The Weekly Wonk: State budget still recovering; 10 years for misdemeanor; back to school with Rob Miller…

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, Executive Director David Blatt examined Oklahoma’s budget and concluded that although the state’s fiscal situation has improved greatly, there is still a long ways to go to recover from a decade of deep budget cuts. In his weekly Journal Record Column, Blatt wrote about the importance of commuting sentences for individuals who are serving long prison sentences — in some cases 20 or 30 years — for crimes that are now charged as misdemeanors. 

In episode 36 of the OKPolicyCast, Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry spoke with Superintendent of Bixby Public Schools and vocal advocate in the movement for better education funding, Rob Miller, about going back to school after the walkout in April. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update assessed why campaigns choose to go negative, especially in the final days before an election. 

OK Policy in the News

Perry was quoted in a piece by Governing on states where voters will cast votes on ballot measures regarding school funding this November.  

Upcoming Opportunities

Runoff Elections: The runoff primaries are this Tuesday, August 28th. Polls will be open from 7 AM to 7 PM. If you’re new to voting, check out TogetherOK’s video on Voting FAQs. For a full list of voting dates and other important voting information, visit our 2018 Oklahoma Elections and State Questions page. 

Public Comments Requested on Medicaid Proposal: The Oklahoma Medicaid agency is developing a proposal that could potentially take SoonerCare coverage away from low-income parents who are unable to work enough hours. The deadline to submit a public comment on OHCA’s Medicaid proposal is September 3rd. You can use this question survey to create and send your public comment today.

10th Anniversary Gala: There are less than two weeks left to purchase your ticket for our 10th Anniversary Gala. We hope you will join us on Thursday, September 13th to honor former Speaker of the House Kris Steele and former state Superintendent Sandy Garrett with our Good Sense/Good Cents award. We will also welcome The New Yorker magazine’s humorist and feature writer Ian Frazier as our keynote speaker. Individual tickets and sponsorships are available now. Get yours before Friday, September 7. To read more about this event, check out our funded content in NonDoc.

Weekly What’s That

Coverage Crater, What’s That?

This term refers to people in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid who earn too much for traditional Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidies on the online health insurance marketplaces.

When the ACA was originally drafted, it was with the intention that all states would expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) – $28,676 for per year for a family of three in 2018. Meanwhile, people between 138 and 400 percent FPL would have access to subsidies for purchasing health insurance on the online marketplaces, thus providing seamless coverage. However, in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states had a choice in whether or not to expand eligibility. As of May 2018, 18 states have chosen not to, leaving people who would have been covered by Medicaid expansion without access to health insurance, including some 140,000 in Oklahoma. This group constitutes the ‘coverage crater.’

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

Quote of the Week

“We are the safety net for the state. It would be ideal if funding were available so we could see people before they get sick. Our mental health system says, ‘No, let’s wait until you’re as sick as you can be.’ That’s backwards.”

-Joy Sloan, the CEO of Green Country Behavioral Health Services, which she said due to years of state budget cuts has had to turn patients away until they’re facing a full mental health crisis [The Frontier]

Editorial of the Week

Haley Stevens and Michael Huggins: Oklahoma’s record reporting system needs repairs

Fallin and the Legislature have made strong efforts to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, but their efforts do not go far enough. Due to opposition and critical changes made by Oklahoma prosecutors, the impact of recent bills designed to reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration rate will be minimal. Additionally, Oklahoma has yet to adequately address the need for treatment of substance abuse, mental health problems, and the excessive fees and fines assigned to individuals trapped in the criminal justice system.

The system continues to be one that is inherently difficult for low-income Oklahomans to navigate due in part to its lack of transparency and reporting measures. Oklahomans deserve better. [NewsOK]

Numbers of the Day

  • 20.1% – Share of rentals in the Oklahoma City metro area that were affordable to black households (costing less than 30% of their income), compared to 84.1% of rentals that were affordable to white households.
  • 53.3% – Percentage of all Oklahoma businesses with paid employees that did not have a website (2016).
  • 15,116 – Estimated number of African Americans in Oklahoma who couldn’t vote in 2016 due to felony convictions. This is approximately 7% of the voting age African American population in the state.
  • 11.7% – Growth in mining and logging jobs (including oil & gas industry) in Oklahoma from July 2017 to July 2018, the highest increase of any sector.
  • $993 – Median rent in Tulsa in June 2018, a 4% decrease from the previous year.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Are innocent people pleading guilty? A new report says yes. [Forbes]
  • For many college students, hunger ‘makes it hard to focus.’ [NPR]
  • Shopping for health care simply doesn’t work. So what might? [New York Times]
  • It’s hard to manage your credit when you’ve never heard of ‘interest.’ [Stateline]
  • The relationship between work and health: Findings from a literature review. [Kaiser Family Foundation]


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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