In The Know: Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Revolving funds tapped again as state’s general revenue misses mark by 9 percent: The state’s general revenue allocation fell 9 percent below expectations in March, causing the state to take $31 million from agency revolving funds, officials said Tuesday. In fact, officials admitted earlier this month that the state’s constitutional reserve — known as the Rainy Day Fund — has been emptied in order to pay bills and meet payroll. Doerflinger repeated earlier assurances that enough revenue will come in during the final three months of the fiscal year to replace the borrowed money, but said the situation still calls for new revenue sources [Tulsa World].

Drastic cuts could be coming for Medicaid patients in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is warning, if their state appropriation is cut for fiscal year 2018, many programs and benefits for Medicaid patients could be eliminated. Some of the programs and benefits being considered are pharmacy, behavioral health, durable medical equipment, the breast and cervical cancer treatment program, the waiver-funded Medically Fragile program and Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, private duty nursing services, adult organ transplants, dialysis, hospice services, physical and occupational therapy, and speech, hearing and language disorder services [KFOR].

Why should Oklahoma subsidize lenders who prey on the poor? The payday lending industry is advancing House Bill 1913 on the premises that high-interest loans are required in the free market. But I’d like to offer a conservative, market-oriented argument against HB 1913. HB 1913 seeks to compel government courts to help the private payday lending industry collect its debts. HB 1913 doesn’t merely require Oklahoma to allow excessive consumer debt. HB 1913 actually requires the state of Oklahoma to subsidize excessive consumer debt through its court system [Rep. Kevin Calvey / Tulsa World]. “Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families [OK Policy].

Prosperity district idea unpopular with those who voted against SQ 777: A growing number of organizations are lining up against legislation pending in the Oklahoma Senate that critics describe as a legislative scheme to strip the power from voters who derailed the so-called Right to Farm Act at the ballot box. House Bill 2132 — model legislation backed by a Houston-based advocacy group pushing an overhaul of the U.S. Constitution — would create what supporters describe as prosperity districts. Compact for America representatives say a prosperity district, once created, would replace, “within its boundaries, all state laws above the baseline of the state constitution, common law, criminal law and existing compacts.” [Ada News] HB 2132 could allow corporations and other special interests to create their own governments – all they need is a bit of land [OK Policy].

Domino effect: Budget may force agency to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates 25 pct.: Nico Gomez said he wasn’t surprised by the Monday afternoon announcement and he remains frustrated at the situation. The state Medicaid agency announced officials are considering cutting reimbursement rates by up to 25 percent as a result of anticipated statewide revenue shortfalls. But even a 5-percent cut would mean Gomez’s members lose money and might have to close businesses [Journal Record].

OK PolicyCast Episode 28: Mid-Session Update: Now that we’re just past the halfway point in the Legislative session, Kara Joy and Gene talk about which key bills are still alive, which are dead, and what’s at play in negotiations over the state budget. To find out how you can take action on bills during the rest of session, see OK Policy’s Advocacy Alerts page, and to join efforts for a better Oklahoma state budget, visit Together Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Being smart on crime is smart on our wallets: As we enter the second half of this legislative session, there has been plenty of talk about how to fix our state’s $878 million budget hole: Raise taxes. End credits. Minimize deductions. Find efficiencies. Evaluate state agency spending. The list goes on and on. I believe we ought to also look at ways we can reform Oklahoma’s prison system. We have made some strides this session [Rep. Bobby Cleveland / NewsOK].

Criminal Justice Reforms Still Alive at the Capitol: This is committee deadline week, and several bills aimed at reforming criminal justice laws in the state remain active. Chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, Kris Steele, says passing the measures could reduce prison populations and save a lot of money…about $2-billion which Steele says could be spent to help fill the state budget hole. An earlier measure that would have rolled back several changes passed by voters in November failed to get a committee hearing in the senate [Public Radio Tulsa].

