Weekly Wonk: Expanding access to housing | Back-to-school not rosy for all families | Capitol Update | Business rankings show cracks in foundation

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

Oklahoma legislators need to do more to expand access to housing: Legislators made a significant investment in affordable housing during the 2023 legislative session, but missed other opportunities to expand the state’s stock of affordable housing and ensure a level playing field between landlord and tenant in eviction proceedings. It is vital that advocates continue to talk to their lawmakers about increasing investments in affordable housing and revising policies that will slow the rising tide of evictions. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy & Justice Jones / Housing Solutions

Back-to-school is not rosy for all Oklahoma families: With the calendar turned to August, many Oklahoma parents are focused on back-to-school shopping, buying school supplies and picking out clothes for their child’s first day of school. However, the situation is more dire for many Oklahoma parents struggling to put a roof over their head and food on the family table. [Shiloh Kantz Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Rejected House Interim Studies show breadth of issues facing state (Capitol Update): Last week, Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, approved 85 of the 110 interim studies requested. Today’s studies are usually one to two hours or a half day at the most and consist of a presentation orchestrated by the requestors to introduce information to their colleagues. That said, it might be interesting to look at the 25 studies that were NOT approved by Speaker McCall. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update

Policy Matters: Decades of deferred maintenance threaten state’s economic future: Oklahoma’s current economic development position reminds me very much of the perils of buying a house. From the curb, the house may look affordable and welcoming, but a closer look shows a cracked foundation and other major deficiencies. [Shiloh Kantz Guest Column / The Journal Record

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma will be hosting Listening Sessions to provide the opportunity for you to express your ideas and views on policy matters in a collaborative way and give our TOK staff members the chance to hear directly from you. OK Policy research and policy teams will present data from your region and the state and hear directly how it resonates with your personal experiences.

  • August 8: Oklahoma City
  • August 14: Lawton
  • August 15: Okmulgee
  • August 17: Ardmore
  • August 22: Norman
  • July 29: Altus

Each session will be held in person and is free to attend. Refreshments will be provided and pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, visit togetherok.org/events

Weekly What’s That


WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – is a program that ensures supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income mothers and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

The program is funded by the federal government and private sources (Nestle Infant Formula Rebates) and is operated through the Oklahoma State Department of Health and multiple tribal governments. A monthly average of 90,137 women, infants and children participated in state and tribal WIC programs in Oklahoma in FFY 2022, according to preliminary federal data, which represents a 8.5 percent decline in program participation since FFY 2018. The average monthly benefit per participant in Oklahoma was $36.47 in FFY 2022, an 8.5 percent increase since 2018.

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

Quote of the Week

“(The) so-called ‘Women’s Bill of Rights’ Executive Order is nothing more than a distraction to the real work that needs to happen to make Oklahoma a safer and healthier place for women. If we want to be better than dead last in almost every statistic when it comes to the health, safety and well-being of women we can start by calling today’s executive order exactly what it is — a political stunt. Oklahoma women deserve better.”

-Liz McLaughlin, Founding Board Member of We Are Rising, in a statement about the governor’s executive order. [The Oklahoman] | [We Are Rising]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: Kansans facing bad return on investment in landing Panasonic factory

Kansans may be feeling buyer’s remorse as the final tab emerges on what it took last year to land a Panasonic factory that will make batteries for Tesla electric cars. The state out-maneuvered Oklahoma to win the contract.

As it turns out, Oklahoma might not be the losers in that bidding war. And, there are lessons to take away from what happened.

About a year ago, the Japanese-based Panasonic Energy announced Kansas beat out Oklahoma to build the factory in an old Army munitions plant near De Soto. It was touted as creating 4,000 jobs in a $4 billion factory.

Kansas lawmakers passed the APEX act that gave Panasonic an $829 million incentive package to lure the plant. Oklahoma’s legislative incentive package, called Project Ocean, offered $698 million to build the factory at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers balked at the amount and what they considered liberal policies of the company, such as diversity programs and support of LGBTQ+ employees.

Since then, the Kansas City Star has been reporting the increasing costs to taxpayers for the factory. The incentives have reached about $1.2 billion when adding various local tax breaks, road improvements from its transportation department and “opulent” office headquarters in Olathe that was left from a failed state authority.

The Star discovered Panasonic will be eligible for billions — possibility another $6.8 billion — in federal aid through provisions in last year’s federal Inflation Reduction Act. That could bring the total taxpayer package to bring the $4 billion factory to Kansas at about $8 billion.

