The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy welcomes two new additions, Republican health bill would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care, DHS may soon run out of money to care for vulnerable seniors, and more

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

This week, OK Policy welcomed two new additions – Courtney Cullison has been hired as a policy analyst and Dr. Susan Louise Chambers has joined the Board of Directors. In Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column, we met Beth, a self-employed woodworker who receives subsidies from to purchase health insurance and would no longer be able to afford that insurance under the proposed American Health Care Act. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam described the devastating impact the House Republican health bill would have on Oklahomans’ access to care and reported that the Oklahoma Department of Humans services may soon run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.  

Policy Director Gene Perry shared a letter from Director of Oklahoma Department of Human Services Ed Lake discussing Oklahoma budget cut scenarios that range from “the terrible to the unthinkable”. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update explains that state legislators still have a lot of work to do to solve the state’s big budget problems this session.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt’s report that the state supplanted lottery funds was picked up by KFOR and the Tulsa World for stories about the state’s requirement to pay back the $10 million that was supplanted. The Tulsa World quoted Putnam’s work on the effects of the proposed Republican health care bill for a story about Oklahomans’ perspective on the legislation, and Putnam was interviewed by OETA for a story on the effects of that bill on health care for Oklahomans.

Blatt’s participation in a panel discussion on the minimum wage was reported by NewsOK. Blatt was also quoted by the OCCC Pioneer in a story about dangerous small loans that could be offered in Oklahoma if HB 1913 becomes law this session.

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy is now accepting applications for our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI). SPI brings together dozens of undergraduate and graduate students from across the state for a three and a half-day intensive policy training. The application deadline is May 26, 2017. Click here to learn more and apply.

The University of Tulsa College of Law will host Jeff Clements (President of American Promise) and Professor Tamara Piety (National American Promise Advisory Council) for a discussion of corporate, union, and individual spending in elections and the First Amendment right to free speech on April 10th.  Click here to learn more and sign up to attend.

Weekly What’s That


Medicaid is a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. In Oklahoma, the Medicaid program is known as SoonerCare and is operated primarily by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“This sort of approach, ‘when things are bad you cut,’ has worked horribly in many businesses. And it’s exactly what we did in the 1930s. We exacerbated the recession. The indifference to the lives of all these people is really pretty impressive.”

– Oklahoma City University economist Jonathan Willner, on the effects of possible staffing cuts at state agencies as a result of the state’s nearly $900 million shortfall (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, Tulsa World

Two ideas to save the state from another disastrous state revenue hit are competing for the favor of Oklahoma legislators. One is an improvement over our current disastrous course, but the other is clearly better. In 2015, the Legislature passed a poorly considered law that would cut the state’s top income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent as soon at the state’s general revenue growth is more than the cost of the tax cut, roughly $97 million. One of the things not considered in 2015 was that state revenue could plummet for multiple years in a row, which it has. Still is. Here’s why they should have thought of that: If revenue drops by hundreds of millions of dollars for multiple years, a $97 million bump doesn’t count as a recovery. Not even close.

Numbers of the Day

  • 5 months –  Number of consecutive months that Oklahoma’s corporate income tax has brought in zero dollars to the General Revenue Fund as of February 2017
  • 1,014,700 – Number of children in Oklahoma (ages 18 and under) as of 2015, 26% of the total state population
  • -$12,400 – Average lost health insurance tax credit for an Oklahoma family of four with $40k annual income under Congressional Republicans’ health care proposal
  • 27% – Percentage of Oklahoma children in families receiving some kind of public assistance in 2015
  • 10.9% – Percentage of Oklahoma households with no checking or savings accounts in 2013

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How to beat the robots [NY Times]
  • A day in the life of a poor American under Trump’s proposed budget [Washington Post]
  • School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Immigration projected to drive growth in U.S. working-age population through at least 2035 [Pew Research Center]
  • The GOP health care plan could force Americans with disabilities back into institutions [Vox]


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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