In 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.
Note: In The Know will be on a break for the remainder of the week due to an all-staff conference. We will return on November 20th.
Today In The News
Oklahoma Families Prepare As Legislators Work On Budget: State lawmakers went back to the drawing board Thursday after their latest budget plan failed just 24 hours ago. Some lawmakers are defending votes against the plan, despite severe cuts looming for state services. [News On 6] Foster mom enraged at lawmakers’ failures [KTUL] I’m an adoptive parent. State budget cuts put my family at risk. [OK Policy]
Panic mounts in budget crisis: Panic is mounting as the state budget crisis drags on into its eighth week and cuts to health care, mental health and social services programs are now just days away. And some lawmakers warned that even deeper cuts to state agencies are on the horizon a day after House lawmakers killed a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, gasoline, beer and oil and gas producers. [CNHI] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]
Stay till Christmas? Budget battle might continue for weeks: After the only bipartisan revenue package that has come out of the special legislative session died on the House floor, what’s to come depends on whom you ask. The Oklahoma Legislature will begin its eighth week of special session on Monday. Lawmakers aren’t closer to filling the $215 million budget gap than they were on Sept. 25, when they reconvened for the first time. [Journal Record] What now? [OK Policy]
Lawmakers expected to move forward using cash and cuts to agencies to plug state budget hole: Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol next week to tap carryover money and revolving funds to balance the current state budget. House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said there is a tentative agreement to plug the budget hole using some of the $83 million in carryover from fiscal year 2017 and some money from the millions in agency revolving funds. [Tulsa World] This is Oklahoma’s last chance [OK Policy]
Oklahoma City child abuse prevention program to shut down after losing state funds: Morenia Martinez had a rough start in life, but she didn’t want it to affect her children. Martinez, of Oklahoma City, grew up with a mother who couldn’t support the family because of her addiction to alcohol, so Martinez had to work to help support the family from the age of 12. [The Oklahoman]
Years after single mom got 12 years for selling $31 of weed, Oklahoma is still No. 1 for locking up women: Life hasn’t been easy for Patricia Spottedcrow since she came out of prison five years ago. I met her by chance nearly seven years ago while reporting on a Tulsa World series about Oklahoma’s long-standing No. 1 position in the rate of female incarceration. [Ginnie Graham/Tulsa World] What works to stop crime (hint: it’s not incarceration) [OK Policy]
Moody’s ‘negative’ rating could hit Oklahoma taxpayers’ wallets: The state’s ongoing budget crisis could hit taxpayers’ wallets for years when they need new school projects, roadways or infrastructure improvements in their counties, cities and towns, officials said. Earlier this week, Moody’s Investors Service — a business that helps determine states’ credit worthiness — downgraded Oklahoma’s credit outlook to “negative” because of the ongoing struggles to close the $215 million budget gap. [CNHI]
House failure shows true effect of State Question 640: Much has been made of State Question 640’s requirement that any revenue-raising measure pass the Oklahoma House of Representatives with 76 votes, but perhaps it should be viewed another way: Any revenue measure can be blocked if 26 seats do not vote in favor. [NonDoc] It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [OK Policy]
Oklahoma health centers plan to make cuts after losing fund to care for uninsured: The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Wednesday officially will eliminate the uncompensated care fund for federally qualified health centers. Health centers can apply to the uncompensated care fund only after they’ve tapped all their other options, including grants and donations, said Cassidy Heit, public policy and communications associate at the Oklahoma Primary Care Association. [The Oklahoman] More holes in the safety net: Oklahoma ends Uncompensated Care Fund [OK Policy]
House of Representatives fails Oklahomans: For a few days, it looked like the Oklahoma Legislature was finally going to solve the ongoing budget crisis. The Senate crafted a plan with concessions on both sides that would have avoided much of the massive cuts state agencies will have to absorb if a new budget plan isn’t passed soon. But, to little surprise, the House of Representatives was unable pass their own budget bill. [Editorial Board/Norman Transcript]
Oklahoma providers, patients fear rate cuts will close off health services: Tina Seiler wept as she begged the Oklahoma Health Care Authority not cut funding for the Moore facility where she lives. Seiler is one of eight residents of Santa Fe Place who attended the OHCA board meeting on Thursday afternoon to plead for continued funding. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma’s mental health crisis: What happens next?: Oklahoma has already begun feeling the effects of its unbalanced budget. People are learning they will be cut from some programs in less than a month. Zeroing in on mental health and substance abuse services, providers are challenging legislators to do something now. [Fox25] Funding, stigma are major challenges for mental health [Brandon Pettit/The Oklahoman]
Nothing special about Oklahoma special session: AS week seven of the Legislature’s special session came to a close, we couldn’t help but think — what’s been so special about it? Everything lawmakers have been dealing with during the session could have — should have — been addressed during the regular session this spring, or in previous years. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]
It’s sink or swim for Oklahoma Legislature as budget woes remain: Crisis is Oklahoma state government’s normal condition. There is never enough money. There are always needs not being met, things not being done, somebody doing something outrageous. The growing sense, though, is that Oklahoma’s ship of state is beginning to resemble the Pequod just before its final round with Moby Dick. [Randy Krehbiel/Tulsa World]
Federal Tax Reform Plans Likely to Benefit Wealthiest Oklahomans the Most: Republicans now have competing federal tax reform plans, but the more it resembles the House proposal, the more it will benefit wealthy Oklahomans. [Public Radio Tulsa] How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy]
With failure of ‘grand bargain,’ things could get worse: There was much to like in the “grand bargain” that came within a whisker of garnering the supermajority necessary for Oklahoma House approval this week. A partial restoration of gross production tax cuts. A long-overdue hike in gasoline taxes. Health services protected for the most vulnerable among us. Assurances of sorely needed teacher and state employee pay raises. [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]
One Idea To Help Fund Oklahoma Schools: Take From The Rich And Give To The Rest: The wind blows strong and steady in Calumet, a small town about 40 miles west of Oklahoma City. It’s the wind that’s prompted companies to build turbines here. A natural gas company also built a plant nearby. These industries bring in abundant property tax revenue for nearby schools — enough that 37 districts don’t receive any funding from the state. [StateImpact] Mapped: The Oklahoma school districts with the most and least per pupil state aid [OK Policy]
Quote of the Day
“My response is until they have, they have not. Until there is a solution that has been voted on, agreed on, and voted on and communicated to the agency, they have not come up with a solution.”
– Brett Coble, president of the board for the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, defending state agency heads’ decisions to send letters of notification to Oklahomans who may lose services due to the state budget crisis despite lawmakers’ promises that they would provide the necessary funding. (Source)
Number of the Day
Share of tax cut given to the richest 1% of Oklahomans by 2027 under the federal House GOP tax proposal
A Tax Proposal That Could Lift Millions Out of Poverty: As the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans attempt to portray a tax plan slanted to the top 1 percent as “middle-class” tax relief, it’s worth asking what actual tax relief for American workers would look like. Among the ideas that should be at the top of the list should be expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a policy that provides millions of low-income American workers with up to a few thousand dollars when they file their taxes [The Atlantic].
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