The Weekly Wonk – March 11, 2011

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute?  The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

Once again, property tax cuts are on the table this legislative session.  OK Policy took a close look at property taxes this week, suggesting in a blog post that a better approach to get help to people who need it without forfeiting investments in public infrastructure would be to increase the homestead exemption, which currently reduces by $1,000 the assessed value of a taxpayer’s actual residence.  For a summary of the major elements of Oklahoma property taxes, which Oklahomans pay less of than almost any other state, download the fact sheet released on our website this week.  You can also listen to our Director David Blatt breakdown the legislative proposals in a segment on KWGS Public Radio Tulsa.

Oklahoma was one of only six states selected to receive a $54 million dollar health care ‘early innovator’ grant from the federal government.  The state is now poised to build the best health care technology in the country, including developing the state’s online insurance exchange, one of the primary requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  Find out why Oklahoma was selected for this grant and how they plan to spend it by reading Monday’s post, Oklahoma Named Early Innovator.

You won’t want to miss the next lecture in the OKDHS Practice & Policy series, ‘The Economics of Oklahoma’s Single Parents.’  Dr. Larkin Warner and Dr. Jean Warner will address the economics of single motherhood, key factors that contribute to poverty, and initiatives to improve the financial futures of single-parent families.  Check out our blog post about the event for detailed information about the lecture, and for more on the state’s efforts to strengthen families see our recent policy roundtable: Should the state of Oklahoma be promoting marriage?

While direct spending receives a lion’s share of the attention when we discuss government budgets, less noticed is the substantial expenditure on the tax credits and incentives the state offers business as an economic development tool.  Yesterday’s blog post suggests that we go beyond asking whether or not tax credits create jobs, and ask instead if they improve the state more than would investing that money in public goods like education or transportation.  Guest blogger Joey Senat, Associate Professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University, wrote today about the need for more vigorous enforcement of open government laws.  FOI Oklahoma, an organization for freedom of information, hosts its annual Sunshine Week Conference tomorrow in Oklahoma City, click here for program information.

Finally, click here to sign-up to attend a 60-minute webinar on savings hosted by Oklahoma Assets titled, ‘Taking it to the Bank: Promoting Savings in Oklahoma’ on Thursday, March 24th from 2:00 – 3:00pm.  The webinar will focus on common barriers to savings and ways to overcome these barriers, a topic we recently blogged about here.  Speakers include: OK Policy’s David Blatt; Steve Shepelwich, Community Development Officer of the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Kristi Coker, Executive Director of the Citizen Pottawatomie Nation Community Development Corporation; and Don Baylor, Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.

Numbers of the Week

  • 6 – Prisons run by for-profit corporations in Oklahoma.
  • 1,657 – Manufacturing jobs added to the Oklahoma economy in 2010.
  • $27,460 – Average salary for a private sector mental health and substance abuse worker in Oklahoma in 2009.
  • 120,167 – Borrowers with outstanding loans to a payday lending service in Oklahoma in June 2010.
  • 53 percent – Percentage of domestic violence homicides that were committed using a firearm in Oklahoma between 1998-2008.

Click here for source citations and archived numbers of the day.

In the Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blog posts.  You can sign up here to receive In the Know in your inbox each weekday morning and the Weekly Wonk each Friday afternoon.


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