In The Know: State takes step toward asking feds for ACA waiver

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

Local planning: State takes step toward asking feds for ACA waiver: Lawmakers have given final approval for state health officials to develop a comprehensive Affordable Care Act waiver. Starting in January 2017, state-developed plans to provide health coverage can go into effect, but Oklahoma’s waiver likely won’t be ready to submit until early next year. Senate Bill 1386 authorizes the waiver, which would be created under Health and Human Services Secretary Terry Cline. The Senate adopted House amendments Monday, and the bill now heads to the governor’s desk [Journal Record].  

Rising pressure: Failure of ‘rebalancing’ would hurt clinics, exec says: If the Legislature doesn’t pass changes to the state Medicaid program, it will increase the strain on medical clinics that must take people without insurance, a health care industry executive said. In March, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority warned physicians it could cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by 25 percent if it receives millions less in its next appropriation. The agency could prevent those cuts if it makes changes to the state’s subsidized insurance plan, SoonerCare. But the Legislature must approve the OHCA’s proposal and an alternate funding source before the session ends in less than three weeks [Journal Record]. The Medicaid Rebalancing Act is essential to stabilize and strengthen Oklahoma’s health care system [OK Policy].

Gov. Mary Fallin declares state of emergency after deadly storms; two fatalities reported: Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon for 15 Oklahoma counties ravaged by deadly tornadoes and other severe weather. Tornadoes, strong straight-line winds, flooding and accompanying severe storms began moving through Oklahoma on Sunday. Two were killed in south-central Oklahoma on Monday as tornadoes moved through Garvin and Johnston counties [Tulsa World].

State general revenue collections 13 percent short of projections: State general revenue collections fell nearly 13 percent short of projections in April, but officials said further cuts to state budgets are unlikely during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Allocations to state agencies have been cut a total of 7 percent this year as general revenue has fallen 8.7 percent, or $413.2 million short of expectations. General revenue is off $448.8 million, or 9.4 percent below a year ago [Tulsa World].

City Funded The Nonprofit That Supported Anti-panhandling Ordinance, Records Show: A non-profit organization that pushed for the development and passage of Oklahoma City’s anti-panhandling ordinance has a $190,000-per year contract with the city of Oklahoma City, records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma show. Those same records show that city officials worked hand-in-hand with the non-profit Neighborhood Alliance to develop and mobilize support for the anti-panhandling ordinance, but at the same time forced another city-funded nonprofit, the Homeless Alliance, to apologize for voicing opposition to the proposal [ACLU of Oklahoma]. The OKC panhandling ordinance is part of a disturbing trend of criminalizing poverty [OK Policy].

State moves inmates out of work centers: We support interim Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh’s plan to close 15 work centers and shuffle prisoners into a leased private prison, which the state will operate. On Thursday, the state Board of Corrections unanimously approved the efficiency plan to take the relatively low-risk work center inmates to Oklahoma State Reformatory and move higher risk prisoners from the reformatory to leased space at North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Lawmakers discuss holding budget hostage over prison work center closure plan: Nine lawmakers on Tuesday discussed holding the state budget hostage in an effort to reverse a plan to close 15 prison work centers across the state. Last Thursday, the Board of Corrections voted to close the centers and move the 1,200 offenders to the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite. The offenders currently at the prison would be moved to the now empty North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, which the agency would lease from Corrections Corporation of America [Tulsa World].

Protections for vulnerable seniors, children, and Oklahomans with disabilities are crumbling around us: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) made waves in April when Director Ed Lake sent a letter to employees and providers warning that DHS is facing “cuts we simply cannot make without significant consequences for the people who depend on our assistance.” The Department of Humans Services is Oklahoma’s largest state agency, responsible for everything from child support enforcement to providing nutrition and transportation services to aging Oklahomans [OK Policy].

Those pushing ‘Redaction Queen Mary’ as VP choice should read this: Mary Fallin is being seriously touted in national circles as a possible running mate for Donald Trump. So it seems like a good time to remind the national press corps about her miserable record on an issue reporters of all political stripes should care about: transparency. Crooked Hillary? Lying Ted? Meet Redaction Queen Mary. Recipient of the Golden Padlock Award [Frontier].

