The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers must come back to special session and finish job of funding core services

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 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1,50 per pack  cigarette fee unconstitutional, encouraging the governor to call a special session and lawmakers to take advantage of that opportunity to fix Oklahoma’s structural budget deficit. Prior to the court’s decision Executive Director David Blatt walked us through the three funding mechanisms being challenged and speculated on what might happen if the court finds any (or all) of them unconstitutional. Blatt’s Journal Record column wondered if our biggest problem is not a large budget hole, but a deficit of compassion and understanding?

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained for us how prosecutorial discretion works, and how it has contributed to the growth of incarceration rates in Oklahoma and the nation. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam reminded us that, with Congress’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid is still an option for Oklahoma – and it’s one we should seriously consider. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update took a  look at how the legislature works between sessions with interim studies and a new tool – policy working groups.

You may have heard – we hosted our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute this month!  If you’d like to see what happened, our Twitter feed from the event is archived (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4). Go check it out!

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KFOR and Express Newsline about the legal challenges to state budget that were heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday. After the court ruled on the cigarette fee, Blatt explained to The Oklahoman the very difficult situation that state health agencies will be in until the legislature is able to meet in special session and develop a solution for the lost revenue.

Perry was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the possible effects on Oklahoma that may come from President Trump declaring a national emergency regarding the opioid epidemic. Perry also discussed last week’s sales tax holiday with Public Radio Tulsa – these holidays tend to shift when spending occurs, rather than generate more spending.

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for paid part-time internships during the fall of 2017! Interns will be expected to work between 10 and 20 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. The position will be based in our Tulsa office. Click here for more information or to submit an application. Applications are due Monday, August 14th.

Weekly What’s That

Sales Tax Relief Credit

The Sales Tax Relief Credit, sometimes known as the “grocery tax credit,” is an income tax credit that provides a rebate of $40 per household member to households with incomes at or below $50,000 per year for filers who are elderly, have a physical disability, or claim a dependent; or $20,000 per year for everyone else. Read more here.

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

Quote of the Week

“It looks to me like a whole lot of parsing is going on. Sort of a rose is a rose is a rose, and if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

– Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger, questioning the Legislature’s contention that several last-minute fee bills were not intended as revenue-raising measures (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Christin Haun, Tulsa World

This is my story, and my experience with Medicaid. I live day-to-day, and I still worry about my future. Seeing my 75-year-old parents physically struggle to take care of me is awful, but my other option is a nursing home or moving out of state, which takes money I don’t have. The Legislature should quit cutting taxes for the rich. The members should donate part or all of their salary to senior nutrition plans. They should raise the gasoline tax by less than a penny per gallon. Do something! The Legislature is not representing me. I am a voter who has been betrayed. I do my best to live in a considerate, respectful manner, not hurting people out of willful ignorance. I expect the same from my political representatives.

Numbers of the Day

  • 68.9% – Percentage of adults in Oklahoma who are overweight or obese, 2015
  • 9.5% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s occupied housing units that are mobile homes, 2011-2015.
  • 2,768,561 – Voting eligible population in Oklahoma (citizens age 18 and over, 2015)
  • 181,223 – Number of motor vehicle renewals processed online in 2016, up from 108,500 in 2014
  • 77% – Percentage of Oklahoma households on SNAP (food stamps) containing at least one working adult

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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