In the Know: Oklahoma mental health agency considers cutting private-practice counselors from SoonerCare

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

Oklahoma mental health agency considers cutting private-practice counselors from SoonerCare: In response to a shrinking state budget, the state mental health agency is proposing no longer paying independent counselors and therapists in private practice to treat Oklahomans covered by SoonerCare. Last month, state finance officials declared a revenue failure — a projected $157 million shortfall — and said state agencies will see a 3 percent cut in their monthly general revenue allocations for the next six months. This has meant state agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, are left to scramble to find ways to save money to balance their budgets [The Oklahoman].

OK Policy releases Budget Trends and Outlook for January 2016: The state faces a huge budget shortfall this year as a result of revenue collections coming in below projections. The Board of Equalization certified $6,059M in available funds for FY 2017, which is 12.9 percent less than in FY 2016. Budget shortfalls are a result of both the economic slowdown and policy choices [OK Policy].

More quakes rattle Oklahoma but state avoids tough measures: In Oklahoma, now the country’s earthquake capital, people are talking nervously about the big one as man-made quakes get stronger, more frequent and closer to major population centers. Next door in Kansas, they’re feeling on firmer ground though no one is ready yet to declare victory. A year ago, the states had a common problem — earthquakes caused by the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas exploration. They chose different solutions [Associated Press].

Child care is getting less accessible for Oklahoma’s working parents: ​For many working Oklahoma families, child care is both an absolute requirement and a significant expense. The cost of child care can easily match or even surpass that of college tuition. Low-income families can catch a break through child care subsidies, which pay part or all of a child’s care expenses while parents are at work, at school, or receiving training. However, participation in the subsidy program has dropped off by more than 30 percent in the last 13 years, from nearly 49,000 children in 2004 to just 31,525 in 2015 [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman: State agencies would be ‘devastated’ if education not cut: It would be difficult to give education a flat budget without devastating other agencies, House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Tuesday. His comments to reporters came as the House Republican caucus met behind closed doors to discuss the state’s revenue failure for the current fiscal year and the upcoming fiscal year 2017 budget, which will be at least $900.8 million less than fiscal year 2016’s [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma legislators say raising low gas tax not the answer to budget shortfall: Oklahoma legislators on both sides of the aisle say they are not considering raising Oklahoma’s low gas tax to help with the state’s budget shortfall. The gas tax is currently .17 cents per gallon on non-diesel gas. The state made more than $307 million last year on nearly 1.8 billion gallons of gas. Raising the tax by .05 cents to be comparable to other states would make the state an additional $90 million [Fox 23]. Oklahoma has gone 26 years without updating its gas tax​ for inflation​,​ longer than any state but Alaska,​ ​and the tax has lost more than 45 percent of its value​ since then [OK Policy].

Oklahoma lawmaker wants to clarify state law involving a convict’s voting rights: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to clarify the state law regarding a convict’s voting rights. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa filed House Bill 2277 for the upcoming legislative session. The proposed bill states that anyone convicted of a felony could register to vote after having “fully served” his or her sentence, “including any term of incarceration, parole or supervision,” or after completing a probationary period imposed by a judge [Fox 25].

Nutrition sites brace for budget report: The fates of several area senior nutrition sites are still in limbo as the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG) waits on an impending budget cut from the Department of Human Services (DHS). Ken Jones, director of supportive services at ASCOG, told a packed house at the Lawton North Nutrition Center Tuesday that the agency still hasn’t heard how much its budget will be cut by DHS and doesn’t know when word will come down [Lawton Constitution].

Economic importance of health-care industry, expanding Insure Oklahoma focus at chamber summit: The economic importance of a robust health-care sector and the need for the state to accept federal money to expand its Insure Oklahoma program were at the forefront of a Tulsa Regional Chamber summit Tuesday. The Tulsa Regional Summit on Health Care, held at Tulsa Community College’s Center for Creativity downtown, featured a panel of representatives from area hospitals, the Legislature and businesses [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmaker files Rainy Day Fund bill for long-term budget reforms: An Oklahoma senator has introduced a bill dealing with the state’s Rainy Day Fund and is now speaking out on the state’s budget crisis. Holt has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 44, which would ask the people of Oklahoma to set the cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund at 15 percent of the total state budget [KFOR].

Oklahoma hospital executives pitch fix for health care crisis: With a last-place health ranking and hospital reimbursement rates falling, hospital executives say Oklahoma is in a health care crisis. The Oklahoma Hospital Association is calling on lawmakers to expand the premium assistance plan known as Insure Oklahoma to include more than 233,000 additional people. That would require accepting federal Medicaid funds the state has so far refused [Public Radio Tulsa]. Other s​tates that ​accepted Medicaid ​funds ​are​ seeing​ lower uninsured rate​s​​, improv​ed health outcomes​, and state budget savings​ [OK Policy].

“The situation is getting worse,” Oklahomans claim insurance companies refuse to cover certain earthquake damage: The earthquakes keep coming, and now some Oklahomans are saying their insurance companies are refusing to pay for the damage. One Enid homeowner told NewsChannel 4 that she got a letter from her insurance carrier, notifying her of an amendment to her earthquake coverage. Basically, it says if her home is damaged in an earthquake caused by oil drilling or injection wells, she’s on her own to foot the bill [KFOR].

Bartlesville Board of Education agrees to file lawsuit against Oklahoma officials: Members of the Bartlesville Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with a lawsuit against several state agencies, in an effort to recover approximately $2.2 million in funds the district claims were illegally distributed to other Oklahoma schools. In December, the Board of Education discussed a miscalculation at the State Department of Education, where commercial personal and agricultural personal property tax valuations were reportedly underpaid to the school district since 1992 [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Tulsa World editorial: Suspend state income tax cut: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei has filed legislation to suspend a 0.25 percent income tax cut that went into effect Jan. 1. The proposal is politically brave and fiscally prudent, and we support it. Mazzei’s Senate Bill 1073 would back away from the cut in the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent and specify that such a reduction cannot occur in a year in which a revenue failure has been declared [Tulsa World].

Advocacy group touts 10-step plan for education: With the cuts in education being made throughout the state, a regional group has taken steps to support items on an agenda to improve the outlook for schools. The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education voted to endorse the Tulsa Regional Chamber 2016 One Voice Legislative Agenda at its January meeting. The school board follows the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce board’s endorsement, and officials are hoping to get the nod from the Tahlequah City Council tonight [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmaker works to make bathrooms gender specific: A bill being pitched in the upcoming legislature is getting attention from across the country. And it’s all comes down to who goes in what bathroom. The lawmaker wants to make sure bathrooms are gender specific according to your birth [KOCO].

Quote of the Day

“The thing that should frustrate all of us is that we have a century of experience telling us that an energy-based economy drastically rises and falls, and yet we still don’t have a savings account that appreciates that fact. Though addressing the short-term crisis is important, we should also move forward on long-term reforms like this while the lessons are fresh, or we’ll simply find ourselves in this predicament again.”

-Sen. David Holt, introducing Senate Joint Resolution 44, which would ask the people of Oklahoma to set the cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund at 15 percent of the total state budget (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma veterans who are female.

Source: Census Bureau

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children: Nearly four decades of mass incarceration and overcriminalization have made the United States the world leader in incarceration and arrests. The number of Americans in federal and state prisons and jails has quintupled over the past four decades—nearly 2.3 million Americans are behind bars today—leaving the U.S. incarceration rate at more than six times the average across developed nations. Communities of color—and particularly, men of color—are hit hardest, with black men six times more likely and Latino men two-and-a-half times more likely to be incarcerated than white men [Center for American Progress].

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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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