The Weekly Wonk: Addressing the mental health crisis; Oklahoma’s budget outlook; a needed boost for working families; & 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 from OK Policy

This week, Mental Health Policy Analyst Lauren Turner explained why accepting federal funds for Medicaid expansion is the most practical way to address Oklahoma’s mental health crisis, which has been exacerbated by lack of mental health care funding. Executive Director David Blatt’s state budget analysis found that although next year’s budget looks promising, Oklahoma remains a long way from full recovery and economic forecasts could throw the optimistic projections into doubt.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt presented an opportunity to boost working families and provide a critical hand up for parents: restore the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update urged legislators to find better, more permanent solutions to our severe prison overcrowding and high incarceration rate.

OK Policy in the News

The American Prospect quoted Blatt in a story on the potential for progressive reforms in states following the 2018 elections. The Tulsa World spoke to Open Justice Oklahoma Director Ryan Gentzler about Oklahoma’s heavy reliance on fines and fees to fund the court system and a new effort to change it.

Upcoming Opportunities

Last week to submit comments on SoonerCare proposal: Oklahoma has submitted a plan to the federal government that will take away health care coverage from low-income parents who are unable to meet work and reporting requirements. Public comments can shape policy, and this Friday, January 18th is the last day to tell DC they should reject this harmful proposal. Visit to learn more and take action today!

There are still tickets available for our 2019 State Budget Summit: We are thrilled to welcome one of the nation’s most highly respected and honored social scientists, William Julius Wilson, as our keynote speaker. The program will also include an overview budget presentation by our Executive Director David Blatt, a panel discussion on the budget with state leaders, and a panel on how current budget priorities align with the needs of Oklahoma’s children. Visit our event page for more information and to purchase your ticket today. 

Weekly What’s That

Revenue Estimates/Revenue Certification, What’s That?

Oklahoma makes official revenue estimates that determine how much the Legislature is allowed to appropriate in its annual budget for state agencies. The Legislature is limited to appropriating no more than 95 percent of certified collections. Revenue estimates are certified three times each year

Revenue estimates for Oklahoma’s major taxes are prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission based on a model developed by an economist at Oklahoma State University. Other taxes and fees are estimated by other means.

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

Quote of the Week

“State policy has knowingly created an underclass of people — mostly employed in low-wage jobs — who can’t afford to get sick. They don’t earn enough for ‘Obamacare’ subsidies and they don’t qualify for Medicaid, which Oklahoma essentially reserves for children, pregnant women, the aged and the disabled. Thus, more than a third of your neighbors had to make the wrong medical choice last year because they just couldn’t afford to do anything else.”

-Tulsa World Editorial Editor Wayne Green, writing about how Oklahoma’s policy of denying coverage to the poor magnifies eventual health crises and costs [Source: Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

For teachers, new year’s resolutions should involve keeping the Legislature resolute in support of education

As we look to this new year, and we make personal resolutions — I challenge you to make one to remain engaged and support our legislators on issues important to us. For me, I want to continue to share my voice as an educator in the state and keep an eye on bills related to education. The voice of people of Oklahoma is not about two weeks pacing in front of the Capitol with signs, but sustained engagement with our elected officials. [Theresa Cullen / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • -0.2% – Oklahoma’s change in inflation-adjusted expenditures per student from FY2014 to FY2016. Oklahoma was one of only four states to decrease education expenditures during this time period.
  • 6.6% – Increase in the number of Oklahomans getting coverage through from 2018 to 2019, the largest increase in the U.S.
  • 9.7 – Rate of Oklahoma children (per thousand) 17 and younger who were in foster care on the last day of FY 2017. The national average was 5.8.
  • $55,496 – Average annual pay for manufacturing jobs in Oklahoma, 2017
  • 74% – Percent of eligible Oklahoma four-year olds enrolled in the state’s universal pre-kindergarten program.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • The geography of opportunity. [Politico]. 
  • ‘Going to office hours is terrifying’ and other tales of rural students in college. [NPR]
  • Just as schools were becoming safer, Trump ‘safety’ commission likely to halt progress. [Linda Darling-Hammond and Christopher Edley / The Hill]
  • Getting past the barriers: When a mother is in prison. [New York Times]
  • Despite Obamacare uncertainty after ruling, Medicaid Expansion likely to proceed. [Governing]


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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