The Weekly Wonk: Paths to a healthier Oklahoma; life without taxes; & 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

Substance use disorders are a public health crisis in Oklahoma: between 2003 and 2018, drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma increased by 91 percent. Mental Health Policy Analyst Lauren Turner showed us why expanding access to health care is the most effective and viable solution to address this crisis. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update noted that word is beginning to circulate around the Capitol about a possible expansion of Medicaid services in Oklahoma. Take Action: Tell your legislators to support health coverage expansion here

In 2017, almost one in six Oklahomans and one in five children experienced poverty. OK Policy intern Daniel Huff explained that one way to help Oklahomans meet their basic needs and stay healthy is by restoring an effective and bipartisan anti-poverty measure –the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Take Action: Tell your legislators the restore the state EITC this session.

In recent years, as Oklahoma struggled through chronic and severe budget shortfalls, there was growing awareness that the state faced a structural budget deficit. Executive Director David Blatt summarized a new research brief prepared by Dr. Kent Olson which found that recent revenue measures will reduce the state’s budget shortfalls over the next decade, but a significant and growing funding gap remains. Blatt’s weekly Journal Record column also summarized this new research.

In honor of Tax Day, we re-published a post by Paul Shinn, which originally ran on OK Policy’s blog in 2009, on what life would be like without taxes

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Carly Putnam and Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator Sabine Brown appeared on the Let’s Pod This podcast to discuss the Campaign to Expand Coverage. Blatt spoke with NonDoc and Putnam spoke with NewsOK for stories on the filing of a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. OK Policy was mentioned in another NewsOK story also about the new ballot initiative. KSWO covered Together Oklahoma’s health care forum in Lawton.

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Director Joe Dorman cited OK Policy data in an editorial supporting the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Upcoming Opportunities

Rally for Coverage at the Capitol: Join us at the Capitol on April 24th to tell legislators: It’s time to expand health coverage in Oklahoma! You can RSVP and sign up for a ride to OKC here and view the Facebook event here. You can learn more and send a letter to your legislators at

Hustle for Health Care in Lawton and Ardmore: Join Together Oklahoma advocates in Lawton and Ardmore for a phone banking and texting event to push for health care expansion in Oklahoma. The events will take place on April 22 in Lawton and Ardmore. You can find more details on Together Oklahoma’s Facebook page.

Today is the deadline to apply for our Summer Internships: OK Policy is now accepting applications for paid, part-time or full-time internships in our Tulsa office during the Summer 2019 semester! Interns in our office are paid $11 per hour, and we are happy to cooperate with your institution’s requirements for academic credit. The deadline to apply is Sunday, April 21st.

Last week to apply for our Executive Director position: OK Policy is looking for a leader who can build on the organization’s excellent reputation, cement its role as an integral part of Oklahoma’s nonprofit policy structure, and build the infrastructure to support the organization’s recent growth. The deadline to apply is 5:00 pm on April 26, 2019.

2019 Summer Policy Institute: The Institute is open to any undergraduate or graduate student at an Oklahoma college or university, or graduate from an Oklahoma high school, who has completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit or graduated December 2018 or later. The application deadline is May 27th, 2019.

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid expansion, what’s that?

One of the primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act gives states the options to expand their Medicaid eligibility to include people below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,735 per year for one person or $34,638 for a family of four). The costs of expansion were paid for in full by the federal government through 2016, before dropping down (and freezing at) 90 percent in 2020, well above the typical federal match. Click here to read more about Medicaid expansion.

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

Chart of the Week

Quote of the Week

“The state of Kansas is incarcerating at the rate of 590 per 100,000 population, slightly below the national average. In 2016, Kansas had an average household income that was $5,750 a year higher than Oklahoma’s. The state spent $3,300 per student more on its public schools. The violent crime rate was 12 percent lower. Mass incarceration doesn’t make us safer. Just poorer.”

Tulsa World Editorial Editor Wayne Greene

Editorial of the Week

If Oklahoma could get its incarceration rate down to the national average, we’d have $100 million a year do things other than mass incarceration

What if Oklahoma were normal? Right now, the state has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Higher than Louisiana, Mississippi, Iran, Cuba or China. We’re No. 1. Whee! What if that weren’t the case? What if we were just average? [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 2,367 – Projected increase in the number of Oklahoma prison inmates by 2026 under current policies
  • 84 – Number of reported flu deaths in Oklahoma since Sept. 1, 2018
  • 4.1 Million – Number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in Oklahoma in 2017, which equates to 106.7 opioid prescriptions per 100 people
  • 91% – Increase in drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma from 2003-2018
  • 17.2% – Percentage of Oklahoma households that reported falling behind on bills in the last 12 months, compared to 13.2% of households nationally.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Rural America faces a housing cost crunch. [Stateline]
  • Housing vouchers can save people from homelessness. But landlords may not accept them. [LA Times]
  • Special Report: What happens when a state expands Medicaid? [North Carolina Health News]
  • The Filer Voter experiment: How effective is voter registration at tax time? [Brookings]
  • Medicaid expansion boosted cancer screenings, study says. [Associated Press]


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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