Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma’s minimum wage should be a living wage | Looking at budget items after legislative dust has settled | Policy notes and numbers

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

Policy Matters: Oklahoma’s minimum wage should be a living wage: All working Oklahomans deserve to earn a salary that ensures they can take care of life’s essentials. A stagnant minimum wage, however, has made this increasingly more difficult for too many of our friends and neighbors. Hard-working Oklahomans are long past due for an increase in the minimum wage. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Looking at budget items after legislative dust has settled (Capitol Update): The 15-day deadline for bill signing expired last week and Gov. Kevin Stitt largely honored the deal he made with legislative leaders to not veto the state budget if they did four things. Legislators agreed to the deal so they could move past the governor’s previous demands for an income tax cut and to guarantee the budget would not be vetoed. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Weekly What’s That

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the main measure of inflation in the United States and is used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living. The CPI, which is calculated and reported monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The Consumer Price Index is calculated nationally and for various regions.

The monthly CPI report breaks down price changes by major categories, including food, energy, transportation, medical care, shelter, and others.

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

Quote of the Week

“Oklahomans should not have to choose between buying prescription drugs, putting food on the table, or keeping the lights on and staying warm.”

– AARP responded in a press release regarding OG&E’s proposed 6.6% rate increase that would cost the average residential customer as much as $19 more per month. This would be the third hike in customers’ bills since 2017. AARP is one of the biggest opponents of the increase because it would increase financial stress for Oklahomans living on fixed incomes. [KOSU]

Op-Ed of the Week

Prisoners rejoining society with an education will build a stronger Oklahoma workforce.

Oklahoma has been facing severe labor shortages since the pandemic lockdowns. For every worker available in the state, there are nearly two job openings. They are hardly alone, as labor shortages have swept most of the country since the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Oklahoma has found a solution in a surprising place: The state’s prisons. 

Occupational licensing laws are widespread in Oklahoma. According to the State Occupational Licensing Index, Oklahoma is the fourth most onerously licensed state. Licensing laws set minimum education and training requirements, in an effort to protect consumers. But these requirements also make it more difficult for aspiring professionals to begin working. Any reform that can make it easier for aspiring professionals to meet the education requirements can have a significant impact in Oklahomans’ lives.
House Bill 3158, recently signed into law, requires Oklahoma’s Board of Cosmetology and Barbering to approve any nonprofit school to teach cosmetology courses within a state correctional facility. Allowing barber schools into prisons may seem like an odd choice, but it makes perfect sense given the reasons for Oklahoma’s labor shortage.

Oklahoma has no shortage of working-age adults. The problem is education, and its focus on preparing students for college over the trades. Unfortunately, schools in the state have seriously underperformed in that effort. Offering new paths to licensure is a clear solution. 

One new path is offering training in prisons as part of the rehabilitation process. Becoming a barber or cosmetologist in Oklahoma requires 1,500 hours at an accredited cosmetology school. Students from the program will be able to join the workforce much earlier than if they had been forced to build their hours from zero after the end of their sentence. Starting their education while still incarcerated will also speed up their entry into the labor force by preparing them for their certification exam upon release.

[To read the full op-ed from Noah Berry and Conor Norris, visit The Oklahoman’s website]

Numbers of the Week

  • $3 million – From April 15 to June 15, politically involved nonprofits spent more than $3 million to influence Oklahoma voters, more than three times what was spent over a similar period in 2020. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • 35 – Number of state lawmakers who will be elected following today’s primary or the Aug. 27 runoff. Additionally, 50 Senate and House seats were decided during April’s filing period when only one candidate filed for office. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • 55.3% – Percentage of workers earning at or below the minimum wage who were over the age of 25. [Characteristics of minimum wage workers, 2022 / U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]
  • 38% – Percentage of LQBTQ adults (25+) in Oklahoma who are raising children. [Movement Advancement Project]

What We’re Reading


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.