In The Know: Most Oklahoma agencies see cuts, but there’s a big exception

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

Most Oklahoma agencies see cuts, but there’s a big exception: Oklahoma lawmakers plan to give a 184 percent funding increase to a state agency that helps them even as they prepare to cut spending on departments that help the public. Under a budget proposal making its way through the Legislature, funding for the Legislative Service Bureau, which does legislative research and provides computer services for lawmakers and their staffs, would get a $9 million increase, bringing its annual appropriation to $13,892,835. House Rep. Earl Sears said the increase makes sense in order to ensure salaries will continue to be funded [NewsOK].

Senate passes $6.8B budget to fund Oklahoma government: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a $6.8 billion budget proposal to fund state government over the objections of members who say it relies too much on one-time sources of revenue that won’t be available the following year. The Senate voted 30-16 for the budget bill and sent it to the House, where there is bipartisan opposition but leaders are optimistic they have enough votes to pass it. If the House doesn’t approve the proposal by Friday, lawmakers will have to return for a special session to fund state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1 [KRMG]. Adjusted for inflation, next year’s budget looks to be $936 million, or 12.1 percent, smaller than that of ten years ago [OK Policy].

“The agency has run out of money,” DHS says they’re freezing child care subsidy program: If you are a parent or will soon be a parent in need of daycare service, listen up. The Department of Human Services is freezing a program which helps low-income Oklahoma families pay for child care. New applications within the child care subsidy program will soon be denied in an effort to save money. Those who are currently enrolled in the system will not be impacted [KFOR]. Child care subsidies have become less accessible for working families over the last decade [OK Policy].

OK families worry about the future of Medicaid, health care for people with disabilities: With state agencies in Oklahoma facing budgets cuts, families on Medicaid are worried. While lawmakers report they’ve come up with a plan to prevent further cuts, some are concerned this is only a quick fix and health care isn’t being made a priority. 4-year-old Malachi likes to play and laugh just like any other kid… But in his few short years of life, the challenges Malachi has faced have been anything but normal [FOX25]. The budget crisis is rolling back the state’s gains on health care [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: The empathy gap: Oklahoma legislators have revealed they suffer an empathy gap as gaping and severe as the budget gap. It came into view last week when they voted to make life even harder for working Oklahomans who struggle to make ends meet on low wages. The state Earned Income Tax Credit enables over 330,000 Oklahoma families – four-fifths of which have children – to keep more of their meager pay. This income supplement helps them be less reliant on government assistance and private charity [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Governor Fallin’s veto is the last chance to save the EITC this year [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Senate OK with new trigger for income tax rate cut: The next scheduled cut to Oklahoma state income tax rates could be delayed under a bill that passed the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday. The Oklahoma Senate has approved the measure by a vote of 44-3, sending it to the state House for consideration. The state income tax rate had been scheduled to drop from 5 percent to 4.85 percent once annual revenue increases exceed the tax cut’s estimated cost to the state [KOCO]. The Legislature had the chance last year to suspend a triggered income tax cut that took effect in January – but didn’t [OK Policy]. 

Eufaula’s Only Hospital Closes: In the wake of a statewide healthcare budget crisis, another hospital closes its doors. The shutdown of Eufaula’s only hospital will affect those who need emergency care. These signs along Highway 69 in Eufaula no longer point to the Epic Medical Center Hospital. On Tuesday morning, the hospital turned into an urgent care facility. The urgent care, offering X-rays, lab testing, and other basic services, will be open every day, but only from 7 until 7 [NewsOn6]. Rejecting federal funds to expand health coverage to the low-income uninsured is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House reverses course on court fee vote: Overturning an earlier vote, the state House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would bolster funding for Oklahoma district courts by increasing some court fees and authorizing court clerks to assess a 15 percent administrative fee on all court fees that benefit non-court entities. House members voted to 72-20 to pass House Bill 3220 just two days after they had rejected it by a vote of 44-48. It will now go to the Senate [NewsOK]. By further hiking fees, this bill will exacerbate the already-large debts that many Oklahomans face after their involvement with the justice system [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s abortion, transgender bills called political ‘smokescreen’: Some public schools are starting summer vacation several days early. Others are contemplating a four-day week to cut costs. And more than 200 teachers in Oklahoma City were handed pink slips in March. But instead of addressing a burgeoning budget crisis that threatens public education and other critical state services, Oklahoma lawmakers have been busy debating proposals to criminalize abortion, police students’ access to public bathrooms and impeach President Obama. With more painful cuts to come, Democrats are accusing the GOP-controlled legislature of creating a “smokescreen” to distract the public from an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall caused by declining oil revenue and years of big tax cuts [Washington Post].

