The Weekly Wonk for January 11, 2015

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week, OK Policy executive director David Blatt discussed why another tax cut is being triggered even as Oklahoma already faces a nearly $300 million budget shortfall. OK Policy research fellow Cassidy Hamilton looked at what’s behind Oklahoma’s high infant mortality rate and the troubling statistic that African-American infants in Oklahoma are more likely to die in their first year of life than children born in the Gaza Strip or in Saudi Arabia. Policy analyst Carly Putnam explained how Oklahoma lawmakers’ refusal to accept federal funds to cover the uninsured is devastating the state’s rural hospitals.

For the latest post in our Neglected Oklahoma series, Camille Landry looks at the stark contrast between how Oklahoma and Missouri handle foster care reunifications, and how Oklahoma families are paying a tragic price. This week’s Capitol Update from Steve Lewis discusses how all the talk of budget reform won’t accomplish much until lawmakers quit gambling on tomorrow’s revenue. In the latest OK PolicyCast, we talk with April Merrill, an attorney with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, about what it’s like serving as part of Oklahoma’s “emergency room” for legal assistance.

The Oklahoman shared comments from David Blatt and others on what was the biggest Oklahoma health story of 2014. CapitolBeatOK wrote that OK Policy’s role of providing another side to policy debates at the capitol was one of the top Oklahoma news stories of 2014.

Quote of the Week

“The sad truth is many of our inmates are non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems or mental health issues. They don’t need to spend long stints at the state penitentiary, where they can join gangs and acquire criminal networks. They need treatment; they need supervision; and they need to be returned to their communities ready to safely support themselves and their families. “

-Governor Mary Fallin, who said one of her New Year’s resolutions this year is to reduce Oklahoma’s very high incarceration rate (Source:

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Editorial of the Week

Noah Smith in The Tulsa World:

On April 21 last year, the United States celebrated Tax Freedom Day. This is the day when Americans have finally earned enough income to pay off Uncle Sam. Hard-working Americans and libertarians alike will bemoan the burden of government, which makes us slave away for almost a third of the entire year just to pay the taxman. Except there’s just one problem. From an economics point of view, Tax Freedom Day is hogwash.

Numbers of the Week

  • 16 – Number of tornadoes in Oklahoma in 2014, the fewest of any year on record.
  • 77% – Percentage of incarcerated women in Oklahoma who are in prison for non-violent offenses.
  • $2,402 – Average Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) claimed in Oklahoma County in 2012. The EITC was claimed by 1 in 5 residents.
  • 28% – Percentage of the Department of Corrections budget spent on private prisons and contracts in 2013.
  • 44,129 – Number of Oklahomans who selected plans on between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2014.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What we’re Reading

  • How some of America’s most gifted kids wind up in prison (Quartz)
  • How red states are using Obamacare to rip themselves off (V0x)
  • Increasing volatility of income due is keeping millions of families behind on bills (New York Times)
  • A GOP push to raise the health reform employer mandate to 40 hours could push force more employees into part-time work (Center on Budget)
  • Financially insecure Americans are far less likely to vote or be politically engaged in other ways (Pew Research Center)


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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