In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin says state budget woes not indicative of economic climate

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.

Correction: Yesterday’s In The Know incorrectly identified Wanda Felty as the parent of a child currently on the DDSD waiting list. We regret the error.

Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin says state budget woes not indicative of economic climate: Gov. Mary Fallin spent 32 minutes Tuesday assuring a Tulsa Regional Chamber luncheon that Oklahoma’s economy is performing better than recent state revenue failures might suggest. Investment is up, Fallin said. Businesses are expanding. The labor force is growing. Which raises the question: If the economy is doing so well, why isn’t tax revenue keeping pace? That, really, was Fallin’s point. Or one of them [Tulsa World]. Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole [OK Policy].

Second verse, only worse: What the Senate Republican health care plan would mean for Oklahoma: Last week, Senate Republicans emerged from secret negotiations to unveil their version of a major health care bill. Those expecting that the Senate would produce a better health plan than the House are likely underwhelmed by the Senate’s efforts. The Senate Republican health plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan, or BCRA) would require Americans purchasing private insurance on the individual marketplace to pay substantially more for worse health coverage. It would also undercut the American health care safety net, nearly doubling the uninsured rate, while delivering a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy [OK Policy]. Facing intransigent Republican opposition, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act [The New York Times].

As Criminal Justice Laws Take Effect, Uncertainty Surrounds Bigger Changes: Later this week, criminal justice measures approved by Oklahoma voters in November will take effect, testing predictions that fewer people will go to prison and taxpayers will ultimately save millions of dollars. But even before those laws kick in July 1, questions swirl as to whether they will be undermined in part by local prosecutors or a lack of funds and won’t fully achieve their stated purpose. Even if they succeed – by keeping thousands of nonviolent offenders from becoming felons – advocates for change acknowledge it won’t be enough to halt the state’s rising tide of incarceration [Oklahoma Watch]. SQ 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy].

‘Something is going to pop,’ Department of Corrections director says of overcrowded, understaffed state prisons: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is out of bed space and out of money, while the conditions at understaffed prisons continue to deteriorate, the agency’s head said Tuesday. The agency got no relief from the Legislature, which adjourned without passing any major criminal justice reform bills, said Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh. And Laura Pitman, DOC director of population, programs and strategic planning, said no legislation was passed to impact the prison population [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Developmental Disability Services funding could be cut: People who work in the Department of Human Services’ Developmental Disability Services department take care of more than 5,500 disabled in the state, while managing a waiting list for services that continues to grow and a labor shortage among providers due to low pay. Possible cuts could also jeopardize the 7,548 people who are on a more than 10-year waiting list to receive benefits through a program administered through DHS called the Medicaid Home and Community Services Waiver [NewsOK]. Care for people with disabilities was at risk just a few short months ago when the state almost ran out of money to pay for their care [OK Policy].

Three Oklahoma agencies see state appropriations end: Going into this year’s legislative session, state agencies received notice they may face budget cuts that could result in reductions-in-force, furloughs or reduced services. As the smoke cleared after the hustle and bustle that took place during the last week of session, three of those agencies ended up with another scenario — no state appropriations at all. The State Bond Advisor’s Office, the Horse Racing Commission and the State Fire Marshal’s Office were “zeroed out” in this year’s state budget. Each of those agencies, however, will continue operating under different circumstances, including one that is less than enthusiastic about the change [NonDoc]. Adjusted for inflation, the FY 2018 budget is $1.26 billion, or 15.6 percent, below FY 2009 [OK Policy].

Why States Are Struggling To Tax Services: As states struggle to align their tax codes with the modern service economy, expanding sales taxes to include activities like personal care, home repair, funeral services, computer maintenance and similar enterprises would seem to be a logical move. But states are finding it’s not so easy. Twenty-three state legislatures considered proposals this year to impose taxes on at least some services. But so far, none has made it into law intact — and most died outright [HuffPost]. Taxing services shouldn’t be all or nothing [OK Policy].

Oklahoma higher education chief executives earn less than national average: Public college presidents earned an average $501,398 in fiscal year 2016, an increase of 5.3 percent from the prior year, an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows. The analysis is based on 254 university presidents and chancellors from 221 colleges and higher education systems. The Chronicle collected the data from all public doctoral universities in the United States and all state college and university systems or governing boards with at least three campuses and 50,000 total students [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s rural roads, bridges rank among nation’s poorest: Oklahoma’s rural roads and bridges rank among the 10 worst in the nation, according to a new report released by TRIP, a national transportation research group. TRIP researchers said 16 percent of Oklahoma’s rural bridges are structurally deficient, the seventh-highest rate in the nation. And 22 percent of Oklahoma’s rural roads are in poor condition, the 10th worst rate in the nation, the report said [NewsOK]. The report is available here

WIC helps families with infants, young children: State and local health officials are spreading the word about the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, hoping to reach families in need as enrollment in the program continues to decline. WIC provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants and pre-school age children, as well as educational resources for nutrition and breastfeeding, health and nutrition screenings, and referrals for other health and social services [Enid News]. State health officials are soliciting comment about the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children [NewsOK]. WIC is an important part of Oklahoma’s food security safety net [OK Policy].

