in rural Oklahoma where health care is often the largest employer. Like all businesses, hospitals cannot continuously provide services in excess of revenue. Unlike most businesses, hospitals can’t turn anyone away. [Fred Morgan / NewsOK]

Will football survive Oklahoma’s education cuts?: Funding for high school athletic departments statewide could be slashed by millions, bringing on schedule and staff reductions, but most sports should survive. For now, high school football, an obsession in many corners of this state, would appear to be safe from mandated budget cuts to Oklahoma’s education system. “Right now the main concern is to be pro-active by restricting some travel or looking for ways to stretch our equipment budgets,” Jenks athletic director Tony Dillingham said. [John Klein / Tulsa World]

Officials ‘disheartened’ to learn Texas school district is recruiting Oklahoma teachers: It’s no secret that budget cuts have had a negative impact on schools across Oklahoma. Public schools alone will have nearly $110 million cut from their budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Recently, officials for the Dallas Independent School District began recruiting Oklahoma teachers. [KFOR]

Program helps education students stay in school … and in Oklahoma: Alissa Lloyd’s dream of becoming a teacher was abruptly halted when, at age 21, she discovered she had cancer. Her battle with the disease forced her to drop out of college and drained her finances. But thanks to a special program for promising teachers at the University of Oklahoma, she is back on track pursuing a lifetime of helping children. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma City School Board will cut ties with Superintendent Rob Neu: The Oklahoma City School Board is parting ways with embattled Superintendent Rob Neu, two years after he arrived from the Pacific Northwest with high hopes for the state’s largest district. Panel members will discuss a separation agreement for Neu and a promotion for Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora at Monday night’s regular meeting. The eight-member board will meet in executive session to consider both options but must vote in open session, if necessary. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma Tax Commission chairman resigns: The Oklahoma Tax Commission says its chairman is stepping down after a little more than a year in office. Steve Burrage delivered his resignation letter to Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday, saying he needed to step down because of “unexpected events.” Burrage is a former Democratic state auditor and inspector who also was appointed by Fallin to the state Board of Corrections. [Tulsa World]

Election Board to hear candidate challenges: The Oklahoma State Election Board on Monday will hear challenges to candidates, including two involving Tulsa legislative races. Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, is challenging the candidacy of Democrat Darrell Knox of Tulsa in the race for Senate District 11. Matthews has alleged that Knox registered to vote before he was eligible due to a criminal record, and thus committed an additional crime. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman Mark Hammons have filed a lawsuit contesting the state requirement of six-month party affiliation as a First Amendment violation. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma insurance commissioner orders hearing on earthquake insurance: Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner wants a hearing into a rise in earthquake insurance rates, his office announced. A hearing will be held on May 24 and the public is invited. “This is a proactive move to protect consumers,” said commisioner John Doak in an e-mailed news release. “We’ve seen some rate increase filings up to 100 percent come through the office and we want to make sure we have a reasonably competitive market. There needs to be a valid financial basis for any rate increase and healthy competition that benefits consumers.” [Fox 25]

Oklahoma, state’s delegation urge high court to rule for state funding of church preschool: Oklahoma and three members of the state’s congressional delegation are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Missouri wrongly denied taxpayer funding to a church-run preschool. Oklahoma joined 17 other mostly Republican-run states in a written brief this week siding with the church. Sens. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Steve Russell, R-Choctaw, joined a similar brief filed Thursday by 34 GOP members of Congress. [NewsOK]

Evangelist Franklin Graham plans prayer rally at Oklahoma Capitol: Evangelist Franklin Graham said he’s frustrated and that he’s not the only one. Graham said he and many Americans are exasperated by the current political landscape, not just in Washington, but all across the country. That’s why he decided to go on the road to host prayer gatherings at state capitols nationwide, challenging Christians to become engaged in the political process. Graham’s “Decision America” tour will visit Oklahoma City on Wednesday, with a prayer rally planned for noon to 1 p.m. in the south parking lot at the state Capitol. [NewsOK]

Limited services for Oklahoma grandparents raising their grandchildren: Vertina Long first started Project G.R.A.C.E in 2010 with one goal: helping grandparents raising their grandchildren prepare their grandchildren for life after high school. She perceived a gap in knowledge about Oklahoma’s Promise, FAFSA and other services and requirements for post-secondary education. “What I saw is that getting grandparents focused on education was all well and good, but how can they be focused on education when they don’t have resources for their every day?” said Long. [Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma lawmakers approve bill to revoke licenses of abortion doctors: An Oklahoma bill that could revoke the license of any doctor who performs an abortion has headed to the governor, with opponents saying the measure in unconstitutional and promising a legal battle against the cash-strapped state if it is approved. In the Republican-dominated legislature, the state’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a Senate bill late on Thursday. Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, has not yet indicated whether she will sign it. [Reuters]

Oklahoma City Council considers impact fees to improve streets: Pretty much everyone in Oklahoma City agrees streets are atrocious and the city cannot keep up. The city council could vote Tuesday on a proposal to close some of the gap with traffic impact fees, an idea that has drawn opposition from commercial developers. Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said he was optimistic meetings over the past several weeks had been sufficient to minimize differences. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“We know our providers are operating on an extremely thin margin, and for some, a cut will have devastating effects on their business as well as the clients they serve. DHS’ main mission has been to act as a safety net to the state’s most vulnerable citizens, but what happens when the safety net runs out of money? That is what we are experiencing now.”

-Oklahoma Department of Human Services spokesman Mark Beutler, speaking out state budget cuts that threaten to put home health care providers across the state out of business and force elderly and disabled Oklahomans into nursing homes (Source)

Number of the Day


February 2016 unemployment rate in McIntosh County, the county with the highest unemployment in Oklahoma.

Source: Kansas City Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In a fight between nurses and doctors, the nurses are slowly winning: Amid a flurry of legislation to pass in the final days of spring state legislative sessions last week, nurses won two more victories in a long war for independence. For decades, most of the country has required physician oversight for nurses to conduct certain procedures, and especially to prescribe drugs. But that’s slowly changing, as the nation’s health-care needs rise, and nurses fight for the right to practice everything they learned in school. [Washington Post]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.