The Weekly Wonk: Lawmakers must come back to special session and finish job of funding core services
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
What We’re Reading
- How To Reform Criminal Justice, When Prosecutors Hold The Power [WBUR]
- Another Possible Indignity of Age: Arrest [New York Times]
- Bosses want capitalism for themselves and feudalism for their workers [Washington Post]
- ACA Marketplaces Poised to Grow Stronger — If They’re Not Sabotaged [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
- Innocence Is Irrelevant [The Atlantic]