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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

Weekly What’s That

Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET)

TSET is an endowment trust established with payments from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between 46 states and the tobacco industry.

In November 2000, with passage of State Question 692, Oklahoma became the first and only state to direct its tobacco settlement payments into a constitutionally-protected trust fund. Under the measure, 75 percent of Oklahoma’s annual payment is now deposited in the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), with the remainder divided between legislative appropriations (18.75 percent) and the Attorney General Office’s Evidence Fund (6.25 percent). To ensure that the Trust grows over time and provides an ongoing and sustainable funding stream, TSET is allowed to spend only certified investment earnings. 

TSET is governed by two boards: a five-member Board of Investment that oversees the investment of funds to the Trust and a seven-member Board of Directors that allocates the endowment’s earnings to programs that promote health and well-being under one of five categories of allowable expenditures. A total of $65.2 million was allocated in FY 2019, an all-time high.

The size of the tobacco companies’ annual payment to Oklahoma fluctuates; the average payment since 2000 has been $77 million, but it has ranged from $65 million to $110 million. Since 2008, an average of $61 million has been allocated annually to the Endowment, which has grown to $1.3 billion as of June 30, 2019.

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

Quote of the Week

“It threatens that our counts are going to be inaccurate and incomplete and most affecting our most disadvantaged populations.”

– Melanie Poulter, director of the Census Information Center of Eastern Oklahoma, on the impact of a new deadline which cuts short the 2020 Census timeline. The deadline to self-respond to the 2020 Census is now September 30, 2020.

[Source: Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Fill out census to count all Oklahomans

Census workers are busy going door to door and making calls to count an estimated 60 million missing Americans.

Oklahoma has the nation’s lowest response rate, with only 57.8% returning the survey. Eleven counties have less than 40% counted.

An undercount could lead to the state having fewer U.S. House representatives and losing its fair share of federal funding for hospitals, schools, highways and social service programs such as senior centers and child care.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 31% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults who missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or who have slight or no confidence that their household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.
  • 130,000 – Estimated Oklahoma adults and children missed by automatic payments who participate in SNAP and/or Medicaid.
  • $11.32 – Inflation adjusted value of the minimum wage in 1968. The current minimum wage in Oklahoma is $7.25.
  • 13% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the last 7 days.
  • 32.5% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults who expect someone in their household to have a loss in employment income in the next four weeks.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Why hunger can grow even when poverty doesn’t [New York Times]
  • The coronavirus economy is exposing how easy it is to fall from the middle class into poverty [Washington Post]
  • Black, Latino and poor people are less likely to get $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks, new report says [USA Today]
  • Now is still a good time to raise the minimum wage [Economic Policy Institute
  • Hiring outlook remains dim, with ‘scarring in the economy’ [New York Times]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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