In The Know: State agencies face budget cuts due to shortfall

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Governor Fallin has announced that state agencies will likely face budget cuts in the upcoming year due to a $300 million revenue shortfall. KGOU reports that said shortfall was a central topic of discussion of OK Policy’s 2015 State Budget Summit yesterday: despite growth and recovery from the recession, there’s still about $700 million less in the state budget this year than there was in 2009. OK Policy has released some tools to help you decipher the Oklahoma legislature, including our updated legislative primer. Tulsa-based drilling rig maker and operator Helmerich & Payne, has announced that it plans to lay off 2,000 employees due to falling oil prices.

The State Board of Education unanimously approved new State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s revised education budget at her first board meeting. The budget calls for gradual raise for teachers while increasing the state’s minimum number of instructional days to the national average. Hofmeister’s request for a seat on the committee overseeing new reading and math standards was also approved. Executive Director David Blatt wrote that election reforms proposed by Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) bring hope. We’ve made suggestions for repairing our broken democracy before.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services heard the last initial budget proposals on Thursday. All stage agencies have requested increases. Mickey Hepner, Dean of the University of Central Oklahoma’s College of Business, said that anti-gay legislation could damage the state economy because businesses have diverse workforces and pay attention to social policies when they consider moving to new states. Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) has withdrawn legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay customers. Legislators have filed a number of bills that would allow guns to be carried on the state’s college campuses.

A new report shows that while Oklahoma’s economy is improving, most families – even those in the middle class – are living on the edge of financial disaster. Whether Oklahomans with mental illness get treatment when they are arrested depends entirely on which county they live in. While the US Supreme Court issued a stay on the executions of three Oklahoma inmates while they consider the constitutionality of a drug used in lethal injections, Attorney General Scott Pruitt says that the executions could be done using other drugs, and that he’ll push to resume executions. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board argued that Oklahoma must pursue smart-on-crime criminal justice reforms. We’ve written that the stars may be aligning on criminal justice reform before.

The State Department of Health reported 11 new flu deaths in Oklahoma his week, bringing the season’s total to 58. A reports from the American Wind Energy Association ranked Oklahoma fourth nationwide for wind capacity. The Number of the Day is the number of incarcerated Oklahomans who participated in GED programs in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg View breaks down myths about who really pays your taxes.

In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin: State agencies should expect budget cuts

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday said state agencies should be prepared to take targeted cuts. A sustained decline in energy prices is likely going to affect the state budget. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday to begin crafting a fiscal year 2016 state budget. The state is expected to have at least $300 million less to spend than it did in the current budget year.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Summit Paints Bleaker Picture of State Budget

Despite some signs of recovery, Oklahoma’s budget struggles look set to continue for the foreseeable future. “The budget challenges that we are facing this year in 2015, and looking ahead to 2016, are not one-off problems,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Use these tools to decipher the Oklahoma Legislature

Next week, the Oklahoma Legislature comes back into session. Legislators will debate bills and make decisions that affect all Oklahomans, but the process can be hard to follow for the average citizen. That’s why we’ve created a number of tools to help you decipher what happens at the state Capitol.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Tulsa’s Helmerich & Payne to lay off 2,000, citing weak oil market

Tulsa-based drilling rig maker and operator Helmerich & Payne Inc. expects to lay off 2,000 employees companywide, it announced Thursday during a conference call. The cuts, which are already beginning, are spurred by a reduction in rig use due to falling crude oil prices, CEO John Lindsay said during the earning call with analysts.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister offers revised education budget at first board meeting

The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved new State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s budget changes for 2016, as well as her request for a seat on the committee overseeing new reading and math standards for public schools.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Election reform proposals bring hope

As the new legislative session approaches, there are hopeful signs that lawmakers may begin to address the crisis in Oklahoma’s political participation. Last week, state Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, introduced a package of 10 bills intended to boost voter turnout.

Read more from the Journal Record.

See also: Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy from OK Policy.

Health, Human Services Subcommittee Hears Agency Needs For Budget Increase

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services met Thursday for the last of its initial budget hearings. All state agencies continue to request increases despite a forecast $300 million reduction in state revenue.

Read more from KGOU.

Anti-Gay Legislation Could Hurt State’s Economy in the Long Run

A flurry of anti-gay legislation could damage Oklahoma’s chances of attracting top companies to the state. Oklahoma College of Business Dean Mickey Hepner said large companies employ diverse work forces and have an eye on social policies when they consider opening up shop in a state.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

State Rep. Sally Kern withdraws bill that would have let businesses discriminate against gays

Rep. Sally Kern has withdrawn a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay people. The Oklahoma City Republican issued a statement Thursday indicating the measure did not accomplish her desired purpose. She was not available for additional comment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Allowing Guns On College Campuses To Be Considered This Legislative Session

Several bills have been filed this legislative session targeting the current firearms ban on the state’s college campuses. At least four bills have been filed, all by Republican lawmakers, taking different approaches on creating measures that would allow those with open and/or concealed carry permits to walk the grounds of the state’s institutions for higher education while armed.

