[Weekly Wonk] Choosing to live in Oklahoma | Budget hits & misses | We’re Hiring!

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

Budget bills address economic development, disability waiting list, but miss the mark on education (Capitol Update): Flush with cash due to federal pandemic funding and a booming energy economy, the legislature last week had to determine the most responsible way forward. A few quick observations are possible. In an election year, the legislature this year pretty much had the ability to pass whatever kind of budget it wanted, no excuses. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy

Policy Matters: Why choose to make a home in Oklahoma?: Recently, I’ve heard from a number of Oklahomans who openly questioned why they continue to live here – or why a family or business would relocate here – after lawmakers passed legislation that targets women and members of the LGBTQ community. This hurtful legislation occurred alongside the ongoing undermining of public education through rhetoric, legislation, and financial disinvestment. Now more than ever, we need to support folks who believe in a vision for a state that supplies equitable opportunities for ALL of our friends and neighbors. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma to host Pride and Policy Listening Sessions: Together Oklahoma is hosting a special statewide Listening Session in the coming weeks to discuss the pressing issues and policies affecting the LGBT community. The Southwest Regional Organizer for Together Oklahoma, Katie Applegate, told us more about why the session are so important to the community. [KSWO

We’re Hiring!

Join the team: OK Policy is currently hiring for three positions: Youth Justice Policy Analyst and Regional Organizer for Together Oklahoma (two positions, one each for Central Region and Northeast Region).  The application deadline for these positions in July 7, 2022 at 5 p.m. Visit OKPolicy.org/jobs for the full job description and compensation.

Weekly What’s That

Balanced Budget

Oklahoma’s Constitution requires that the state’s annual budget be balanced. The balanced budget requirement is accomplished by limiting appropriations for seven funds, of which the General Revenue Fund is by far the largest, to no more than 95 percent of certified revenue estimates for the upcoming year. This allows for a 5 percent cushion in case of a revenue shortfall. If General Revenue collections fall below 95 percent of the certified estimate, the Director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services declares a revenue failure and reduces funds going to agencies by however much is necessary to bring spending into balance with revenue collections. If General Revenue Fund revenue exceeds the 95 percent level, the 5 percent cushion flows into the Cash Flow Reserve Fund and can be appropriated in the future.  If General Revenue collections exceed 100 percent of the certified amount, the surplus flows into the Constitutional Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund.

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

Quote of the Week

“Why is it happening behind closed doors? Why are only a select few in charge while the rest of us are expected to nod our heads and not ask any questions?”

– Gov. Stitt talking about the development of the state’s annual budget [YouTube]

Report from OK Policy: A February 2022 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. 

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: Voting is going to be harder in Oklahoma

Oklahoma voters are going to have a harder time casting a ballot with the latest ill-conceived laws to fight the myth of election fraud.

House Bill 3364 and House Bill 3365, from Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, are meant to tighten rules in the name of election security. The bills are vague, confusing and lacking in detail. Both are signed into law.

In HB 3364, a person requesting an absentee ballot must get an identification number from the Oklahoma State Election Board. It’s unclear how to obtain this number. House discussion indicates it would be electronically distributed.

Then, there is this passage:

“If the voter does not recall which identification number he or she included in the voter registration record, the voter may provide multiple identification numbers, at least one of which must match the identification number in the voter registration record if such record included an identification number. If the voter registration record does not contain a birth date or an identification number, the absentee ballot application shall be accepted without a match of a birth date or an identification number.”

That’s not exactly straight-forward. For a demographic who may not be tech savvy, this could be a significant challenge.

HB 3365 adds more verification requirements for voters, including for addresses with five or more registered voters. A concerning section appears to up the chances of canceling registrations for various reasons.

Often, a person doesn’t know they have been taken off the rolls until Election Day. Voters are not reassured by the provisional ballot process.

Taken separately, these measures seem innocuous or perhaps within reason. Taken in total, they add up to several opportunities at keeping someone from voting.

Oklahoma does not have a voter fraud problem. A League of Women Voters of Oklahoma analysis of the 1.5 million votes cast in 2020 found 59 irregularities referred to district attorneys. Of those, one led to a criminal charge, resulting in a guilty plea.

Still, an even more complicated measure is pending on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. House Bill 3232 from Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Yukon, has roots in federal distrust.

It instructs state officials to ignore “any federal law, regulation, order, or other official action” that “seeks to substantially modify or supersede any (state) voter registration or election administration laws” in the conduct of state and local elections.

That may sound great for those reveling in fights with the federal government. But, testimony on its consequences indicates a headache for voters.

Officials say this would likely cause the creation of separate voter registration lists — one for those eligible to vote only for federal elections and another for state and local races. And, elections would be held on different days because of the complexity of administering two sets of rules.

It would cost taxpayers $1 million to $1.5 million per election.

We encourage Stitt to veto this onerous measure. It’s costly, complex and does not secure elections or make it easier on voters. If he doesn’t veto the bill, it’ll become law and add another layer to disenfranchise voters.

[Editorial / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

What We’re Reading

  • Child care and elder care investments are a tool for reducing inflationary expectations without pain  [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Oklahoma should prioritize pro-growth relief, not gimmicky rebate checks [Tax Foundation
  • States Should Spend Recovery Funds Equitably as Second Round of Aid Rolls In [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • The Looming Battle Over How to Set ‘Low Cost’ Broadband Prices [Route Fifty]
  • 3.7 million more kids are in poverty without the monthly Child Tax Credit, study says [NPR]


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.