In The Know: Gov. Fallin offers lawmakers suggestions to cut budget by nearly $1.3 billion

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

Fallin offers lawmakers suggestions to cut budget by nearly $1.3 billion: Gov. Mary Fallin gave lawmakers some suggestions on Wednesday for closing fiscal year 2017’s huge budget hole.The suggestions range from ending state appropriations to some agencies and eliminating some sales-tax exemptions to switching the funding for about $500 million worth of road projects to bonds from general appropriations. It also calls for ending the personal income tax double deduction [Tulsa World].  Here is a broad menu of revenue options that are worth considering as part of a fair and sustainable budget [OK Policy]. 

Medicaid providers urge passage of cigarette tax increase: Medicaid providers on Wednesday urged lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to shore up the health care delivery system.“We are joining forces today to send a critical message to legislators here at the Capitol,” said Craig Jones, Oklahoma Hospital Association president. “We are sending the message loud and clear that the time is now to support the Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020 and also to support a $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax.” [Tulsa World] Here’s what we know about the state’s plan to extend health coverage [OK Policy].

Frustrated, Dozens of Teachers to Run For State Office: Schools are undeniably suffering in Oklahoma, and a lot of the blame is being pointed at the state legislature. Many teachers say lawmakers need to quit meddling with something they know nothing about. However, other educators are taking a more proactive approach. They’re running for office. And they’re filing today [KOSU]. The list of candidates who filed for office on Wednesday is here. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Tulsa-area school administrators push Legislature on missed deadline for education budget: Tulsa-area public school leaders are calling on the Legislature to approve an education budget in the next two weeks so districts can avoid consequences of having to plan for layoffs and other cuts without an accurate idea of how much their state aid will be reduced for the next year.A news release issued Wednesday by the Tulsa County Area School Administrators said members are frustrated that the Legislature failed to finalize an education budget by April 1 as required by the Fund Education First law passed in 2003 [Tulsa World].

B.A. Public Schools To Axe $7 Million From Budget Due To Statewide Cuts To Education Funding: The superintendent says “difficult times call for difficult measures,” and that time is now for Broken Arrow Public Schools.B.A. will cut $7 million from its budget because of statewide cuts to education funding .In an online survey, parents and community members can prioritize what programs should be eliminated first. Options include cutting employee stipends, which could save $2.5 million, ending field trips, which cost the district $80,000, reducing staff travel by half, relieving the district of a quarter million dollars, reducing textbook expenditures, reducing utility costs, increasing class sizes and more [NewsOn6].

Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry: One of the most visible consequences of the state’s budget crisis is the increasing number of school districts that are considering or have already gone to a four-day school week. Shortened school weeks may save cash-strapped school budgets, but they also can create troubling side-effects ranging from the cost to families suddenly in need of child care to unanswered questions about how shorter weeks affect learning. What’s most troubling is that for kids whose most reliable meals come from school, a shortened school week can mean going hungry [OK Policy]. More than 600,000 Oklahomans don’t have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Doubling down: In the face of a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers face a stark choice. They can continue to slash the state budget and inflict long-lasting harm on Oklahoma families, businesses and communities. Or they can preserve services essential to Oklahomans and put the state on a more sustainable path by finding new recurring revenues. It comes down to this because after two midyear revenue failures on top of years of cutting services, every state agency and every school district has been forced to go well beyond what anyone would consider “extra.” Any painless savings are already squeezed out [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is going to New York with Tulsa leaders in an effort to persuade Williams Cos. to remain in Tulsa: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says she’ll travel to New York with Tulsa leaders in an effort to persuade Williams Cos. to remain in Tulsa.Dallas-based Energy Transfer Equity hopes to merge with Williams and recently said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that if the merger is approved, most of Williams’ operations in Tulsa will be eliminated or moved to Dallas [Daily Journal].

Health care leaders say cigarette tax could save hospitals, nursing homes: A group of health care providers are trying to find a solution after the state’s budget crisis threatened to affect Oklahomans on Medicaid.The Oklahoma Health Care Authority recently announced a proposed 25 percent cut in provider rates for those treating Medicaid patients.Some believe that step will lead to the state’s most vulnerable being denied care [KFOR]. The budget crisis has Oklahoma leaders thinking the unthinkable with health care cuts [OK Policy].

 State House Votes Down School Financial Reporting Bill: Oklahoma representatives voted down Wednesday a Senate bill requiring detailed monthly financial reports from the state’s school districts.The reports would go to local school boards and be posted online within seven days of a district’s submission to its board. Supporters said taxpayers have a right to know how districts are spending money [KWGS].

Cattle Rustling Bill Soars Through Senate, Heads To Gov. Fallin’s Desk: New cattle rustling legislation is on its way to the Oklahoma governor’s desk after being approved unanimously in the state senate this week.Supporters of the bill particularly are thrilled that it now will be possible for prosecutors to charge suspected cattle rustlers with a separate offense for each head stolen.House Bill 2504, by state Rep. John Pfeiffer, also increases the fine for theft of livestock and implements of husbandry to three times the value of animals and machinery, not to exceed $500,000 [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma Academy CEO: Lawmakers should leave judicial selection process in place: In 2014, The Oklahoma Academy’s annual town hall focused on Oklahoma’s health, and throughout the three-day session a common phrase was often heard: “At least we aren’t as unhealthy as Mississippi.” The academy’s 2015 town hall focused on the Oklahoma budget, and again, a phrase heard throughout the conference was “at least we aren’t as broke as Kansas.”Now I’m concerned that if House Joint Resolution 1040 and House Bill 3162 pass, I will start hearing, “At least we aren’t as corrupt as Louisiana.” [Julie Knutson / NewsOK]

Seeping dam is expensive threat to Norman neighborhood: When James and Dawn Tomlins bought their home in Summit Lakes Addition in east Norman 15 years ago, they were in love with the site. Their spacious brick house had a lakeside view. Wild geese sometimes wandered across the front lawn, and a paved walk encircling the water was just feet from their front door. Today, the view remains gorgeous, but a thin trickle of water across the driveway is the first clue that all is not as it should be [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We can’t wait until the end of the legislative session for a budget because we need answers in order to know what to expect moving forward into the next school year. As we try to make difficult decisions about personnel and programs, we need to have as much information as possible.”

– Jenks Public Schools Superintendent and Tulsa County Area School Administrators President Stacey Butterfield, pressuring the legislature to approve an education budget so districts can plan accurately for the next year (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of affordable housing units in Oklahoma that are farther than 15 miles from the nearest hospital (1,660 units)

Source: Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What’s the Connection Between Residential Segregation and Health? For some, perhaps the mere mention of segregation suggests the past, a shameful historic moment we have moved beyond. But the truth is, residential segregation, especially the separation of whites and blacks or Hispanics in the same community, continues to have lasting implications for the well-being of people of color and the health of a community.In many U.S. counties and cities, neighborhoods with little diversity are the daily reality. When neighborhoods are segregated, so too are schools, public services, jobs and other kinds of opportunities that affect health. We know that in communities where there are more opportunities for everyone, there is better health [Robert Wood Johnson Foundation].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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