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
Funding requests signal approaching session (Capitol Update): It’s a sure sign the legislative session is close when the appropriations committees begin hearing from state agencies about how they are spending their funding for the current fiscal year and what their funding requests are for the next year. The Senate began its hearings last week. These hearings mainly function as educational meetings for appropriations committee members to learn more about the agencies they are responsible for funding, how they are performing, and the direction they are headed. The hearings provide an opportunity for an agency to put its best foot forward and for legislators to probe areas of interest or concern. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
Policy Matters: Three days in May: How long do you think Oklahomans were able to review the state’s $7.7 billion budget between the time it was publicly released and when it was sent to the governor for signature? Three days. (Which, by the way, was the nation’s second shortest such time frame last year.) My colleague Paul Shinn wrote a piece on the Oklahoma Policy Institute blog last week about his three decades of watching the state’s budget process. During that time, he noted that Oklahoma has moved further away from transparency. But it doesn’t have to be this way. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]
Reminder: We’re Hiring! Join the team as a Data Analyst: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Applications for this position close on January 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM (CST). [OK Policy]
Weekly What’s That
Deductible/High-Deductible Health Plan
A deductible is an amount that someone with health insurance (or other insurance) is required to pay for most services before the insurance provider begins to cover the cost. Deductibles are generally set over an annual period. For example, if an enrollee’s health care plan’s annual deductible is $1,500, the enrollee is responsible for 100 percent of eligible health care expenses until bills for those expenses total $1,500.
In general, plans with higher deductibles have lower monthly premiums. The IRS defines any plan with a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family as a high deductible health plan. High deductible health plans are often combined with health savings accounts that allow you to pay for certain medical expenses with money free from federal taxes. A high deductible health plan’s total yearly out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) can’t be more than $7,000 for an individual or $14,000 for a family
Quote of the Week
“We have to own that history and learn from that history to create equality, diversity, and inclusion for all of our communities.”
-Larry Nash White, OKC Metropolitan Library System executive director, speaking about the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Dunbar Library branch. The city opened the branch as a separate library for Black residents because they were barred from the city’s only library at the time [The Oklahoman]
Editorial of the Week
Stitt’s rift with tribes is damaging the state
The rift between Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration and Oklahoma tribes continues to grow with the recent decision by the governor to not renew the state’s standing hunting and fishing compacts with tribal governments after they expire this year.
The agreements with the Choctaw and Cherokee nations have been in place since 2016, but will be terminated effective Dec. 31, 2021.
The tribes have guaranteed hunting and fishing rights on their reservations under treaties with the United States; however, these compacts allowed for an intergovernmental system that provided hunting and fishing opportunities for tribal citizens and generated revenue and federal funding for wildlife management programs. Under the Choctaw Nation’s agreement, the tribe purchased at least 50,000 licenses at $2 each. With fees, the tribe paid the state Wildlife Department around $300,000. About 33,000 of those licenses ultimately were used by tribal citizens.
Now the governor is saying “all Oklahomans should receive equal treatment under the law,” and that is the reason for his decision to let the compact expire.
That’s a pretty weak reason for taking a long-standing arrangement that has been seen as a “win-win” for both the state and the tribes for the last several years. Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said the compacts provided financial and cultural benefit to both the state and tribal members.
One of the most disheartening aspects of Stitt’s dealings with the tribes is that his administration’s actions reinforce a negative connotation about Oklahoma’s treatment of the tribes since the early days of the land runs. For the past several decades, the tribes and the state have built up a partnership of mutual respect and opportunity.
That all seems to be disappearing under the Stitt administration. If there is a better explanation for the governor’s decision, then that needs to be explained now. Because right now, it appears to be another example of sour grapes and is leading to negotiations and partnerships breaking down at every turn.
This situation underscores the definite need for future administrations to set up a cabinet-level position for tribal relations between the state and the tribes. If this governor continues to completely break down the long-standing relations, a tribal relations cabinet position will be more important in the future than ever.
Numbers of the Day
- 7.0 – Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate is 7.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is higher than the national rate of 5.6. [KIDS COUNT Data Center]
- 6,078 – Number of juvenile arrests in Oklahoma reported during 2020, accounting for 6.6% of all arrests [OSBI]
- 171,551 – The number of Oklahomans enrolled in HealthCare.gov, the federally facilitated health insurance exchange/marketplace, during the open enrollment period for 2021 coverage. This was a record high for Oklahoma and more than 8% higher than the previous record high, set in 2020. [HealthInsurance.org]
- 21% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults with very low and low financial well-being score ranges, which ranks the state 44th nationally. The national average is 18%. [Prosperity Now]
- 23,825 – Number of people in Oklahoma’s community supervision programs, as of 12/13/21 [Oklahoma Department of Corrections]
What We’re Reading
- Health of Black, Native moms key in fight to improve infant death disparities, experts say [USA Today]
- Minors Facing Major Debt: The Immense Burden of Court Fees on Macomb County Youth and Families [Michigan Center for Youth Justice]
- How ACA Marketplace Premiums Are Changing by County in 2022 [KFF]
- Wage inequality continued to increase in 2020 [Economic Policy Institute]
- BBB Reduces Barriers, Improves Opportunity for People in the Criminal Justice System [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]