The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

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

OK Policy issued a statement following Thursday’s ruling upholding a law that partially ends the state sales tax exemption for auto sales – the ruling confirms that lawmakers have many options to fill the budget hole in a special session. Policy Director Gene Perry argued that, if lawmakers wait until the next regular session to address the budget hole, it will be too late.  The longer we wait to fix the problem, the worse it will get.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt found reason for optimism in Oklahoma’s recent attempts to make the Affordable Care Act work better for Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol update was  less optimistic about Oklahoma’s approach to education policy – inadequate school funding and a lack of support for teachers has led Oklahoma to an education crisis.

OK Policy in the News

The Guardian used OK Policy materials for a story about the fiscal crisis in Oklahoma, and Blatt was interviewed by WHSU public radio about the crisis.  Connecticut is also facing fiscal challenges, though for different reasons.

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler spoke with Public Radio Tulsa about disparities in court debt between affluent and poor neighborhoods in Tulsa. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Occupational Licensing Task Force was mentioned by the Oklahoman Editorial Board for their editorial in support of licensing reform.

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid Waiver

Waivers are way for states to test and implement new ways of administering Medicaid or CHIP services. If states want to change aspects of their Medicaid program beyond what is typically allowed, they have to get approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services. Although CMS is fairly flexible in what it will allow for waivers, certain elements are non-negotiable: among others, the plan implemented under the waiver can’t cost more than care without the waiver; and certain groups (infants and children, individuals with disabilities) at certain income levels must be covered.

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

Quote of the Week

“We cannot continue to decrease funding for higher education and expect to meet the needs of tomorrow’s Oklahoma. With the damage being done to our colleges and universities, Oklahoma is on a course that will further divide us into the haves and have-nots.”

– Oklahoma A&M Regents member Lou Watkins (Source). Oklahoma has cut per pupil higher education funding by more than one-third since the Great Recession (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, Tulsa World

More than two weeks after an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision tore a hole in the state budget, we’ve yet to see a plan out of Oklahoma City to solve the problem. Gov. Mary Fallin has said she’s waiting to see if the Supreme Court will tear that hole a little wider before calling the Legislature into special session to address the issue. There’s some wisdom in that patience, but still we wish we were seeing some signs from Oklahoma City that a deal was nascent. We aren’t. Preliminary discussions last week were blown apart after Republican leaders in the House of Representatives used leaks and press releases to suggest (falsely) that Fallin was on the verge of a huge tax increase with — shudder! — Democrats.

Numbers of the Day

  • $54,700 – Median family income among households with children in Oklahoma in 2015
  • 96,969 – Number of Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries in Oklahoma in 2014
  • 1,824 – Number of professionally active dentists in Oklahoma as of April 2017
  • 21% – Oklahoma households reporting that their income varied somewhat or a lot from month to month in the last year, 2015

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Often Missing In The Health Care Debate: Women’s Voices [Kaiser Health News]
  • Hunger receded after the recession but not for older Americans, U.S. figures show [Washington Post]
  • “We Just Feel Like We Don’t Belong Here Anymore” [Mother Jones]
  • People who get Medicaid are made to feel powerless. That pushes them out of politics and toward fatalism [Jamila Michener/Washington Post]


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.

One thought on “The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers have multiple options to fill the budget hole, Special session necessary to avoid even bigger budget problems

  1. You people are so concerned about prisoners especially the ones in for drugs. Your officials out here are quick to send them back to prison for not completing their outpatient on time for the remainder of 2 years. That’s insane and you people are letting them so so making the overcrowding worse. Not only that you allow someone to stay in office that was busted red handed and still letting him sentence people to prison cause he hates drugs. No the real reason behind the crooked criminal da who should be behind bars also hired security officers to pose as police to do all the illegal drug stops on I-40 taking innocent people’s money when they done no wrong. Money hungry power hungry da crooked as hell but you people over look all that and let his criminal ass go free and that’s what should happen to alot of the drug offenders he wrongfully illegally sneakingly done wrong and trust me that whole county has been doing dirt to them people for years. They are wrong and they cover it up and when they refuse to snitch for him then he sends them away for a very long time. I’ve got loads of papers that individuals have given me to expose what’s really going on in Stephens County. It will all come out watch!!! I’m not the only one that is complaining about this criminal DA and his clan.

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