[Weekly Wonk] FY23 budget highlights | Looking back on the regular session | Capitol Update | More

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

  • FY 2023 Budget Highlights: The FY 2023 budget makes some good and long-awaited investments in Oklahomans. It also misses several critical opportunities to make generational change, such as investing in common education and funding State Question 781. In late April 2022, state leaders needed only days to fast track $698 million to fund tax breaks to lure an out-of-state company to build a manufacturing facility here. Moving forward, lawmakers should apply the same momentum to restoring decades of cuts, better prioritizing public schools, and providing meaningful support to low- and middle-class Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]
  • Budget includes a few long-awaited investments, but misses crucial opportunities: This year, Oklahoma lawmakers appropriated $10.68 billion to the state budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins on July 1, 2022. The FY 23 state budget includes some long-awaited investments in areas like access to mental health care and reducing the 13-year wait for services for individuals with developmental disabilities. It also, however, includes almost a billion dollars for corporate tax incentives and economic development. Lawmakers also missed crucial opportunities to invest in public education. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]
  • The legislature made important steps forward on criminal justice this session. More remains to be done: Oklahoma lawmakers approved multiple important criminal justice bills during the 2022 legislative regular session. This included steps forward in economic justice, like occupational license changes, earned credits for individuals on parole, and automatic record expungement. The legislature also chose to remove a portion of youth court fees imposed on children and their families. These steps represent a growing acknowledgement that investments in the lives of people who are justice-involved are good for communities, as well as public safety and our economies. [David Gateley / OK Policy]
  • Special sessions on the horizon (Capitol Update): With legislators barely having time to unpack their bags after the four-month regular session ending May 27, Gov. Kevin Stitt has called them back to town for a special session on June 13. Special sessions in Oklahoma have been rare and usually called only when urgently needed. And most often only after legislative leaders and the governor have agreed on a plan. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy
  • Policy Matters: Hits, misses for FY ’23 state budget: With Oklahoma’s 2022 regular legislative session officially closed, I wanted to reflect on the upcoming state budget, as well as look ahead to the upcoming special session that starts on Monday. [Shiloh Kantz / OK Policy]

Upcoming Opportunities

TOK Listening Sessions scheduled statewide throughout June: Together Oklahoma will be hosting six upcoming Listening Sessions, which will offer the opportunity for you to express your ideas and views on policy matters in a collaborative way and let our TOK staff members get the chance to hear directly from you. These listening sessions will highlight the voices and lived experiences from women, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, native Oklahomans, OKC-area residents, and southern Oklahomans. There are five upcoming Together Oklahoma Listening Sessions. All events will have virtual options to attend. [Learn More] [Register]

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

Supplemental Poverty Measure

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is an alternative measure of poverty, developed and reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, that is intended to provide a more thorough and accurate assessment of how much income a household needs to get by. The SPM differs from the official poverty measure in two ways:

(1) Poverty Threshold: Whereas the official poverty measure was set in 1965 at three times the subsistence food budget and has only been adjusted for inflation since then, the SPM is set at the 33rd percentile of expenditures on food, clothing, shelter, and utilities (FCSU) of consumer units with exactly two children multiplied by 1.2.  The thresholds are adjusted based on both family size and differences in regions’ housing costs.

(2) Income Measurement: The income measure for the SPM, like the official measure’s, includes all cash income from whatever source, but also non-cash benefits like food stamps, subsidized school lunches, housing assistance, and so forth. It then takes taxes (including both payroll taxes and refundable credits) into account, and subtracts out necessary expenses like work-related costs, child care, child support, and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Comparing the poverty rates under the official poverty measures and the SPM reveals the effect that government transfer programs and taxes have on keeping households above or below the poverty level.

The U.S. Census Bureau releases an annual report on poverty based on the SPM. The SPM rate for 2020 was 9.1 percent, which was 2.3 percentage points lower than the official poverty rate of 11.4 percent. This is the lowest poverty rate under the SPM since the measure was first calculated in 2009 and the first time that poverty was lower using the SPM than the official poverty rate.

