[Weekly Wonk] Cheeseburgers and the minimum wage | Every number is a story | State Budget Summit to be held Thursday

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

  • The cheeseburger economics of the minimum wage: When talking about raising the minimum wage, opponents sometimes claim that a higher minimum wage will raise the prices of goods, especially in labor-intensive industries like restaurants. This is sometimes accompanied by a jab such as “enjoy paying $20 for a cheeseburger.” However, when actually analyzing the prices of cheeseburgers — specifically Big Macs — Oklahomans already pay more than diners in some of our neighboring states with higher minimum wages. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]
  • Policy Matters: Every number is a story: After Oklahomans voted to expand Medicaid, more than 241,000 people have connected to life-changing health care since summer began. When the Oklahoma Policy Institute examined preliminary numbers this fall, about two-thirds of the new enrollees previously had been without health care. (Not an uncommon occurrence in Oklahoma, which had the nation’s second-highest uninsured population before Medicaid expansion began.) [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]
  • Three early bill filings that caught my attention (Capitol Update): It’s interesting to read the early bill filings each year. Some are remarkable in the degree of change they would make. Others are not so consequential, and yet others give you the feeling they’ll never see the light of day. Three of the early filings, among others, caught my attention. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy
  • OK Policy announces three new board members: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has announced three new members joining its Board of Directors: Kelsey Karper, Co-founder and Director of Logistical Creativity at Factory Obscura; Rodger T. Kerr, President and CEO of Altus Chamber of Commerce; and Roger Knak, CEO of Fairview Regional Medical Center. [Kristin Wells / OK Policy]

Upcoming Opportunities

2022 State Budget Summit, Thursday, January 27: OK Policy’s 2022 State Budget Summit will shine a light on the state’s fiscal outlook for the coming year. Now in its eighth year, OK Policy’s State Budget Summit provides an opportunity to hear from state and local officials, tribal leaders, community leaders, and engaged citizens about the state’s current fiscal circumstances, what we might expect during this year’s legislative session, and where we can improve our state’s budget and tax system. The event will be held virtually.  [Click here to learn more and register]

Join the team: OK Policy is currently hiring for three positions: Digital Communications Associate / Storybanker, Manager of Organizational Advancement, and Staff Accountant. Applications for these three positions close on Friday, February 25 at 5:00 PM (CST). [Learn more and apply]

Weekly What’s That


Under Section 134 of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), states have the option to make Medicaid benefits available to children with physical or mental disabilities, regardless of family income, and allows children requiring institutional level of services to be cared for in their homes.
Oklahoma has exercised this option since 2005. As of September 2021, there were 926 children enrolled in TEFRA. The state spent $12.1 million on the TEFRA population in SFY 2020 at an average cost of $13,822 per enrollee.

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

Quote of the Week

“Teachers are not a disposable resource. Teachers are highly qualified professionals, and they cannot simply be replaced. At (Jenks Public Schools), in-person learning has always been the priority, and we believe a professional educator is still the most effective leader for a classroom.” 

– Statement from Jenks Public Schools in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order directing state agencies to create mechanisms for state employees to substitute teach during the latest COVID-19 surge [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Lawmakers need to stay in their lane

State lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Feb. 7 for the second session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature.

We have some words of advice for them: Stay in your lane.

Lawmakers need to stick to their job, which is to deal with traditional state issues such as the budget to fund state agencies, infrastructure and funding education. Those topics by themselves are enough to keep everyone at the Capitol busy.

We see the same issues year after year. We’ve got to maintain education funding so we can have a well-educated populace. Anyone who drives across Oklahoma knows roads, highways and bridges need attention and have for years. We’ve heard for quite a while that Oklahoma Department of Corrections has had issues attracting and keeping correctional officers. The list goes on and on.

What we don’t need is lawmakers in Oklahoma City working to try to fix the federal government. That’s not their job.

What we don’t need is lawmakers in Oklahoma City trying to micromanage issues that are better left to local authorities. We’ve seen lawmakers express frustration and displeasure about how things are taught in schools. But, that’s not the Legislature’s job. Lawmakers shouldn’t try to be curriculum police for local schools. That’s why we have elected local school boards.

What we don’t need is lawmakers trying to tell private companies how to conduct their business, particularly in this day and age whether they can mandate that their employees need to wear masks for be vaccinated. That’s not the Legislature’s job.

What we don’t need is lawmakers trying to push through legislation that is unconstitutional just so they can feel good about standing up for their principles.

What we don’t need is lawmakers who push legislation because a constituent asked them to. Sometimes you just have to tell a person no.

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen many bills filed that don’t have anything to do with the Legislature’s core purpose and function. All this does is slow the entire process down and waste time and resources that could be used elsewhere.

Hopefully, these superfluous bills won’t ever make it out of committee so the amount of time wasted on them is kept to a minimum.

As we said: Stay in your lane.

[Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 12 years, 5 months, 25 days – Time that has passed since Oklahoma’s minimum wage has been adjusted, when the federal minimum wage was increased on July 24, 2009. [Department of Labor]
  • $13.53 – The living wage for a single Oklahoman with no children [MIT Living Wage Calculator]
  • 41% – Percentage of Oklahoman workers earning less than $13/hour [Oxfam America]
  • 606,000 – Estimated number of Oklahomans who would receive a pay raise if the minimum wage were raised to $15/hour by 2025 [Economic Policy Institute]

What We’re Reading


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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