The Weekly Wonk: Interim studies could create momentum for criminal justice reform next session

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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

Policy Director Gene Perry discussed cuts to education spending in Oklahoma – we were already leading the nation in cuts to K-12, and now we’re leading in cuts to higher education as well. Perry also pointed out the jobs in health care are now a larger part of the Oklahoma economy than either oil and gas or agriculture. 

Policy analyst Courtney Cullison argued that the minimum wage is not a livable wage in Oklahoma given the rising cost of living. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update is hopeful that interim studies on criminal justice reform will create momentum for changes next legislative session.

OK Policy in the News

Perry’s budget presentation at the Enid Noon AMBUCS luncheon was covered by the Enid News.  Perry discussed the recently passed budget and the current state of education funding in Oklahoma. Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins offered her take on Tuesday’s special election results to NewsOK – Democrats won two of the three legislative seats that were open due to resignations. OK Policy data was used by Arnold Hamilton for his recent Journal Record column promoting the value of higher education for Oklahoma and the nation.

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid Expansion

One of the primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act gives states the options to expand their Medicaid eligibility to include people below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 per year for one person or $24,000 for a family of four). The costs of expansion are paid for in full by the federal government through 2016, before dropping down (and freezing at) 90 percent in 2020. Oklahoma has opted not to accept the funds and expand eligibility, leaving roughly 150,000 Oklahomans in the ‘coverage crater’ (too low-income to qualify for subsidies on the health insurance marketplace, too wealthy or not a member of a population group that is eligible to qualify for traditional Medicaid in Oklahoma).

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

Quote of the Week

“Good luck if you think they’re going to fix some of these hard issues.”

– Gov. Mary Fallin, expressing her skepticism that the legislature will make progress on fixing structural budget problems next year in the run-up to the 2018 elections (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Unlike most state agencies, the Department of Human Services received more money from the Legislature for fiscal year 2018 than it did the year before. Unfortunately, that increase wasn’t enough to keep all services running at FY ’17 levels, which means vulnerable Oklahomans will feel the pinch. DHS Director Ed Lake announced Tuesday that a variety of services would be impacted by a $30 million budget shortfall. His agency, the state’s largest, received about $700 million from the Legislature, which was $18 million more than the previous year and for which Lake was eternally grateful considering the state faced an $878 million shortfall. But that appropriation wasn’t nearly enough to cover the agency’s obligations. In trimming more than $80 million from its operating budget the previous two fiscal years, DHS focused primarily on administrative expenses, including cutting about 1,200 positions. There’s no cutting some costs, though, such as the state’s share of Medicaid programs. These obligations and the dearth of significant staff-reduction options meant programs — and, consequently, people — would be affected.

Numbers of the Day

  • 49th – Oklahoma’s ranking out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for Health System Performance
  • 27,000 – Number of Oklahoma workers earning at or below the minimum wage in 2016, 3.1 percent of all hourly workers
  • $16,811 – Average family premium for employer-based health insurance in Oklahoma in 2015
  • 140% – How much higher the average monthly premium for current benchmark plans would be in Oklahoma in 2020 under the proposed Senate health plan
  • 38.8% – Percentage of low-income adults with disabilities who are covered by Medicaid in Oklahoma, the lowest percentage in the US

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • It’s no surprise that the Kansas tax cut experiment failed to create jobs [Washington Center for Economic Growth]
  • The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters [New York Times]
  • Flexibility That A.C.A. Lent to Work Force Is Threatened by G.O.P. Plan [New York Times]
  • The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise [Politico]
  • The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity [The Atlantic]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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