In The Know: State budget crisis may incapacitate Medicaid program

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

State’s budget crisis may incapacitate Medicaid program, officials say: If Oklahoma continues to see a fiscal crisis at the Capitol, the state might not have enough money to support its Medicaid program, eliminating a program that provides health care to 1 million residents each year. Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said he doesn’t believe that the Medicaid program could end in the next two years, but past that, if state agencies continue to see deep budget cuts, the end of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program could be a reality. [NewsOK]

CEO: ‘MakeOKBetter’ by taking federal health care funds: Recent research by iVantage Analytics found there are 673 rural hospitals in the U.S. at risk of closure. Of those, 42 are in Oklahoma, the second-most in the nation behind Texas (which has 75). More than half of all Oklahoma rural hospitals are at risk! Meanwhile, Oklahoma accepts federal dollars for road and bridge repairs, education, and disaster relief. That money benefits all of us, and so would federal dollars for health care. [Jimmy Leopard / NonDoc]

Open records laws apply to most government, not lawmakers: The clear purpose of Oklahoma’s Open Records Act is to ensure citizens can review government records to help them exercise their “inherent political power.” But when it comes to the Oklahoma Legislature – not so much. Three of the state’s top four legislative leaders – Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and Senate Minority Leader John Sparks – all refused to disclose their weekly schedules and emails requested by The Associated Press [Associated Press].

Legislators Want to Strip Transparency from Universal Services Fund: A fight’s looming in the Oklahoma legislature over the efforts of some legislators to strip transparency from how millions of dollars in money from telephone customers is spent on financing Internet and broadband projects for schools, libraries and hospitals. HB 2616, by Rep. Todd Thomsen (R) of Pontotoc County and Sen. Eddie Field of Wynona has already won House approval and heads to the State senate in the coming days. But it’s being fought by one administrator at the State Corporation Commission. “We got a pretty scary situation,” said Brady Wreath, Director of the Public Utility Division. “If we’re not minding the cookie jar, they can charge whatever they want and no one can say anything about it.” [OK Energy Today]

Former state senator sentenced to 37 months for fraud: A former vice chairman of the Oklahoma Senate’s Finance Committee was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison Friday after admitting he stole $1.8 million from the nonprofit agency where he worked for 16 years. The Better Business Bureau last year accused Rick Brinkley, 54, of setting up fake corporations to pay his bills and support a gambling habit. After state and federal investigators stepped in, the former Republican state senator from Owasso pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to five counts of mail fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. [Associated Press]

Divisive issues remain at Oklahoma Legislature halfway point: Almost halfway through the 2016 legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers are still not sure how to resolve the most critical issue they face — closing an estimated $1.3 billion hole in the state budget for the coming year. Should they abolish tax credit programs enacted to lure new businesses to the state or authorize deep cuts to state agencies that would impact public education and public safety? Should they issue bonds for public projects like roads and bridges to free up revenue previously dedicated, or instead raise new revenue or roll back income tax cuts enacted in recent years? [Tulsa World]

Have legislators grasped the seriousness of Oklahoma’s budget crisis?: The feeling of crisis continues to permeate the consciousness at the Capitol as revenue figures continues to tumble. When the $900 million shortfall for next fiscal year was announced in December some saw it as an opportunity to both stem the growth of government and make government smaller. Then in February the shortfall grew to $1.3 billion and a revenue failure of 3 percent was declared for the current budget year. Last week an additional 4 percent revenue failure was declared. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma House passes bill to collect tax on Internet sales: Oklahomans who don’t pay sales tax when buying something online could be in for a rude awakening under a bill that has passed the Oklahoma House. The legislation attempts to require many online retailers to add that tax to the purchase price. Under current law, online retailers who maintain business operations in the state already add the tax, but those without stores do not, leaving consumers on the honor system to pay it later. [NewsOK]

Charter School Growth Stirs New Ambitions, Worries: A proposed charter school in a lakeside resort community would mark the state’s first expansion of public charters into rural areas under a new law allowing for their presence statewide, school officials say. The proposal to bring a public charter school to the tiny town of Carlton Landing on Lake Eufaula comes amid a climate of rapid expansion in the charter school sector. As of Oct. 1, charter schools enrolled 19,893 students in the state, according to the Oklahoma Department of Education. About half the students are in online charter schools. [Oklahoma Watch]

