The Weekly Wonk: 2020 focus areas, Medicaid expansion, COLA, and more

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Open Justice Oklahoma Intern Thomas Gao.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy has determined its focus areas for Oklahoma’s upcoming Legislative session based on the organization’s original research, analysis, and feedback from state residents. “Built on its non-partisan policy research and analysis, OK Policy is uniquely positioned to lift and elevate state policies that can allow all Oklahomans to thrive,” said OK Policy Board Chair Don Millican. “This is especially true for policy areas where underserved Oklahoman might lack a political voice to ensure that elected officials and policy makers hear about their needs.” 

During comments in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Gov. Stitt laid out the tenets for his health care plan to counter Medicaid expansion efforts. The plan includes elements that will inevitably draw lawsuits from health care organizations and advocates who fight to protect the rights and coverage of low-income residents. We released a statement outlining some of the most troubling elements of the plan.

Retired Oklahoma state and local public servants have now gone 10 years without a cost of living adjustment, while inflation has eaten away at their income. It’s past time to repay our debt to them, and the Oklahoma legislature should start by providing a long-overdue cost of living adjustment (COLA). In her weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director advocated for supporting our retired state employees by providing a COLA.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update examined Senate Bill 1367, which addresses school suspensions and alternative practices

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Carly Putnam spoke to Public Radio Tulsa about how the Governor’s Medicaid proposal would limit access to care for low-income Oklahomans. The Tulsa World Editorial Board cited OK Policy data on the impact on low-income families of cutting the state Earned Income Tax Credit in 2016.

Upcoming Opportunities

Lawton, State of the State Watch Party: Gov. Stitt is delivering his State of the State address next Monday. Can’t make it to the Capitol to watch? Join us in Lawton for a watch party. Lunch will be provided. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

McAlester, Building Power: Advocates from the Together Oklahoma McAlester chapter will discuss ways in which communities can build power. The event will be held 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at All Saints Episcopal Church. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Support Working Oklahomans: A Community Conversation. Together Oklahoma and OK Policy will host two community discussions about state policies that can benefit working Oklahomans. 

Weekly What’s That

Earned Income Tax Credit, what’s that?

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that subsidizes work for low-income families. The EITC is the nation’s largest cash or near cash assistance program after the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2017, the EITC lifted about 5.7 million people out of poverty, including about 3 million children, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Click here to read more about the EITC.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“(A) direct expansion has gone through the court process, while the governor’s plan has not. Oklahomans are tired of waiting on their government to do what is right. A straight expansion of Medicaid is the easiest way to increase access to health care in the state, and it has been proven to work in other states.”

– House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC, in a joint statement about Gov. Stitt’s proposed health care plan [NonDoc].

Editorial of the Week

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid 2.0 proposal is less than Oklahomans deserve and less than we’re paying for

Stitt’s program backs mean-spirited policies that seem to be designed to prevent people from getting medical care that they need, deserve and could get in other states. That includes work requirements, premiums and other out-of-pocket charges, bureaucratic reporting requirements and substandard care.

That’s a combination of failed ideas that have been shot down by courts, have no basis in law and are based on a moral judgment on people based solely on their poverty.

In short, the Stitt plan sets the stage for years of litigation that will only further delay health care for needy Oklahomans. There is no legitimate reason why Oklahoma shouldn’t accept Medicaid expansion as described in the Affordable Care Act, the way it is available to the vast majority of Americans.
[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • -18.6% – Percent decrease in state funding for Oklahoma higher education during the past five years. Nationally, state higher education funding increased by 18.8 percent during the same time period.
  • $121 – Average annual loss for Earned Income Tax Credit recipients in Oklahoma since the credit was made non-refundable in 2016
  • $28 million – Total amount lost by low and middle income families since Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was made nonrefundable in 2016.
  • 228,676 – Number of low-income, working Oklahomans who lost some or all of a tax cut when the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was made non-refundable in 2016.
  • $264 – Amount lost by a family of two adults and two children when the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was made nonrefundable in 2016.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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