In The Know: Oklahoma officials request hypothetical budget cut results

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 officials request hypothetical budget cut results: Oklahoma lawmakers have sent letters to state agencies requesting they give hypothetical results for a more than 3 percent budget cut. The Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a $1.50 cigarette fee earlier this month after Justices called it a tax. Legislative leaders are now inquiring how agencies would be affected by an across-the-board budget cut to make up for the lost fee. The letters sent Thursday and Monday also asked the agencies how a cut in state appropriations would affect federal matching dollars [Associated Press]. With the doomsday clock ticking, how might the state’s budget emergency be solved? [OK Policy]

White says $9 million needed for drug, mental health courts: There’s not much money Terri White needs to divert people struggling with addiction out of overcrowded jails and into treatment. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services commissioner said she needs just $9 million per year to fully beef up the state’s drug courts and expand mental health courts. But she said she’s not sure if she’ll get that money any time soon. White spoke Tuesday during the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse’s first task force meeting at the Capitol [Journal Record].

Oklahoma cuts case management for people with mental illnesses: Oklahomans with mental health disorders will get fewer hours of case management under a new rule approved Thursday by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Currently, SoonerCare pays for up to six hours and 15 minutes of case management services per month. The new rule will reduce that to four hours of services per year. The new rule will save the state about $3.5 million in the coming year, said Tywanda Cox, OHCA’s chief of federal and state policy [NewsOK]. 

State is first in painkiller abuse: State officials are arming themselves with a powerful weapon in combating a drug crisis: information. Physicians, pharmacists and state agency directors stressed the need for evidence-based approaches to combating addiction, treating the affliction as a mental health issue and to stemming the tide of pharmaceuticals. Attorney General Mike Hunter led the state’s opioid abuse task force in its first meeting on Tuesday, gathering information for recommendations to the Legislature [Journal Record].

Commission to Combat Opioid Abuse In Oklahoma Meets: The state is facing what the attorney general calls an “opioid epidemic.” Tuesday, a newly formed commission met to address the statewide issue, and the numbers are staggering. Oklahoma ranks No. 1 nationally for nonmedical use of painkillers for all age groups 12 and older in the past year [News 9].

OKC police staffing is near crisis, union leader says: A police union leader told leaders of Oklahoma City’s business community on Monday that police ranks have failed to keep up with population growth, putting public safety in jeopardy. “We’re just short of what I and several of us who have been involved in this would classify as a crisis,” said Mark Nelson, vice president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 123. Nelson appeared on a panel at a luncheon event sponsored by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the city’s leading business organization, to discuss the Sept. 12 bond and sales tax election [NewsOK].

Steele will bring new voice to Oklahoma parole board: Kris Steele has spent the past five years working to help ex-convicts return to society. Before that, Steele spent 12 years in the Legislature where late in his tenure he led efforts to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, a cause he continues to promote. Now he’s adding a new line to his resume — member of the state Pardon and Parole Board, following his appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin to fill a term that expires at the end of 2018 [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s Impossible Education Equation Can’t be Helped by Charity: If you’re looking for a situation that exemplifies the dangers of cutting too much public spending, look no further than Oklahoma’s public schools, where charities have stepped in to rescue teachers from near-poverty. As might be expected, teachers have tired of struggling to survive and are fleeing to neighboring states like Texas, where they can get pay raises of $40,000 just by moving [Nonprofit Quarterly].

Sen. AJ Griffin: ‘Constituents want us to fix the budget’: Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie) was first elected in 2012 and has become the vice chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee as well as the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services. In the Q&A below, she discusses how she hears a different message today from voters than she did five years ago. A former educator, she also discusses education, name-calling on social media and a budgeting process that she would like to see changed [NonDoc].

Oklahoma Among Presenters At Senate Health Care Hearings Next Week: Director of the Alaska Division of Insurance Lori Wing-Heier will be one of the presenters before a Senate committee on health care. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will begin hearings next week on health care, hearing testimony from directors and commissioners from several states. The other four presenters are from Tennessee, Washington, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported [Associated Press].

In Oklahoma City’s urban core, the question is where to grocery shop: These days, newly attracted residents, along with existing residents, are enjoying more walkable neighborhoods, new restaurants and bars, entertainment venues and shops. But missing from urban improvements is a grocery store where residents can get day-to-day basics. Oklahoma City is far from alone, as many revitalized American cities are slow to attract that critical mass of retail, leaving residents to either travel into the suburban areas to shop at full-service grocery stores or rely on convenience stores, local ethnic grocery stores or high-priced gourmet food shops for their fresh food needs [Oklahoma Gazette].

Oklahoma City Council takes major step toward opening American Indian Cultural Center and Museum: The Oklahoma City Council was unanimous Tuesday in its support of agreements to get the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum up and running. The vote puts the museum on a path to fulfilling its promise as a home where the cultures, histories and stories of Oklahoma’s 39 federally recognized tribes will be shared [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“My constituents want us to fix the budget. This is dramatically different than the doorstep messages from 2012. I was first elected during the height of the tea party movement. Constituents then were concerned about gun rights and social issues. Now, I am hearing loud and clear that education funding, tax reform and budget transparency are the topics on many people’s minds.”

– Oklahoma State Sen. AJ Griffin (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries in Oklahoma in 2014

Source: AARP

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hunger receded after the recession but not for older Americans, U.S. figures show: Since the recession, many measurements of the U.S. economy improved: The stock market rallied, unemployment fell and the number of Americans worried about getting enough food began to drop. Yet for all that, one important measure has lagged. The proportion of people over 60 deemed to be “facing hunger” – based on their answers to a U.S. Census survey – has been on a steady climb that began in 2001 and has plateaued but not dropped in recent years, according to a report released Wednesday [Washington Post].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma officials request hypothetical budget cut results

  1. The decade-old audit of OK’s corrections system, deep-sixed by legislative leaders after it failed to document bad management by the then-DOC leadership (and proved the opposite really), was highly critical of OK drug court operations, which remained essentially unchanged afterward. Since the audit itself no longer exists except in the memories of those who care about accountability, the articles below do a good job replicating all the problems with drug courts generally, with examples and evidence that applied to OK drug courts according to the highly nonpartisan and independent audit. Commissioner White’s background was PR before becoming DMHSAS head and she’s never overcome that.

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