Weekly Wonk: A first look at FY 22 budget | Oklahomans deserve budget transparency | Anti-protest bills criminalize protesters | 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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom.

This Week from OK Policy

A welcome budget turnaround, but not a long-term recovery plan: A first look at Oklahoma’s new state budget: The $8.3 billion budget represents a modest increase from last year’s pandemic low. It makes some key investments in core services, such as fully funding Medicaid expansion and restoring the refundability of Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). However, rather than trying to change Oklahoma’s overall trajectory through smart spending choices, lawmakers enacted tax cuts that will largely benefit out-of-state corporations, high-income households, and special interests. Addressing issues that would help everyday Oklahomans will take bold investments rather than short-sighted tax cuts. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Wait and hurry up: Oklahoma’s inside-out budget process: Because budgets affect us all, both immediately and into the future, they should be made in public view with public input. While most states show this is easily accomplished, Oklahoma’s leaders neither inform nor engage the public in their budget deliberations. [Paul Shinn/ OK Policy]

Oklahoma’s answer to protest is the criminalization of protesters (Guest Post): Throughout this session, anti-protest bills have been prioritized in both chambers, some moving on party lines, others advancing through committees unanimously. The reality is that these anti-protest bills will produce greater distrust between police and the communities they serve. These bills, several soon to become law, are an immoral response to last summer’s protests, and they pose real threats to the rights and liberties of Oklahomans. [Nicole McAfee / Guest Post]

Legislature tackles major issues of Medicaid expansion funding, budget agreement (Capitol Update): At the beginning of last week, legislators had two big policy issues to resolve before the end of session: The state budget and Medicaid. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Stopping pandemic unemployment benefits is short-sighted: Gov. Stitt this week ceremoniously announced Oklahoma would prematurely stop distributing the federally funded, $300-per-month pandemic unemployment assistance to out-of-work Oklahomans. As with a lot of state decisions we’ve seen lately, this move is short-sighted, unnecessary and harms the very people who need assistance most. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Incentive Evaluation Commission

The Incentive Evaluation Commission was created by legislation passed in 2015 “to produce objective evaluations of the State of Oklahoma’s wide array of economic incentives.” The Commission is made up of five members appointed by the Governor, Speaker, and President Pro Tem, along with representatives of the Department of Commerce, Office of Management and Enterprise Services, and Tax Commission.

Under the enabling legislation, every economic inventive must be evaluated once every four years. The Commission contracts with an external research firm to evaluate each incentive on that year’s calendar. During each of its first five years of operation, 2016-2020, the reviews were conducted by PFM Group Consulting LLC. The evaluations are conducted according to a formal set of criteria set out in the enabling legislation, including jobs created, economic output, fiscal impact, and return on investment.  The consultant issues a final report on each incentive with recommendations as to whether the incentive should be retained, retained with modifications, or repealed. The Commission then votes on the recommendations and reports to the Legislature, which may adopt legislation in line with the recommendations.

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

Quote of the Week

“‘Your state spends all its time punishing its teachers, outlawing abortion, declaring Second Amendment sanctuaries, passing meaningless resolutions and tilting at 10th Amendment windmills so you can own the liberals. And meanwhile, Oklahomans suffer.’” 

-Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, noting that Oklahoma’s actions may be driving away businesses from relocating to the state despite Oklahoma’s already low corporate income tax rate [Public Radio Tulsa

Editorial of the Week

Residency rule a discriminatory distraction

State lawmakers should be commended for attempting to fully fund and eliminate the waiting list for Medicaid programs that provide services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

But they need to rethink provisions sure to draw constitutional challenges for discriminatory language that would exclude some people from even applying for services. House Bill 2899 would prohibit for five years those who move to Oklahoma from applying for services provided by these programs.

State Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, said about 5,800 Oklahomans are on the waiting list for these services already. He and other lawmakers want to make sure “organic Oklahoma families” are prioritized when those services become available.

The five-year residency requirement, Lawson said, would provide “enough time for us to service” those on the waiting list and “disincentivize people from coming around here and dropping their kids off for services.”

There is a reason for the long wait for services provided by Medicaid programs: They have been underfunded far too long. Appropriations of $6 million during the past three years eliminated 600 people from the waiting list, which has been reduced to 5,800. 

That number still is too long, but hopefully that number can be whittled down after voters expanded the state’s Medicaid program through the initiative petition process. The influx of federal funds available through the Affordable Care Act, which legislators refused to accept, may help fund some of these programs.

That would be a better option than imposing restrictions that likely violate Medicaid’s anti-discrimination rules or constitutional principles like the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  

The fact some Oklahoma families have been waiting an average of 13 years for services is an appalling and embarrassing fact standing alone. Attempting to impose a residency requirement that would add an additional five years for a class of residents some state lawmakers consider “outsiders” is, well, certainly not business friendly.

[Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 2.7x – The racial disparity in the likelihood Black Tulsans will be subjected to physical force, including tasers, police dog bites, pepper spray, punches, and kicks as compared to White Tulsans. Black Tulsans are nearly three times as likely to be subjected to physical police force as their White neighbors. [Human Rights Watch]
  • 34 – The number of states, including Oklahoma, that have introduced anti-protest bills this year. So far this year, 81 such bills have been introduced, more than twice as many as in any other year. [New York Times]
  • 96.3% – Percentage of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020 with no reported property damage or police injuries. As many as 26 million people participated in more than 7,300 protests nationwide during May and June 2020. [Source: Washington Post]
  • 12 – Number of anti-protest bills still pending in Oklahoma Legislature this session.  [Source: International Center for Not-for-Profit Law]
  • 72 – Number of incidents nationwide of cars driving through protesters from May 27 to July 7, 2020. Less than half of the drivers have been charged in those incidents. [Source: Chicago Project on Security and Threats]

What We’re Reading

  • Police shootings of children spark new outcry, calls for training to deal with adolescents in crisis [Washington Post]
  • My great-grandmother survived the 1921 Tulsa massacre. We’re not heeding her history [Tiffany Crutcher Commentary / CNN]
  • Wave of ‘Anti-Protest’ Bills Could Threaten First Amendment [NPR]
  • G.O.P. Bills Target Protesters (and Absolve Motorists Who Hit Them) [New York Times]
  • Protesters hit by cars recently highlight a dangerous far-right trend in America [NBC News]


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