Oklahoma’s budget crisis forces closure of five county health agencies: Five county health department locations across Oklahoma will close July 1, a result of Oklahoma’s state budget crisis and its impact on agencies. Deborah Nichols, chief operating officer at the state Health Department, said at Tuesday’s board meeting that employees who work at those five locations will work at other health department locations in the same county [NewsOK].

Tulsa Community College to lay off 30: Tulsa Community College is eliminating 15 full-time and 15 part-time staff positions because of state funding cuts, officials said Tuesday. The forced reductions, which are in addition to 184 pared through attrition over the past two years, were announced in an email to faculty and staff from President Leigh Goodson. “State budget failures this year and further reductions expected for next year will reduce TCC’s state funding by a possible $7 million compared to the budget we started FY16 with in July,” Goodson said in her email [Tulsa World].

Schools, Communities Don’t Always Agree on Where to Cut Spending: Support for a four-day week is strong in the eastern Oklahoma community of Oologah. In a survey conducted by Oologah-Talala Public Schools, more than 80 percent of parents, students and other stakeholders ranked a condensed school week as an acceptable way for the district to reduce spending. Superintendent Max Tanner disagrees [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma City Public Schools to unveil plan to cut $10 million: While on KOCO 5 News at 9, Oklahoma City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Aurora Lora said the district is going to unveil a plan to cut $10 million. Oklahoma City Public Schools already has cut $13.1 million, ranging from teacher positions and administrative programs, and the district is going to cut a total of $30 million. The $10 million cut will be announced Tuesday afternoon, and the $7 million cut will be announced at a later date [KOCO].

Dallas lures ‘top, top, top’ teachers from Oklahoma: As teachers plead for better pay, and budget woes plague schools from border to border, recruiters from one of the largest districts in Texas are swooping in and offering Oklahoma educators some salvation. Dallas schools promise teachers more money in their first year on the job than they could hope to make with 25 years of classroom experience in Oklahoma. Meredyth Hudson, executive director for human capital management for Dallas Independent School District, said pay and benefits are key to recruiting and keeping teachers. Her district offers novice teachers a starting salary of $50,000. Experienced teachers make $57,000 a year [Enid News].

Mike Cantrell Says End Energy Tax Credits: Energy industry expert Mike Cantrell, a leader in the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Energy Resources Board for years and named Oilman Of The Year in 2005, is out with a Facebook post that is certain to raise eyebrows: “For 40 years I’ve been a vocal advocate for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry. As the state’s largest industry I have always thought that what’s good for oil and gas is good for Oklahoma. Today I depart from that belief” [McCarville Report]. Even amid the energy bust, Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks exceed $400 million per year [OK Policy].

Chaparral Energy files for bankruptcy protection: Independent producer Chaparral Energy and 10 related companies on Monday filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the latest leveraged energy company to be gut-kicked by low commodity prices. The Chapter 11 filing will allow the restructuring of the company’s balance sheet, as it continues negotiated a debt-to-equity exchange with its bondholders and lenders, looking to eliminate $1.2 billion in debt [Kallanish Energy].

Quote of the Day

“I’m not qualified to make a judgement about the efficiency of our state’s spending nor if more cuts are appropriate, but I am embarrassed by the fast growing number of our state’s finest public school teachers that have to take a 2nd or even a third job to make ends meet. . . . In this tumultuous time, the state’s oil and gas industry should ‘step up’ and lead the way in surrendering all tax credits.”

-Mike Cantrell, a leader in the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the 2005 Oilman of the Year, urging oil and gas companies to give up their tax credits to ease the state’s budget crisis (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of new patents filed in Oklahoma in 2013

Source: OKStateStat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How attacks on government have made us less prosperous and more unequal: The decades-long, and intensifying war on government—which has coincided with slow economic growth, increasing inequality, and stagnant wages for too many Americans—has also gone hand in hand with the weakening of the “mixed economy,” argue Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their new book. Ever since Ronald Reagan declared that “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem” and the rise of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” in the 1980s, some politicians and economists have argued that “big government” hinders the innovative and productive powers of the free market, diminishing economic growth. Thus, the ideological rise of “market fundamentalism” has been politically aided and abetted by right-wing attacks on “big government” and its supposedly excessive intervention in the economy through regulations and spending on investments in public goods and safety-net programs [Oxfam America].

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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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