Weekly Wonk: Poverty is a policy choice | Public budget discussions offer insight into state budget process | Keep an eye on future budget committee sessions

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

OK Policy Statement, Re: Budget Agreement Announced on May 22, 2024: Statement below from Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, about the budget agreement announced by legislative leaders on May 22, 2024: “ While we’re heartened that initial signs point to lawmakers protecting state revenue as a result of these negotiations, Oklahomans who want to continue following the process should keep an eye out on the upcoming meetings of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget (JCAB), the Senate, and the House to ensure public agreements match the final state budget this year.” [Shiloh Kantz / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Poverty is a policy choice: With nearly 1 in 6 adults — and 1 in 5 children — living in poverty, Oklahoma ranks among the nation’s poorest states. This is not because of bad luck or the character of our people. In many cases, our persistent poverty traces back to policy decisions from state leaders. And many times, our state leaders fail to act because more of us aren’t demanding they do so. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Public budget discussions are an opportunity to gain a better appreciation of the state budget process (Capitol Update): For those with interest and time to watch, the negotiations are an opportunity to gain a better appreciation of the state budget process and those who write the budget. If nothing else, the people watching have been treated, for the most part, to civil discussions by knowledgeable legislators doing the work they were elected to do to the best of their ability. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Weekly What’s That

Conference Committee

A conference committee is a joint committee whose function is to arrive at a single version of a bill which has passed the two legislative chambers in different forms. Bills are assigned to a conference committee if the chamber of origin rejects amendments made in the second chamber, or if the bill has a stricken title or enacting clause.

Appropriations bills and bills with fiscal impacts may be referred to the General Conference Committee on Appropriations (GCCA). Beginning in 2011, the House established additional permanent standing conference committees that hold public meetings and votes. Previously, few conference committees other than the GCCA actually met. On the Senate side, conference committee negotiations generally remain closed to the public.
Conference committees contain at least three members of both chambers assigned by House and Senate leadership. The House Speaker and House Speaker Pro Tempore serve as ex officio voting members of all conference committees. If a conference committee comes to an agreement, it will propose a Conference Committee Report (CCR). The report must gain a majority of signatures from members assigned to the committee from each chamber. CCRs are then submitted to a vote of the originating chamber and then to the second chamber.  Reports can be approved or rejected, but not amended. If the CCR is approved, the bill is then brought up for a vote on fourth and final reading. If a CCR is rejected, another conference may be requested with the same or different members appointed by the two chambers.

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

Quote of the Week

“When half of the Oklahoma races are not contested, candidates in those offices never have their positions or beliefs challenged. They remain beholden to parties and platforms rather than to the people they represent.”  

– Adam Kupetsky, writing in an op-ed about the advantages of open primaries for civic engagement in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Sen. Dave Rader: Oklahoma’s income tax cut decision not a simple one to make

Having studied Oklahoma taxation for the past 22 months, a recent call to cut taxes beyond the $400 million grocery tax cut already in the works led me to think back to March 2018. After months of legislative deadlock and a series of budget deficits, the Legislature reached the 75% threshold in both chambers to pass a tax increase — something that had never been done in state history.

Those who had to make that difficult vote, as opposed to those who weren’t in the Capitol then, have maintained that they never want to place a future Legislature in that same predicament.

It’s easy to advocate for a tax cut, but the hard work comes in deciding whether the timing is right and whether the state can afford it in the long term. Calls for tax cuts must be met with careful consideration and much deliberation because there are many factors to consider. [Sen. Dave Rader / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Week

  • 48% – Percentage of U.S. adults who say they prefer news websites or social media for getting local news and information. This increased by 11 points since 2018 polling on the same topic, while the second highest preferred news source — television — declined from 41% to 32%. Print newspapers and radio were each at 9% as the preferred news source. [Pew Research Center]
  • 59% – Percentage of Oklahoma children ages 3 to 4 not enrolled in school, including nursery school, preschool school or kindergarten, during the previous three months from 2018-2022. This marks an increase of two percentage points from 2010-2014. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 43rd – Oklahoma’s rank for teacher pay in 2022-23, down five spots from 38th in 2021-22. While teacher pay in Oklahoma increased by 1.3% during that period, it was the nation’s third lowest increase behind North Dakota and Colorado. [National Education Association]
  • 46% – Inflation has increased 46% since July 2009, the last time the federal minimum wage was raised to its current level of $7.25 per hour. Oklahoma’s state minimum wage is currently tied to the federal minimum wage. [OK Policy]
  • 39.2% – Percent of eligible voters in Oklahoma who cast ballots in the 2022 general election, which was the nation’s sixth lowest voter turnout rate for those elections. [Election Lab

What We’re Reading

  • Centering Native Perspectives and Wisdom: As the disparities in health and life expectancy between American Indian and Alaska Native peoples and other US populations continue to widen, it is critical for researchers and policymakers to examine the biases and limitations inherent in our Western data practices and health approaches, which often overlook and harm Native communities. [Urban Institute]
  • Federal Funding Streams for Child Care and Early Childhood Education: While many states have taken action to address child care needs, the federal government remains a key source of funding for child care and early education programs. Several longstanding federal programs support access to child care and early childhood education, which span multiple federal agencies and take a wide variety of approaches to supporting children and families. Many federal programs complement state efforts, but the patchwork nature of federal child care funding can make it difficult for states to understand the full range of funding sources. [National Conference of State Legislators]
  • Better Tax Codes Help Boost Teacher Pay: Do you want teachers to be paid well? Access to quality education is a core value in every state, and the educators providing that service deserve satisfactory wages. Supporting progressive taxes in your state could make that happen. It’s no surprise that these states with more progressive tax systems are succeeding in paying higher wages to educators. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • A tight labor market and state minimum wage increases boosted low-end wage growth between 2019 and 2023: The labor market recovery from the pandemic recession has been tremendous and low-wage workers have been key recipients of those gains, with dramatically fast real wage growth between 2019 and 2023 as we found in our recent report. These gains were due in part to several large spending bills passed during the pandemic—including the vital American Rescue Plan—which provided relief to workers and their families to help them weather the recession and fed the surge in employment. After losing their jobs in record numbers during the initial shock of the pandemic, low-wage workers found better job opportunities and experienced unusually strong leverage to see fast wage growth as employers scrambled to hire workers in the recovery. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Rising Immigration Has Helped Cool an Overheated Labor Market: The United States has experienced a substantial influx of immigrants over the past two years. In 2023, net international migration surpassed its pre-pandemic peak. This flow of immigrant workers has acted as a powerful catalyst in cooling overheated labor markets and moderating wage growth across industries and states. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]


Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.