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Today In The News
Proposed Budget Cuts for 52 Agencies Appear Small – or Are They? In the confusing arithmetic of state budgets, the size of a cut or an increase can be in the eye of the beholder. That was the case on Wednesday when Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled a new budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 calling for a 4.5 percent cut in budgets for 52 state agencies, including higher education. But wait. That 4.5 percent is a proportion of those agencies’ budgets after they received cuts during the current fiscal year totaling 7 percent of their annual budget [Oklahoma Watch].
New poll: Large majority of Oklahoma voters favor income tax increases to prevent funding cuts: A new poll shows that large majorities of Oklahoma voters favor stopping this year’s income tax cut and restoring a 6.65 percent top income tax rate for the wealthiest households to ease the state budget emergency. Solid majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor these revenue measures. Other measures to deal with the budget crisis with strong majority support include accepting federal funds for covering the uninsured and improving collection of online sales taxes [OK Policy]. A recent report by Oklahoma Policy Institute shared 16 recurring revenue options that lawmakers can use to prevent budget cuts, including several of the options covered in this poll.
State program that keeps potential nursing home residents at home at risk: Welda Harris has always been horrified by the thought of living in a nursing home.“My life would be turned upside down,” she said.Through the state’s ADvantage Waiver program, Harris is able to receive supportive care in the comfort of her home.Her care provider, Marilynn Brown, is at her house five times a week and helps her with bathing and grooming, cleaning the house, doing laundry and fixing meals [Tulsa World].
Screeching halt: State budget problems could slow Variety Care expansion: Lou Carmichael is ready to turn an old school building into a community health and resource center.The Variety Care CEO’s $5 million expansion project would provide much-needed medical, dental and mental health services to about 20,000 low-income Oklahoma City residents. But the state’s budget crisis could bring the project’s progress to a screeching halt, she said [Journal Record]. In March, budget cuts prompted the elimination of the Uncompensated Care Fund, which covered some of the health care costs for low-income, uninsured Oklahomans at health centers like Variety Care [OK Policy].
Hometown guide: We Must Prevent a Health Care Disaster: Rural hospitals across Oklahoma are in crisis. Each year, Oklahoma hospitals absorb more than $560 million in unreimbursed care for their uninsured and underinsured patients. Wagoner Community Hospital provided $4.3 million in free care to our local residents last year. With the state of Oklahoma facing a $1.3 billion budget hole, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) has proposed a 25 percent cut in provider reimbursement rates beginning June 1 [Jimmy Leopard / Tulsa World]. Here’s what we know about the OHCA’s plan to rebalance the state’s Medicaid program [OK Policy].
Health industry advocates put faith in tobacco tax: In response to Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion budget hole and recent state revenue failures, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority notified health care providers to expect cuts in reimbursement rates up to 25 percent beginning June 1.The Norman Regional Health System expects to lose $4.5 million annually — a 2 percent impact to net revenue. As a public hospital running at a 5 percent operating margin, 2 percent is a “significant impact,” said Meegan Carter, NRHS vice president of Revenue Cycle [Norman Transcript].
State to lose school based social workers: The state budget cuts have not only affected health and education, but the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), as well. DHS released a statement in March that it would cut nearly $25 million. As a result, there will be no school-based social workers (SBSW) next year in the state of Oklahoma.The shortfalls were discussed at the monthly Partners of Ottawa County (POCI) meeting Thursday [Miami News-Record].
“We shouldn’t be subsidizing their payroll,” State program funds OKC Thunder, other big companies’ payroll amid budget crisis: It’s money never paid to the state of Oklahoma.”You start piling these straws on the camel’s back and, pretty soon, Oklahoma’s camel is broken, and they can’t carry all this anymore,” said Rep. Mike Brown said.Brown’s talking about the millions in taxpayer money that goes to companies in Oklahoma. The quality jobs act has been around since 1993 [KFOR]. Who can receive Quality Jobs payments has expanded significantly since the program was created [OK Policy].
Oklahoma attitudes on taxes may be shifting: Paid your taxes yet?I got mine done several weeks ago and ended up writing a $13 check to the state of Oklahoma. I asked the feds to send me back a few dollars.I paid my share, which is always a good feeling.While the subject is topical, I thought I’d look at two recent studies on Oklahoma taxes [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].
Oklahoma Senate Approves Autism Insurance Coverage Bill: The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that requires health insurers to cover the treatment of children with autism.The Senate on Thursday voted 36-5 for the bill and returned it to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.The legislation requires coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals younger than 9 years old [News9].