Muskogee EMS equipped with body armor: Muskogee paramedic Jordan Stevens pulled a bullet-proof vest over his head and declared it surprisingly light for a vest that can take a hit from a NATO .308 rifle round. The vest, along with 60 others, is new to Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service, thanks to donations from area foundations and businesses — and a program called Everyday Heroes from Armor Advantage out of Purcell, owned and operated by Michael and Mona Blackmore. …Michael Blackmore delivered 61 vests to MCEMS’ central station — enough to put three vests on each ambulance. Ballistic helmets will arrive in a few weeks Blackmore said [Norman Transcript].

Tulsa On Track To Record-Breaking Year For Homicides: The year isn’t even halfway over and Tulsa is already on pace to set a record number of homicides. Over the last four years, Tulsa has seen its homicide rate grow. There was a drastic jump last year and it’s continuing this year. “I know we’re busy because I feel it and I’m living it,” said Sgt. Dave Walker. Sgt. Walker was up most of the night, working the latest case. …Since 2014, the number of people killed in Tulsa has gone up, peaking at 82 in 2016. But compared to the same time last June, Tulsa already has 13 more homicides this year [NewsOn6].

U.S. Supreme Court opinion on religious school not expected to impact Oklahoma: A U.S. Supreme Court opinion that overturned a state policy in neighboring Missouri is not expected to affect Oklahoma, the state’s education department said. The nation’s high court ruled Monday that Missouri violated the First Amendment rights of Trinity Lutheran Church when it did not reimburse the church for the installation of a playground surface because of a provision in the Missouri Constitution that bars the use of state dollars for religious uses [NewsOK].

Tulsa food banks short on donations due to high demand: Celeste Ortega has been working in the food pantry at South Tulsa Community House for about three months now. Before that she was homeless and dependent on any help she could get. She said her needs are simple. “If you have housing and food, I’ll probably tear up here, but if you have that you should be thankful,” Ortega said. They try to keep the pantry stocked but at the end of the month, when paychecks aren’t stretching, and children are home for the summer, residents in the Riverwood neighborhood in south Tulsa need just a little help to keep from going hungry [KJRH]. 1 in 6 Oklahomans, including 1 in 4 children, don’t always know if they’ll have enough food for their next meal [OK Policy].

Paperwork filed to call Oklahoma City bond, sales tax election: Oklahoma City’s bond and sales tax election is officially on for Sept. 12. City Clerk Frances Kersey filed the required paperwork Monday afternoon with Oklahoma County Election Board Secretary Doug Sanderson, who stamped the documents with the official date and time as they were received. The Oklahoma City Council voted last week to put a sales tax increase, MAPS sales tax extension, and $967.4 million, 10-year bond package before voters in September [NewsOK].

Oklahoma to receive $934,500 in additional National Endowment for the Arts 2017 funding: Durant, Spencer and Weatherford are among the Oklahoma communities that will directly benefit from the second round of fiscal year 2017 National Endowment for the Arts grants, according to the Oklahoma Arts Council. The federal arts agency will invest seven grants totaling $934,500 in Oklahoma, serving areas across the state. Grants were announced this month in several categories, including the NEA’s Art Works and Our Town programs as well as its State Partnership Agreement with the Oklahoma Arts Council, according to a news release [NewsOK]. Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“In the end, the fact of the matter remains that we have a structural problem in how we budget our state money. We have to fix the structural problems we have and look at our revenue streams.”

–  Gov. Fallin, speaking at a Tulsa Regional Chamber luncheon on Tuesday (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of children living in Oklahoma metro areas insured by Medicaid, 2014-2015

Source: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families & University of North Carolina NC Rural Health Research Program

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the Senate’s Health-Care Bill Threatens the Nation’s Health: To understand how the Senate Republicans’ health-care bill would affect people’s actual health, the first thing you have to understand is that incremental care—regular, ongoing care as opposed to heroic, emergency care—is the greatest source of value in modern medicine. There is clear evidence that people who get sufficient incremental care enjoy better prevention, earlier diagnosis and management of urgent conditions, better control of chronic illnesses, and longer life spans. When more people get health-insurance coverage, as they did following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, they get more incremental care [The New Yorker].

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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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