That equates to about $2 million per job created. By any economic measure, that’s a bad deal.

Many Kansans are now in autopsy mode over how that happened.

The Star’s columnist Tammy Ljungblad was never a fan of the project, particularly the secrecy around these deals. Calling it a “Pyrrhic victory,” she noted that only a handful of legislators were told of the factory’s location, costs and who would get funding. Most lawmakers didn’t know what they were approving.

Keeping public dealings completely in the dark and without input rarely works out well.

In May, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce announced that it had an agreement with Panasonic for an electric vehicle battery factory at the MidAmerica Industrial Park using the $698 million tax incentive. The plant would create 3,500 jobs with a $5 billion investment.

Though, some legislators argue the company is not eligible for that tax package, and there is dispute on who will pay for about $245 million in site work at the industrial park.

We are encouraged by Oklahoma lawmakers doing their due diligence on the tax eligibility and return on investment. We hope the process is inclusive to different perspectives.

Kansas ought to serve as an example that winning a big-corporate contract might not be worth bragging rights.

[Editorial / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 46,688 – Number of eviction filings in Oklahoma courts during 2022. Evictions in Oklahoma have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which were among the highest per capita in the country. [Open Justice Oklahoma / OK Policy]
  • $58 – Cost to file an eviction in Oklahoma. The fees include $45 for a forcible entry and detainer for small claims ($5,000 or less), $6 law library fee, and $7 for alternative dispute resolution fee. There is an optional $50 fee for service by the sheriff in a civil case that can be waived if the filer arranges service on its own. [Uniform Oklahoma Fee Schedule / OSCN] 
  • 61,000 – Number of Medicaid enrollees in Oklahoma who have been disenrolled, based on publicly available unwinding data, as of July 31, 2023. [KFF
  • $36.47 – Average monthly benefit per person for Oklahoma residents who participate in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which helps low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 with nutritious foods to supplement their diets. [U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • $7 million – Estimated amount of state revenue lost annually due to Oklahoma’s back-to-school shopping tax holiday each August. [OK Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • Preliminary Analysis: Eviction Filing Patterns in 2022: Over the last three years, eviction filing rates across the United States fell below levels that were normal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. A wide range of policies contributed to this reduction: federal, state, and local eviction moratoria; an unprecedented investment of $46.6 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA); expansion of the right to legal representation in eviction cases in a number of cities and states; and the growth in eviction diversion programs. These policies prevented millions of American renters from losing their homes to eviction during this public health emergency. [Eviction Lab]
  • When it’s cheap to file an eviction case, tenants pay the price: We find that the cost of filing an eviction case has a clear and powerful effect on how often landlords turn to the courts. Specifically, increasing the filing fee by $100 reduces the eviction filing rate by 2.25 percentage points. For context, the eviction filing rate in the median neighborhood in our sample is 3.3%. That $100 increase to the filing fee would more than halve its number of eviction cases. [Eviction Lab]
  • Nearly 4 million in U.S. cut from Medicaid, most for paperwork reasons: Most of those people have been dropped from Medicaid for reasons unrelated to whether they actually are eligible for the coverage, according to KFF, a health-policy organization, which has been compiling this data. Three-fourths have been removed because of bureaucratic factors. Such “procedural” cutoffs — prompted by renewal notices not arriving at the right addresses, beneficiaries not understanding the notices, or an assortment of state agencies’ mistakes and logjams — were a peril against which federal health officials had cautioned for many months as they coached states in advance on how best to carry out the unwinding. [Washington Post]
  • Hundreds of Thousands of Young Children and Postpartum Adults Would Be Turned Away from WIC under House and Senate Funding Levels: As Congress considers appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024, new data confirm that WIC needs significant additional funding — well beyond the amounts provided in current House and Senate bills — to maintain a long-standing, bipartisan commitment to avoid turning away eligible families, and to provide participants with the current science-based food benefit. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Sales Tax Holidays: An Ineffective Alternative to Real Sales Tax Reform: Sales taxes are an important revenue source, making up close to half of all state tax revenues. But sales taxes also are inherently regressive because low-income families spend a greater share of their income on goods and services subject to the tax. Lawmakers in many states have enacted “sales tax holidays” to temporarily suspend the tax on purchases of clothing, school supplies, and other items. These temporary exemptions may seem to lessen the regressive impacts of the sales tax, but their benefits are minimal while their downsides are significant—particularly as lawmakers have sought to apply the concept as a substitute for more meaningful, permanent reform or to arbitrarily reward people with specific hobbies or in certain professions. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]


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.