Gov. Mary Fallin signs measure for Bill of Rights monument at Capitol: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday signed a bill allowing the placement of a privately funded Bill of Rights monument at the Capitol.Senate Bill 14, dubbed the Bill of Rights Monument Display Act, directs the Capitol Preservation Commission or its designee to arrange for the placement of the monument on the Capitol grounds.Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, is the author of the measure [Tulsa World].
Oklahoma Housing Summit details state’s housing needs: Housing is bigger than the oil patch, according to researchers behindenergy-stressed Oklahoma’s new big housing needs assessment.The study period, which started a year and a half ago, almost mirrored the 20 months of mostly declines since the most recent peak in crude oil prices. “Ultimately, we think that’s kind of a short-term thing. We’re looking at the long term here,” said David Puckett, senior director of Integra Realty Resources [NewsOK].
Oklahoma biomedical research tax credit could be on chopping block: A tax credit for donations to biomedical research is potentially on the chopping block as legislators look for ways to close a $1.3 billion budget hole.Rep. Earl Sears, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said a bill has been written to eliminate the credit and save the state $682,000 a year [NewsOK].
Oklahoma City school board will consider superintendent’s future at special meeting: The state’s highest paid superintendent could be looking for work by the weekend, less than two years after being hired to lead Oklahoma’s largest public school system.Oklahoma City school board members are scheduled to meet privately Thursday to consider Superintendent Rob Neu’s future with the district. The board will meet in executive session to address the superintendent’s evaluation and employment and could take action [NewsOK].
Anxiety, mistrust greet KIPP expansion bid in eastern Oklahoma City area: Tracy McDaniel, principal of KIPP Reach Academy, a charter middle school in east Oklahoma City, stood in front of a small but boisterous crowd Thursday night to answer questions about his desire to expand his school. But first he had a question for the crowd.“Are we satisfied with the state of our schools?” McDaniel asked. A powerful “No” followed in one of the evening’s few moments of near universal agreement [NewsOK].
Woodward schools coping with funding chaos: At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Woodward Schools Superintendent Kyle Reynolds unveiled the beginnings of a plan to address $1 million in cuts the district is charged to make to its budget for the coming 2016-2017 school year.The first casualty in the state economic slump and need for districts to slash the budget for the coming year appears to be summer school. Also on the hit list, a reduced police presence at Woodward schools among some possible losses of administrative and teaching personnel [The Ada News]. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].
Excessive Lead Levels Found in a Small Number of Public Water Providers in Oklahoma: Brooke Hall has lived in the Parkway Mobile Home Park most of her life. She’s never really liked the taste of the water that comes from the park’s wells, but she didn’t think it could be dangerous until she was in the hospital giving birth to her son. Hall didn’t know lead had been detected in drinking water provided and distributed by the Midwest City park [StateImpact Oklahoma].
‘A premature and unnatural death’ in rural Oklahoma: They had been expecting a full processional with a limousine and a police escort, but the limousine never came and the police officer was called away to a suspected drug overdose at the last minute. That left 40 friends and relatives of Anna Marrie Jones stranded outside the funeral home, waiting for instruction from the mortician about what to do next. An uncle of Anna’s went to his truck and changed from khakis into overalls. A niece ducked behind the hearse to light her cigarette in the stiff Oklahoma wind [Washington Post].
Quote of the Day
“If the state does nothing, up to four out of five Oklahoma hospitals will not deliver babies and more than a dozen Oklahoma hospitals could face closure within a year. Also, nine out of 10 nursing homes would be at risk of closing, dumping more than 16,000 disabled and elderly out on the streets.If we are to live by the Oklahoma Standard, our legislators must be courageous and make sure we look after our most vulnerable – babies and the elderly.”
– Jimmy Leopard, CEO at Wagoner Community Hospital and chairman of the Oklahoma Hospital Association board of trustees, urging support of a proposed $1.50 cigarette tax increase to prevent cuts to the Medicaid program and extend insurance coverage to low-income Oklahomans (Source)
Number of the Day
Annual child care cost for a four year-old in Oklahoma
(Source: Economic Policy Institute)
Benefits of Medicaid Expansion for Behavioral Health: Across the country, state and local officials are increasingly focused on improving health outcomes for people living with mental illness or substance use disorders. This brief analyzes national data on behavioral health and reviews published research focused on how Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act advances the goal of improving treatment for people with behavioral health needs [US Department of Health and Human Services].
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