Read more from KGOU.

New opportunity scorecard shows Oklahomans slipping financially

Conventional wisdom may seem to suggest that the economy has bounced back. Low unemployment and a stable housing market paint the picture of a prosperous Oklahoma. But if you look at the pocketbooks of the average American, the outlook is far from rosy. As CFED’s newly released 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard reveals, the economy may be improving, but how individuals and families are faring in the economy is not.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Residents with mental illness get second chances when arrested — in some Oklahoma counties

If you have a serious mental illness and get arrested for a nonviolent crime, whether you go to prison or are enrolled in a diversion program largely depends on where you reside. Only 16 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties have mental health courts, prison diversion programs that provide treatment to nonviolent offenders with serious mental illnesses.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma attorney general: Executions could resume with other drugs

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of a sedative Oklahoma uses in lethal injections, Attorney General Scott Pruitt says he’ll push to resume executions. Pruitt said Thursday that if the state can obtain doses of barbiturates Oklahoma has used to execute inmates in the past, he’ll ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set new execution dates.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma must forge new course on corrections

During a recent discussion about whether significant criminal justice reform could happen in Oklahoma in 2015, state Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said he hoped so. “I think we ought to look to Texas as a model,” Bingman said.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

See also: Stars could be aligning for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma from the OK Policy Blog.

Eleven new flu deaths reported in Oklahoma this week

Oklahoma had 11 new flu deaths this week, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The total number of deaths since Sept. 28 is 58, and 12 of those have been in Tulsa County. Of the total number, 43 of the people have been 65 or older, the department reported.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma moves up to fourth place in U.S. wind capacity

Oklahoma has moved up two spots and now ranks fourth in the nation for wind capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The state leapfrogged Oregon and Illinois after adding 648 megawatts of wind capacity in 2014, the association said in its fourth-quarter market report. Oklahoma now has 3,782 megawatts of wind capacity.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“For those who come back out [of prison], we have an obligation to make sure those services are there to keep them from recidivating and going back into the system. That’s where we need to put more pressure, so it will drive more funding towards that, not the other way around. Let’s put the pressure there and off the criminal justice system.”

– Steven Buck, deputy commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, at a recent “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum on mental health issues in Oklahoma (Source:

Number of the Day


The number of incarcerated Oklahomans who participated in GED programs in 2013

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Guess Who Pays Your Taxes?

On April 21, 2014, the U.S. celebrated Tax Freedom Day. This is the day when Americans have finally earned enough income to pay off Uncle Sam. Hard-working Americans and libertarians alike will bemoan the burden of government, which makes us slave away for almost a third of the entire year just to pay the taxman. Except there’s just one problem. From an economics point of view, Tax Freedom Day is hogwash. Suppose your pretax salary is $100,000 a year, and your total tax rate is 30 percent. According to the math of Tax Freedom Day, that means that you pay $30,000 in taxes. But according to Econ 101, this isn’t actually what you pay, because that $100,000 wasn’t all “yours” to begin with.

Read more from Bloomberg View.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

One thought on “In The Know: State agencies face budget cuts due to shortfall

  1. The OKLAHOMAN recently ran an article in which the governor excoriated the former OK DOC director for failing to support Justice Reinvestment by refusing to move inmates into lower levels of security to prep them for more successful reentry. Unfortunately for the governor, the former director secured one of the first Second Chance Act grants from the feds specifically for that purpose and had been frequently criticized for some of the movement of offenders that did occur while he served. More unfortunately, such policies were not a part of the Justice Reinvestment proposals that the governor supposedly understands and supports backwards and forwards. In fact, what she was upset about was that the “movement” she wanted was into PRIVATE PRISONS, the two words that apparently can no longer be spoken even though those industries have given her hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund landslide election campaigns and also an inaugural. What’s notable is that the OKLAHOMAN, which pretty much acted as stenographer for her office when running off a director conspicuously more effective and successful than his successor has been, was willing to quote the former director’s pointed and 100% accurate rebuttal. If the newspaper is truly going to being accurate itself in confronting the silliness that has perpetually accompanied the opposition to sentencing and corrections reform in OK, the time may have actually come that real improvement could occur. Not worth holding breath over yet but certainly something to appreciate when it does happen.

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