State hands down budget restriction to county courthouses: The State of Oklahoma sent a letter to the budget committees of county courthouses across Oklahoma notifying court officials the state will no longer pay utilities for the courthouses. Court Clerk Dana Blevins spoke with the board of Stephens County Commissioners because without state funding, the county will have to pick up the slack. Blevins said the office received the letter and the letter outlined the new responsibility of the utilities going to the commissioners [Stillwater News Press].

Oklahoma creates first Pay for Success program for female offenders: Flanked by more than a dozen women who have participated in a drug recovery program to divert women from prison, Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday announced a public-private partnership called Pay for Success that is designed to change lives and lower the state’s female incarceration rate. “Government too often pays for programs that it hopes work, but under this arrangement, government will pay for what works,” Fallin said [NewsOK].

Drug courts save lives, but if that doesn’t matter to you, they save money too: Drug courts work, and every taxpayer should care. Even if you have no empathy for the people caught up in the web of addiction, or their innocent family members, who often are their victims, you should agree that this is a dollars-and-cents solution that the state can’t afford to pass up. Drug courts divert people arrested for certain nonviolent drug felonies from the normal prosecution and incarceration process. They receive court-supervised treatment for their drug problems and strict supervision, but stay out of prison [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

Four-day school weeks on the rise in Oklahoma: Superintendent Joy Hofmeister wants schools to consider implications: The four-day school week is spreading like a “contagion” across Oklahoma as a statewide teacher shortage and budget uncertainty build pressure to drop a day from the school week as an incentive to attract and keep teachers, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. As that pressure increases, Hofmeister said she is concerned that local superintendents, particularly those new to the position, aren’t considering the ways a four-day school week might affect students [Tulsa World].

Lawmakers want investigation at Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs: Four lawmakers have asked for an investigation and audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, but supporters of the agency called the move a political stunt. The representatives, led by McAlester Democrat Brian Renegar, cited a list of grievances about the agency’s policies and purchasing decisions. Renegar criticized a directive that heart monitoring machines be “locked up” and lab machines be taken out of the department’s veteran centers, which provide nursing care [NewsOK].

Some GOP lawmakers push against Oklahoma anti-abortion bills: After years of trying unsuccessfully to have a baby, Derina Soles of Oklahoma said she was excited to attend her first ultrasound and find out the gender of the fetus she had been carrying about 18 weeks. But that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when Soles learned her fetus had anencephaly, a rare and untreatable defect in which a baby’s brain and skull don’t form properly. Soles, 31, immediately knew that being forced to carry to full term would be too emotionally difficult, and she decided to terminate the pregnancy [Associated Press].

Controversial abortion bill will not be heard by Senate committee, chairman says: A controversial abortion bill will not be heard in the second committee to which it has been assigned, the chairman said Tuesday. House Bill 1549, dubbed the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017,” would prevent the abortion of a fetus solely on the basis that it had a genetic abnormality. It did not contain exceptions for rape or incest or address cases where a woman was carrying a child who would not survive after birth. The bill’s authors are Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, and Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“It is basically a slap in the face to voters who soundly voted ‘no’ on State Question 777 and an end run around what the people want. This is the creation of prosperity districts, which is as bad — or worse — than SQ 777.”

-Denise Deason-Toyne, president of Tahlequah-based citizen coalition Save the Illinois River Inc., arguing that “prosperity districts” created under HB 2132 would lead to areas not subject to state environmental regulations that could be exploited by foreign corporations (Source). Read why HB 2132 won’t create prosperity here

Number of the Day


Rate of incarceration for males in Oklahoma per 100,000 residents of all ages in 2015, second highest in the country

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

College Classes In Maximum Security: ‘It Gives You Meaning’: More than 650,000 prisoners are released every year in the U.S., but no federal agency tracks the unemployment rate for this population. Experts say low reading and technological literacy, as well as reluctance among employers to hire former convicts, means many drop out of the labor force altogether. Low employment levels for that group cost between $57 billion and $65 billion annually in lost economic activity, according to a 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. But there are a handful of novel initiatives trying to turn that narrative around, by bringing college education and professional training, and even entrepreneurship programs behind bars [NPR].

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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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