Missed opportunities in Oklahoma state budget agreement: Given that Oklahoma lawmakers faced a $1.3 billion shortfall this year, any budget agreement was sure to involve some tough choices. The agreement announced this week certainly did. Some spending cuts may have notable, negative effects, and there’s valid reason for concern. Even so, this budget also avoids some of the worst outcomes many feared. Sufficient funding was found to likely prevent most four-day school weeks and nursing home closures, although some of those threatened outcomes may have involved as much public relations strategy as fiscal reality [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahoma joins lawsuit against Obama administration over transgender bathroom policy: Oklahoma joined 10 other states on Wednesday in a lawsuit claiming the Obama administration’s recent guidance on transgender bathroom policy violates the law and the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. attorney general and other cabinet secretaries and federal officials “have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” the lawsuit states [NewsOK].

AG Ruling: Out-of-State Handgun Licenses Are Valid in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma attorney general has issued an opinion that out-of-state handgun licenses obtained by Oklahomans online are as valid as Oklahoma-issued handgun licenses, even if the other state has more lenient requirements. The opinion, released Friday, states that Oklahoma residents with a “non-resident” handgun license from another state, such as Virginia, and Utah, are as valid as Oklahoma’s concealed handgun license [Oklahoma Watch].

Workers’ compensation update fails in committee: A bill that lawmakers drafted to fix some parts of the workers’ compensation law that have been ruled unconstitutional died Wednesday. House Bill 2205 failed to earn enough signatures to release it from a conference committee to the House and Senate floors. In the past year, appellate courts and the Workers’ Compensation Commission have ruled several provisions of the 2013 law unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a section of the law that required an employee to work somewhere for at least six months before becoming eligible for cumulative trauma claims [Journal Record].

Oklahoma, Kansas-Missouri Planned Parenthood Groups to Merge: Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri announced plans Wednesday to merge with the abortion provider’s central Oklahoma affiliate in July and open a new Oklahoma City clinic, even as political leaders in the three states seek to cut off Medicaid funding. Laura McQuade, the Kansas and Mid-Missouri affiliate’s president and CEO, said the merger is designed to create a regional health care “powerhouse” and isn’t a response to attempts by legislators and governors in the three states to prevent public funds from going to Planned Parenthood [ABC News].

Oklahoma landowners register private airstrips to keep wind farms at bay: Rooster Barn Regional. Logues International Airport. Condit Regional Airport. An airport boom is underway in southwest Oklahoma. But don’t expect to be in long security lines or grab a coffee while you wait for a flight. These are airstrips registered with the Federal Aviation Administration for private use. Most are turf runways mowed out of a pasture. Some even have a wind sock [NewsOK].

Ed Shadid on MAPS 4 and GO bond: ‘More people need to be looking at the jelly beans’: In his appeal to voters assembled Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on the 2017 general obligation bond issue, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid extolled public involvement in planning bond allocation — and the importance of having constituents count jelly beans. Shadid explained a 1987 examination by investment theorist Jack Treynor in which a class of 56 students estimated the number of jellybeans in a jar [NonDoc].

Quote of the Day

“This is a $4 million increase for the Legislature at a time when every area of government is slashed, including life-threatening cuts in mental health and human services. It’s unconscionable.”

– OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, on news that the current budget proposal would give a funding increase to the Legislative Service Bureau, which does legislative research and provides computer services for lawmakers and their staff (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s 2015 State Energy Efficiency ranking

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

2.7 Million Kids Have Parents in Prison. They’re Losing Their Right to Visit. My small feet thump the concrete as I hurry toward the door. My four older brothers trail closely behind. Upon entering, we disappear into the apartment and excitedly explore every corner. We peek out the window at our new playmates. By morning, the scent of bacon wafts into my bedroom. I look over at the floor beside my bed, where I’d asked my dad to sleep the night before. He’s not there. I don’t cry this time. I suspect he’s nearby, in the kitchen, responsible for the clanging pots. I venture out and there, amazingly, he is: my dad, standing over the stove, pushing frozen hash browns from side to side in the skillet [The Nation].

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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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