In The Know: Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost

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.

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Today In The News

Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost: The agency that oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma is requesting an additional $200 million, mostly to maintain its current level of health care services for low-income residents, the agency’s new leader told state lawmakers on Tuesday. Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, outlined her agency’s budget during a hearing Tuesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee [Associated Press].

DHS budget crisis could leave hundreds without care: The Department of Human Services is begging the state legislature to give them more money to make it to the end of the fiscal year. If they don’t, thousands of people will be left on their own, many children, the elderly or the disabled. Tuesday we met David. He loves cars. And thanks to dedicated therapists, he’s living on his own. “[They’re] no longer stuck away where people can’t see them,” says Sally Allen, Human Resources Manager for Center State Community Service [KTUL].

House investigation of sexual harassment claims expanded to include Fourkiller, chairman announces: A special committee that will look into the settlement of a wrongful termination claim will expand its investigation to examine all sexual harassment complaints filed against sitting lawmakers, including Rep. Will Fourkiller, the panel’s chairman said Tuesday. “I haven’t a clue what this is about,” Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, said. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, asked the House Rules Committee to investigate a sexual harassment and wrongful termination claim against Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa [Tulsa World].

Funds Tied to Trump’s Education Pick Targeted ‘Teachers’ Caucus’ Candidates: Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has given millions in campaign contributions to politicians across the country. Some of that fiscal muscle trickled into Oklahoma during the last election cycle through a pro-school-choice “Super PAC” that, notably, opposed so-called “teachers’ caucus” candidates in many instances. DeVos has personally given almost $900,000 to the national federation’s related entities since 2012, according to a disclosure submitted to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in advance of her confirmation hearing, scheduled for Jan. 17 [Oklahoma Watch].

Audit: Tulsa Jail inmate account records so poor investigators can’t say how much money is missing: A Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office corporal admitted to misappropriating Tulsa Jail inmates’ funds, and internal accounting of the jail’s inmate trust account was so poor that investigators couldn’t pinpoint how much money was mishandled, according to a forensic audit of the account. The investigative audit, conducted by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office, reveals that a detention corporal admitted to an Internal Affairs investigator on March 8, 2013, that she took “around $1,000 a month for a period of approximately 12 months.” [Tulsa World]

Hofmeister: Local school districts to get choice between ACT and SAT for all high school juniors: Every public school district in Oklahoma will be able to choose between the ACT and SAT college entrance exams for high school juniors this spring, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced Tuesday. Schools have been anxiously awaiting the results of a competitive bidding process conducted by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services to learn which vendor would be selected. Administering the test this spring will be optional, but it is strongly encouraged so that schools can be well-prepared for next year, when students’ scores on one of the college entrance exams will likely determine whether the state considers them proficient [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma among states receiving sizeable education grant: Oklahoma has been awarded a $2 million grant to improve career pathways for high school students as the need for post-secondary education and training continues to grow. State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the money will be used over the next few years to enhance career readiness programs, which includes helping schools repurpose a student’s senior year around an increased focus on post-secondary employment [NewsOK].

State Senate appropriations chief says lawmakers are optimistic: Oklahoma lawmakers are “all optimistic” ahead of the legislative session that begins Feb. 6, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee said Tuesday. “We just have a new air about us at the Capitol,” state Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, told the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County. “We all want to take this opportunity to take this state with our new president and do some things we were never able to do before.” David said she and her Republican colleagues are counting on incoming President Donald Trump to eliminate “red tape” and spur growth, particularly in the oil and gas industry [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers can’t waste time on silly measures: It’s that time of year when members of the Legislature file bills they hope to see approved before the session ends in May. There will of course be a raft of bills that are intended to do little more than score political points for their authors. Those should be rejected in a hurry, particularly given the serious challenges Oklahoma faces. The chief challenge, of course, is financial — lawmakers in 2017 will have $868 million less to appropriate than they did in 2016, when the Legislature was faced with a $1.3 billion budget hole [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

US Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, could be in line for NASA post: U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a former U.S. Navy pilot, has met with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team amid reports his name has emerged as a possible head of NASA. His office confirmed Tuesday that the Tulsa Republican has met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Washington and with members of the transition team in Trump Tower in New York [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City’s sales tax revenue slips from a year ago: Sales tax revenue dipped 3.5 percent in Oklahoma City in the January reporting period, extending a persistent year-over-year slide in monthly collections. Through the first seven months of fiscal 2017, sales tax revenue is off 4 percent. Sales tax is the largest-single contributor to the general fund, the account for day-to-day expenses such as police and fire protection. After projecting 1.6 percent sales tax growth to begin 2016-17, city budget officials now expect a decline of 2.7 percent for the year [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Given the substantial volume of missing, unreadable, and inaccurate records we cannot determine an accurate amount of funds that have either been misappropriated or are the result of erroneous and undetected accounting errors during the 2007-2012 time periods.”

-From an audit report of the Tulsa County Jail by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma high school students who reported being bullied on school property, 2013.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Repealing Obamacare Could Kill Jobs: The Affordable Care Act is a big deal for the economy, as would be any federal policy that injects hundreds of billions of dollars into one of its biggest sectors. But one piece of the national political debate on repealing the ACA is the question of whether it is actually good for the economy. Does the law help or hurt families’ finances, and can the government afford to sustain it? Though there doesn’t appear to be a consensus among Republicans as to how exactly they should replace the health-care law, one point of agreement seems to be that removing or reducing the lion’s share of ACA spending—the Medicaid expansion and subsidies for private insurance—will improve micro- and macroeconomic conditions. Existing data suggests this conviction is dubious [The Atlantic].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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