In The Know: Treasurer says Oklahoma budget hole assured

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

Reminder: The Fall Policy Boot Camps are next week! Join us at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14, and Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15 to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state! To learn more and purchase tickets, click here. Space is limited and registration closes October 11. 

Treasurer says Oklahoma budget hole assured: There is no question that Oklahoma will have a big budget hole next year, the only question is how big, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday. The fact that the current budget was put together using one-time revenue, or money that may not be available next year, means that a shortfall is assured, he said in a Capitol news conference. But Miller also said there could be some positive financial news on the horizon [NewsOK]. Reliance on one-time funding ensures that Oklahoma will remain mired in a deep budget hole going into FY 2018, even if energy prices recover over the coming year [OK Policy]. 

Oklahoma revenue falls in September for 19th straight month: Oklahoma’s treasurer says state revenue fell again last month, continuing a 19-month decline in the broad measure of the state’s economic activity. Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday receipts to the state treasury in September dropped almost 10 percent compared to the same month last year. September collections were $939 million. The last time September collections were lower was in 2010, when Oklahoma was only a few months past the revenue decline caused by the Great Recession [NewsOK].

OU President Boren Pushes SQ 779 In Tulsa Metro: OU President David Boren brings his campaign for an education sales tax to Green Country. In an exclusive interview with KWGS and RSU TV, Boren compared Oklahoma’s education funding to that of a developing country. The measure would increase the state sales by one-cent on the dollar. Part of the money would go to teacher pay raises [KGOU]. OK Policy’s statement on the topic is here. To learn more about SQ 779, see our fact sheet here. Information about the other state questions can be found here.

Groups Opposing State Question On Agriculture Form Unusual Alliance Over Water: State Question 777 — also known as ‘right-to-farm’ — would give agricultural producers in Oklahoma the constitutional right to raise livestock and grow crops without interference from future regulations by the state Legislature, without a compelling state interest. Opposition to the state question comes from multiple sources, but a diverse coalition urging a ‘no’ vote is united by a shared concern: water [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Our fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here

SQ 780 and SQ 781 represent a smarter approach to criminal justice reform: I spent eight years as a trial judge handling felony cases in Tulsa County. During that time, I presided over 152 jury trials and sentenced thousands of defendants to prison or probation. I’ve seen my fair share of our justice system at work, and I’ve seen my fair share of our justice system not work. In the forefront of my mind at all times was public safety. A fair and even-handed application of the law was the bedrock of my work on the bench [William C. Kellough / Tulsa World]. Our fact sheet on SQs 780 and 781 is available here.

Q&A on State Question 792, the Alcohol Measure: Voters will decide in November whether to make some of the most significant changes to Oklahoma’s alcohol laws in decades. State Question 792 would eliminate restrictions on who can sell wine and strong beer. The proposal has drawn fervent supporters and opponents who have debated how it would affect businesses, state regulations and efforts to curb alcohol abuse. But the ballot measure and Senate Bill 383, a 200-page companion bill that sets many of the specific rules, has also led to confusion about what exactly the changes would mean [Oklahoma Watch].  Our fact sheet on SQ 792 is available here.

Individual with disabilities are the largest minority group, but get the least attention: Nearly one in every five Americans have a disability, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. This means that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the nation. Disability doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time in life. A happiness study by Sonja Lyubomirsky for the book “The How of Happiness” determined that 50 percent of an individual’s happiness is genetic, 10 percent is circumstance and 40 percent intentional acts. The challenge for those with disabilities is, they don’t have access to many activities or resources that make up their circumstance and allow them to partake in intentional acts [Lori Long / Tulsa World].

Early morning rally staged at OKC district school: Dozens of U.S. Grant High School students, some holding signs that read “Our Education Matters” and “Help Our Schools,” turned out early Thursday morning for a rally to support public education and Oklahoma City Public Schools. The rally, which began as the sun was coming up outside the school at 5016 S Pennsylvania Ave., was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers [NewsOK]. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Most Oklahomans who drop out of school do so for two surprising reasons: A survey of Oklahomans who dropped out of high school or postsecondary programs found most did not complete their studies because of bullying at school or a family emergency of some kind. Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma secretary of education and workforce development, revealed some key findings from the study Thursday at the Oklahoma Works State Summit at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The survey findings are important, Shirley said, because the state needs more people to finish postsecondary degrees to fill job demand in the state and increase wages [NewsOK].

Oklahoma in Line for School Breakfast Funding: Oklahoma is one of 10 states targeted for an initiative to feed more students breakfast. Breakfast In the Classroom has a $7.5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to work with districts and schools. Spokesman Scott DiMauro said they’ll get funding to buy equipment needed to serve breakfast in classrooms rather than cafeterias. “By getting this investment in their equipment, [schools] are able to leverage federal resources to make sure that more of their students are being fed,” DiMauro said [KWGS]. More than 240,000 Oklahoma children were food-insecure in 2013 [OK Policy]. 

For First Time, Virtual Charter School Board Votes to Close a School: For the first time in its four-year history, the state board that oversees virtual charter schools has decided to shut down one of the schools, citing a pattern of violations. The Statewide Virtual Charter Board voted Thursday to end its contract with ABLE Charter School, the newest and smallest of the state’s five virtual schools. The school, which has an enrollment of 61 students across the state, had come under fire for being out of compliance with several state laws and rules [Oklahoma Watch].

House Committee Discusses For-Profit Colleges, Sexual Assault During Interim Studies: Lawmakers discussed Oklahoma’s for-profit colleges and sexual assaults on college campuses during a pair of interim studies Wednesday in the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee. State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, requested the study, and Education Secretary Natalie Shirley agreed with his assessment that private vocational schools play an important role in Oklahoma’s education system [KGOU].