The Doerflinger Kerfuffle: In case you missed it – and I don’t know how you could have – both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature failed to advance voucher bills last week. Since they did, those specific bills are dead. Well, they’re dead-ish. Language can jump from bill to bill. One piece of legislation that passes in committee can be replaced with a floor substitute. It happens all the time. Still, the fact that our state’s Republican leadership couldn’t get SB 609 and HB 2949 to go anywhere is a huge development. With the issue being as heated as it was, disappointment was inevitable. Several responses caught my attention, but one in particular has taken on its own life force – a radio interview between Chad Alexander and State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger. [okeducationtruths]

Tulsa budget hole widens significantly: Tulsa is facing a budget hole that is outpacing earlier projections, leaving the city with more cuts needed and fewer options to avoid layoffs. City officials, who have been preparing for a budget shortfall for months, have increased their projections for the shortfall from $7.2 million last month to $8.5 million by the end of the fiscal year in June. The good news is that a hiring freeze since December and possible cuts ordered by city administration have about $6.2 million of that shortfall covered. But $2.3 million — and possibly more, if the revenue shortfall worsens — is still needed to cover the deficit. [Tulsa World]

Construction under way for new Choctaw Nation headquarters: Construction of a new 500,000 square feet Tribal Headquarters Building for the Choctaw Nation began last month. According to a press release, the new facility is part of an overall Headquarters Campus that will consolidate services offered in over 30 buildings across Durant into a single, unified campus. [CapitolBeatOK]

The final days and deals of Aubrey McClendon: The night before Aubrey McClendon died, the oil-and-gas pioneer was expected at a private dinner here with potential business partners. Among them: Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico. Around sunset, the group gathered in a wood-paneled dining room at the exclusive Beacon Club. A waiter brought plates of sea bass and lamb. Three bottles from McClendon’s wine collection were opened, including a 2010 Napa Valley red bearing the logo of his business, American Energy Partners. But McClendon, who reveled in his reputation as the life of the party, never showed, said four people who were there [Reuters]. A class-action lawsuit alleging bid-rigging against Chesapeake Energy, SandRidge Energy and former SandRidge CEO Tom Ward was modified to accuse at least one through 50 John Does of being part of a conspiracy to rig bids and depress the market [OK Energy Today].

US Rig Count Falls to Lowest Record Since 1949: The data revealed that the total dropped to a new record this week as the oil rig count fell by 6 to 386. The total count of oil and gas rigs fell 9 to 480, down by a stunning 57% from 2015. This is the 12th straight week of declines in oil rigs, which are the lowest level since the week of December 4, 2009. The rig count topped out at 2,026 back in November 2011 when oil prices were sitting close to $100 a barrel. [OK Energy Today] Chesapeake Energy Corp. is weighing a sale of some of its holdings in an oil-soaked patch of shale in Oklahoma known as the Stack, as the natural gas giant unloads assets to pay down debt [Bloomberg]. The Tulsa-based Williams Cos. plans to lay off about 660 employees, approximately 10 percent of its workforce [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“I’m not trying to set off a panic, but I can’t sit there and go a couple of years and then all of a sudden spring (the program ending) out. If we continue down this road, that’s going to be a reality we’re going to have to deal with.”

-Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, who said if state agencies continue to see deep budget cuts, there might not be enough money to support Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, eliminating health care for 1 million Oklahomans (Source).

Number of the Day


Self-reported number of vegetables consumed by Oklahoman adults in an average day, third lowest in the nation.

Source: United Health Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

New immigrants may be assimilating a lot faster than than we had ever thought: For all the talk about immigrants refusing to embrace American ways — a defining controversy of this GOP presidential race — the evidence has been scant. The National Academies of Sciences deflated most of the myths in a definitive report last year. Today’s immigrants are more educated and better English speakers than their predecessors, and they are far less likely to commit a crime compared to the native-born. They are quickly becoming part of American communities. [Washington Post]

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: State budget crisis may incapacitate Medicaid program

  1. VOTE them ALL out. They do not know what fiscal responsibility means. They complain about Democrats, yet they spend every penny they can get their hands on, then act surprised when they have a budget problem. Use COMMON SENSE. Maybe they don’t have that.

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