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

Quote of the Week

“There is a lot of work ahead for the Legislature as we work to make targeted and transformational investments with these one-time funds in areas such as broadband, behavioral health, workforce, water and many others”

– Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about ARPA funds that the legislature will appropriate during a special session this summer [The Journal Record]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial, Tulsa World: More must be done by public officials to work out problems with post-McGirt transition

The rough transition after the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling has been frustrating but expected. The remedy lies in bolstering the new model with resources and partnerships.

Reporter Curtis Killman has written stories about the adjustment, showing overwhelmed federal courts and tribal systems racing to catch up. Cases have gone unprosecuted, and district attorneys complain about a lack of communication. Some law enforcement officials have been confused about jurisdictions.

Flowing through this are unverified anecdotes and emotional responses. It’s understandable that some leaders seek a return to a pre-McGirt world. That’s unlikely to happen. It’s improbable the court will reverse such a recent decision with most justices still on the bench.

The McGirt ruling in July 2020, along with later decisions by a state appeals court, established that Congress had never disestablished the reservations for the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Quapaw and Seminole nations. That means state courts cannot try cases involving a tribal citizen within those tribes’ reservations. It reaffirmed the nations’ sovereignty.

In the McGirt ruling’s majority opinion from Justice Neil Gorsuch, this difficult shift was addressed:

“Looking to the future, Oklahoma warns of the burdens federal and tribal courts will experience with a wider jurisdiction and increased caseload. But, again, for every jurisdictional reaction there seems to be an opposite reaction: recognizing that cases like Mr. McGirt’s belong in federal court simultaneously takes them out of state court. So while the federal prosecutors might be initially understaffed and Oklahoma prosecutors initially overstaffed, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how things could work out in the end.”

That’s the course elected officials and policymakers ought to be setting in this realignment. State courts have evolved over a century, with Oklahomans shaping that through elected leadership. Federal and tribal courts didn’t grow in that way.

Both federal and tribal systems have challenges. The U.S. district courts in the Eastern and Northern districts of Oklahoma declined to file 5,847 cases referred to them in the 18 months after the McGirt ruling. Federal court online records searches require payment, unlike the free state search.

Despite the number of cases not filed, Oklahoma has become the center of a federal prosecution spike. The U.S. Northern District used to file an average of 256 cases a year but jumped to about 1,110 after McGirt. The U.S. Eastern District went from 312 cases in FY 2020 to 3,130 the following year.

At the same time, five tribes indicate that they have collectively filed nearly 13,000 criminal cases in their respective courts. Tribes have unique constitutions and governance, including open records laws and court systems. Some have established online databases, while others lag.

We need leaders to seek the congressional funding that is necessary to hire more federal prosecutors and judges. We also urge federal, state and tribal leaders to evaluate where agreements and alliances can be made to ease this change, including sharing expertise and resources.

Continuing to rely on judicial fixes post-McGirt isn’t making Oklahoma safer, more efficient or transparent.

[Tulsa World, Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 26% – Percentage of transgender Oklahomans who reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion as a result of their gender identity or expression in 2015 [U.S. Trans Survey]
  • 21.6% – Percentage of LGBTQ2+ Americans experiencing poverty–nearly twice the rate of the general population [National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network]
  • 1 in 3 – Proportion of LGBTQ2S+ schoolchildren in Oklahoma who have been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity [GLSEN]
  • 4 – Number of cities in Oklahoma that provide legal protections for LGBTQ2S+ residents [UCLA School of Law Williams Institute]
  • 20% – Percentage of transgender and nonbinary youth who attempted suicide in 2021 [The Trevor Project]

What We’re Reading

NOTE: June is Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The month is a time of reflection, celebration, and commitment to achieving equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQ2SIA+) Americans. 


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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