In The Know: House budget chair says teacher pay raises off the table

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

House budget chair says teacher pay raises off the table: Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, said Oklahoma teachers need to be paid more, but the financial resources are not likely to be available when the Legislature convenes in 2016. Sears said it’s too early to know how much lawmakers will have to make up in the fiscal 2017 budget. Some have said the state could face a shortfall of as much as $1 billion, due in part to declining oil prices and a reduction in the income tax rate [Oklahoma Watch].

Number of uninsured drops in Oklahoma but still lags behind national average: The number of Oklahomans without health insurance coverage declined from 666,000 in 2013 to 584,000 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on health insurance coverage. That’s a decline from 17.7 percent of the state population to 15.4 percent, thanks largely to key provisions of the Affordable Care Act becoming effective, according to the government report [Tulsa World].

Too many Oklahomans uninsured, an easy problem to fix: As the Affordable Care Act takes effect, fewer Oklahomans are uninsured. But the number of people relying on good luck, charity and (mostly) the ability of insured patients to absorb their costs is still terribly high in the state, and unnecessarily so. While ACA taxes are being enforced in Oklahoma, the state has refused billions of dollars in ACA funding to extend Medicaid coverage to the state’s poorest people [Tulsa World].

Insure Oklahoma expanding size of participating businesses: Insure Oklahoma, a state program that assists people in paying health insurance premiums, is being made available to companies that employ as many as 250 people, up from the present limit of 99 workers, the governor’s office announced Monday. The program currently serves 17,098 Oklahomans, although funding exists to support premium assistance for 30,000 people [NewsOK]. Oklahoma leaders continue to refuse federal funding that would allow Insure Oklahoma to cover more than 100,000 Oklahomans [OK Policy].

Oklahoma finds no traction on lowering obesity: Thirty-three percent of the population was considered obese in 2014, making the state the sixth heaviest overall, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2013, Oklahoma’s rate was slightly less, at 32.5 percent, and it ranked seventh highest [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma parole board to rethink commutation policy changes: The state Pardon and Parole Board acted improperly when it approved new eligibility requirements for inmates applying for a shorter sentence, the attorney general’s office said. The board Monday withdrew the new policy and said it will now move forward with the rule-making process to establish new eligibility parameters for commutation. Oklahoma hasn’t granted commutation in more than three years [NewsOK].

Officials lift lockdown at state prisons: Officials lifted a statewide lockdown on state prisons over the weekend following a “disturbance” in which four inmates were killed at the privately run prison in Cushing on Sept. 12. But certain inmates at that prison, the Cimarron Correctional Facility, remain on lockdown [Tulsa World].

Rep: Criminal justice reform deserves bipartisan support: The attention surrounding criminal justice reform has never been greater. More and more stakeholders believe decades of “tough-on-crime” policies have been as tough on taxpayers as they have been on lawbreakers. As a state legislator, I believe criminal-justice reform should receive genuine bipartisan support. Oklahoma incarcerates more offenders per capita than most other states, and more than half of our inmates are behind bars for nonviolent offenses [Rep. Jason Dunnington / NonDoc].

Emails show industry execs pressed Governor to show more love for oil and coal: While preparing for the third annual Oklahoma Governor’s Energy Conference in 2013, Fallin told policy adviser Andrew Silvestri that Continental Resources Inc. CEO Harold Hamm thought she wasn’t giving oil enough attention. And Alliance Resource Partners LP CEO Joe Craft thought she wasn’t focusing enough on coal. Both Hamm and Craft, a native of eastern Kentucky, gave money to Fallin’s election effort [E&E News].

Anti-death penalty group works to defeat ballot question on executions: State Question 776 says the Legislature can designate any method of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. “The imposition of a death penalty under Oklahoma law — as distinguished from the method of execution — shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under Oklahoman’s Constitution, nor to contravene any provision of the Oklahoma Constitution,” according to the measure. Connie Johnson, Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty chairwoman, said recent high-profile executions have eroded public confidence in the process [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

While [Affordable Care Act] taxes are being enforced in Oklahoma, the state has refused billions of dollars in ACA funding to extend Medicaid coverage to the state’s poorest people. Some 127,000 insured Oklahomans — enough to knock the state’s uninsured percentage down near 12 percent — could be eligible for expanded Medicaid. … Refusing the federal funding is foolish. It keeps Oklahoma physically and economically sick in defiance of a political battle that was lost long ago.

-Tulsa World Editorial Board (Source)

Number of the Day


The rate of obesity in Oklahoma in 2014, sixth highest in the nation.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Oklahoma Watch

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The key difference between what poor people and everyone else eat: The good news is that the nearly 50 million Americans who participate in the food stamp program are getting as many calories in food, on average, as everyone else. The bad news is that those calories are coming from much less healthy things. All in all, though, the program is helping millions of Americans make due [Washington Post].

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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.

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