The Weekly Wonk: Budget deal continues to underfund state services, Some funding measures could face legal challenges

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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 on Wednesday encouraged lawmakers to reject the budget proposal because it did not honor their promises to fix the structural budget deficit and stop the use of one-time funds to plug budget holes. After passage of the budget, OK Policy issued a statement addressing the disappointing outcome of this year’s budget process, but also pointed out reasons for hope for future years. Executive Director David Blatt emphasized that this budget does continue to underfund state services.

Blatt, in his Journal Record column, argued that oil and gas jobs would not have been lost had the legislature restored the gross production tax to the historical rate of 7%, but many public sector jobs have been lost to state budget cuts. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam cautioned that privatizing care for some SoonerCare patients could result in big cuts to the providers who serve these high-need patients.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy contributed to several media reports this week concerning possible legal hurdles in state budget bill. Blatt spoke with the Journal Record about three bills passed this week that could be considered as violations of the Oklahoma Constitution’s prohibition on passing revenue-raising bills in the final week of session, and expressed to CNHI that it’s likely at least one of the measures will face a court challenge. Blatt also talked with OETA about the questionable legality of these last-minute budget maneuvers. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with KTUL about the cigarette fee specifically – the $1.50 per pack fee one of the questionable measures that was passed in the final week.

In addition to possible legal challenges, OK policy staff contributed to reports about other concerns with the budget. Blatt spoke with the Oklahoman about cuts to common education in the budget deal. Blatt explained to the Journal Record that these cuts will likely result in vacant positions continuing to be left open, cuts to school programs, and more teachers leaving the state for higher pay.

Wayne Green at the Tulsa World, also weighed in on the budget using OK Policy data to support his argument that passing “non-revenue” bills that effectively raise revenue in the last 5 days of legislative session is illogical. OK Policy data was also used by CNHI for a piece about the possible effect of the $17,000 cap on itemized deductions recently passed by the legislature. Putnam talked with The Oklahoman for a piece about the Affordable Care Act waiver Oklahoma is planning to submit – if successful, the waiver would allow Oklahoma to subsidize its own health insurance program instead of using the ACA marketplace.

Weekly What’s That

Revenue Bills

The Oklahoma Constitution (Article V, Section 33) sets certain conditions on revenue bills – they must begin in the House of Representatives, they cannot be passed during the last five days of session, and they require the approval of 3/4 of the House of Representatives and 3/4 of the Senate to pass. Read all the condition here.

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

Quote of the Week

“We put together what we could with 51-vote [revenue-raising] measures. These are horrible funding levels. We are massively underfunded in state government.”

– House Budget Chairwoman Leslie Osborn, introducing budget proposals in a midnight committee meeting last night (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Writers, Tulsa World

With budget negotiations stymied and time running out in the legislative session, Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican legislative leaders have moved ahead with a package of revenue proposals that would balance the state budget and get an exhausted and undistinguished Legislature across the finish line. It’s an insufficient solution to a huge challenge that no one should like and whose best selling point is that there were alternatives that were much, much worse.

Numbers of the Day

  • 78.8% – Percentage of office-based physicians in Oklahoma accepting new Medicaidpatients, significantly above the national average (69%), 2013
  • 57.4% – Approximate percentage of Oklahoma births covered by SoonerCare in 2016
  • 32.7% – Share of Oklahoma’s FY2015 general revenue that came from the federal government
  • -17.4% – Change in Oklahoma tax revenue from its peak quarter, adjusted for inflation. Total tax revenues across all states have risen 5.8% from their peak
  • 19,000 – Number of Oklahoma veterans covered by Medicaid in 2015

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Why U.S. Criminal Courts Are So Dependent on Plea Bargaining [The Atlantic]
  • Not Trained to Not Kill [American Public Media]
  • My Medicaid, My Life [New York Times]
  • Life Expectancy Can Vary By 20 Years Depending On Where You Live [NPR]
  • L.A. police panel pushes fairness and courtesy as powerful weapons to improve trust in the LAPD [Los Angeles Times]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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