We The (Incarcerated) People (Neglected Oklahoma): I’m not unusual. Not at all. I am one of more than 26,000 human beings incarcerated by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC). About 3,000 of us are women — who are imprisoned here at a rate higher than anywhere else in the world — and some of us are children who were tried and sentenced as adults. Some of us are guilty of serious crimes. Some of us are guilty of lesser offenses that would not lead to incarceration in other states. Some of us are innocent. All of us are your fellow citizens, members of your community — maybe members of your family [OK Policy].  Check out the rest of our Neglected Oklahoma series here.


Feds take issue with Oklahoma’s handling of disaster funds: A federal audit takes issue with the way Oklahoma handled millions of dollars in disaster relief funds. The audit by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was performed because the state received $93.7 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery allocations for presidentially declared disasters in 2011, 2012, and 2013. “The State did not obligate and spend CDBG-DR funds in accordance with requirements,” the Sept. 30 audit stated [NewsOK].

Health officials: More than 50 cases of mumps confirmed in northwest Oklahoma: Oklahoma health officials are investigating an outbreak of mumps after more than 50 cases were confirmed in the state. Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health said there are 56 cases of mumps confirmed in the state, with 54 in Garfield County and two in Kay County. So far, there have been no hospitalizations related to the cases [KFOR].

First Person: Why my education nonprofit is bucking the coastal trend and setting up shop in Oklahoma: “Oklahoma?! Why are you expanding to Oklahoma?!” The response when I told some people that Generation Citizen, the nonprofit I run, was expanding to central Texas and Oklahoma, quickly became predictable. They could understand Texas, probably because our headquarters will be in the blue-dot-in-sea-of-red Austin. But Oklahoma? [Chalkbeat]

How Determination And Technology Are Fostering The Chickasaw Language’s Rebirth: With only 30 or so remaining native Chickasaw speakers — those who learned Chickasaw as a first language — the language has been considered critically endangered. That didn’t sit well with Joshua Hinson when his son was born in 2000. Realizing that his son would be the sixth generation of Chickasaw children to grow up speaking English, he decided to take matters into his own hands [WBUR].

Quote of the Day

“The same teachers who have given us doctors, lawyers, scientists, police officers and firemen and many more careers are the same teachers our state is cutting from our schools.”

– Alanis Navarette, senior and student council president at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, which held a rally for education early Thursday morning (Source)

Number of the Day

8 in 10 

Oklahoma LGBTQ+ public school students who reported experiencing verbal harassment in 2013

Source: GLSEN

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It’s Easy for Obamacare Critics to Overlook the Merits of Medicaid Expansion: Three years into Obamacare and it seems as if much of the news is bad: private insurers exiting the exchanges, networks being narrowed, premiums rising and competition dwindling out of existence. But it’s important to remember that many, if not most, of the newly covered Americans became insured through an expansion of Medicaid. Here, too, you hear a lot of bad news: that Medicaid offers poor quality and little choice of providers, that it is expensive for states to administer and that its growing cost will eventually bankrupt states. As of today, 19 states have still refused to participate in the expansion. Such declarations consider only one side of the equation, though. In most ways, Medicaid offers an excellent return on investment [The New York Times]. 

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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: Treasurer says Oklahoma budget hole assured

  1. The article below on Indiana’s experience with promising “saved” funds from lower incarceration for public safety alternatives provides a cautionary tale for all the OK sentencing reformers like the good judge above who risk overselling and thus damaging criminal justice reform in the state.

    “An individual” in OK’s prisons doesn’t cost the state $15,000 a year, more like a tenth of that maybe. The difference, as the article describes, comes from the “marginal costs” of inmates rather than taking the total budget and dividing it by number of inmates. If a prison is up and running, adding one more inmate will only be the cost of clothes, food, etc., not the costs of maintaining the institution. The same applies in reverse if that inmate is diverted or never sentenced with a felony. And, as IN is showing now, as that lesson comes home and the promises of “savings” don’t materialize, at least not in the magnitude discussed, the whole enterprise of crim just reform now and for the immediate future becomes suspect.

    You have to close down prisons, or at least functional wings of them, and then you have to not move the staff to other units or prisons in order to achieve real savings to be reinvested. NY has seen significant cost reductions and prison closings but still has a growing, not declining, prison budget. Although not to the same extent, so has the Holy Grail, TX, which is always lauded as an example of success.

    On top of that, you have the never, ever deliberated problem of the aging of the inmate population, the growth of the overall percentage of inmates 50 and over who cost 2, 3, 5, 8 times the usual cost due to medical and other impacts. If they aren’t among the ones diverted or released to a high enough degree, you have to reduce your prison population 2, 3, 5, 8 inmates for every new aging inmate who comes in or ages into those categories while serving their sentences.

    Further, no calculations by the reform consultants ever consider the problem discussed at the top of this link list, that of the overall state budget and the likelihood that “saved” dollars will be there at all or, if there, saved for corrections, no matter what the promises. The JRI effort said that a projected increase in OK prison pop without the JRI reforms would cause the state to spend an amount of money over the next 10 years that the state hadn’t spent the previous 10 years on a larger ACTUAL prison population increase and better future state revenue probabilities. In fairness, it’s hard to justify your use as consultants if you start pointing these things out.

    This is why so many experienced if not paid observers favor the initiatives but see so little actual impact for them. They will likely be better than nothing, especially the law changes that take some initiative from DAs away until they figure out how to game them, but also much less than promised, with the risks inherent if the reformers don’t prepare themselves to address the shortfalls well. Again, the great thing about the initiatives is that they take the reform proposals from the “stake holders” threatening any reforms with “stakes” that threaten their status quo. Future efforts with any hope of real impact will have to go that route. Which makes it doubly important not to qualify what is said about what will likely happen as the reforms play out if approved.

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