The Weekly Wonk: Legislature has a second chance to fix the state budget

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

Summer Intern Leslie Briggs advocated for bail reform as a solution to over crowded jails – about 80% of Oklahoma County jail inmates haven’t yet been convicted of a crime, but can’t afford bail to get out of jail while they await trial. Executive Director David Blatt walked us through some of the options that might be taken up in special legislative session to fix the budget hole created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s finding that the $1.50 per pack cigarette fee is unconstitutional. 

In his Journal Record column, Blatt implores the legislature to make good use of this second shot at the state budget and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the regular session. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update echoes that theme, encouraging lawmakers to avoid political gamesmanship and engage in real statesmanship to fix our budget crisis.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was a guest on Studio Tulsa to discuss the legislature’s options for filling the budget hole that was created by the striking down of the cigarette fee – you can listen to the entire episode here. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke with The Oklahoman and the Red Dirt Report about the state of education funding in light of the petition drive in Oklahoma City proposing a temporary city income tax to raise money for teacher stipends.

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma Health Care Authority

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is a state government agency responsible for administering the state’s Medicaid program. OHCA’s mission is to “responsibly purchase state and federally-funded health care in the most efficient and comprehensive manner possible; to analyze and recommend strategies for optimizing the accessibility and quality of health care; and, to cultivate relationships to improve the health outcomes of Oklahomans.”

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

Quote of the Week

“They can fix the ill-conceived revenue measures that have been struck down or will be struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They can raise revenue. They can make our children a priority and fund education properly. Then and only then will our efforts cease.”

– Oklahoma City Public Schools board member Mark Mann, at a press conference on Thursday announcing the district’s threat to sue the state Legislature over education funding (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Arnold Hamilton, Journal Record

Crafting an entire state budget is undoubtedly a complex process. Fixing the mess the Oklahoma Legislature created this spring is not. You might think otherwise, given leadership’s handwringing in the week since the state Supreme Court’s cigarette tax ruling blew the 2017-18 spending blueprint $215 million out of balance. Here’s the reality: All it would take is one legislative action to more-than-plug the hole and set state government on a smarter, more sustainable fiscal course. Best of all, it could be done in a day, costing taxpayers only $30,000 rather than a half-million dollars or more if a special session drags out over an entire month. The fix: Return the gross production tax to 7 percent. Period. No exceptions. Depending on oil and gas prices, it would generate between $250 million and $350 million for state coffers.

Numbers of the Day

  • 4 minutes – Average wait time for voting in Oklahoma in 2014, 18th highest in the US
  • 25.9% – Percentage of households in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, participating in SNAP, the highest participation rate in Oklahoma
  • 25.84% – Percentage of mail ballots unreturned in Oklahoma in 2014, 9th highest in the US
  • 19.4% – Turnover rate for Oklahoma state employees in 2016. The regional average was 15.2%
  • 57.1% – Oklahoma households that have a savings account, 2015

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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.