Weekly Wonk: One simple trick to help the economy | Revisiting single-family zoning | Media literacy | Capitol Update

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

One simple trick that will help Oklahoma’s small businesses and the economy: In a time of rising costs and inflation, there is one key policy change that lawmakers can pass to help small businesses, working Oklahomans, and our economy: Raise the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage has become a politically contentious issue, but research shows that it is good policy. A minimum wage is intended to act as a baseline to ensure that employers compensate their workers fairly for their hard work by providing a wage that can cover basic living expenses. During its 85-year history, the minimum wage has been increased on average every three years — but there have been only three adjustments in the last quarter century. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy]

Ending single-family zoning would help close Oklahoma’s housing gap: Community leaders, especially in urban areas, have expressed concern that high housing costs are making their communities unaffordable for vital workers like home health workers, teaching staff, and service industry staff. Addressing a gap this large will require a multifaceted solution, but one policy is key to increasing our housing stock and building more equitable cities: ending exclusionary single-family zoning. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Rep’s. call for investigation on supervision fee shines light on appropriations, fines & fees (Capitol Update): The problems arising from supervision fees are a result of years of piling fees onto offenders rather than funding the criminal justice system. It’s easy to do because no one has much sympathy for offenders, but it’s counterproductive. It adds to the problems of people who already have problems. It’s also inefficient. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Media literacy needed now more than ever: Media literacy is our ability to detect, analyze, and evaluate the messages we receive from mass media, including social media, TV, ads, music, and more. At its core, media literacy requires us to think critically about the information we receive. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Revolving Fund

A revolving fund is a fund of a specific government agency or entity that collects revenues from fees and other sources and supports expenditures of that agency or entity. The balances of the fund carry over from one year to the next for the same purpose. Most revolving funds are created by laws. Expenditures from revolving funds may be limited to purposes defined by the law. As part of the annual appropriations process, the Legislature may authorize an agency to spend money from a revolving fund to perform their general duties and may transfer money from a revolving fund to the Special Cash Fund to fund other agencies.

There are over 1,100 agency revolving funds, each designated by a specific number and title (e.g. State Bond Advisor 285 Fund – Bond Oversight Revolving Fund).

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

Quote of the Week

“Private entities can obviously choose to charge what they want, but a state program probably shouldn’t be helping subsidize tuition hikes if the goal of the program is to make private schools more accessible and affordable.”

-Oklahoma Voice Editor Janelle Stecklein writing an opinion piece calling on lawmakers to fully evaluate all outcomes — including some schools raising their tuition — following the recent enactment of a private school voucher program. [Oklahoma Voice]

Editorial of the Week

Norman Transcript Editorial: Canceling DEI won’t boost merit system

Executive Order 2023-31 – which bans Diversity, Equity and Inclusion( DEI) programs at public Oklahoma universities – was signed Wednesday by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The order aims to take “politics out of education” as Stitt claimed in his statement announcing the initiative.

How ironic considering the motive is all political.

Supporters claim that DEI services are divisive and discriminatory toward race, ethnicity, gender and heritage and by removing them this gives people the equal chance of the “American Dream.”

It’s amazing how Stitt and his colleagues don’t seem to realize that “dream” is folklore founded on violent treatment of minorities.

Arguments that times have changed can be made, 2023 may be even more progressive than previous years, but before we get ahead of ourselves for giving the ol’ college try (pun intended), let’s not forget that the Civil Rights Act was passed barely 50 years ago and we have yet to ratify the Equal Rights Act into the Constitution.

Let’s not forget the history that came before that either. The Tulsa Race Massacre and the genocide and forcible removal of Indigenous Nations just being two examples.

How’s that for the American Dream?

Further still, how is that Stitt can pride himself on this order when he prides himself on keeping government small.

Like most conservatives, any type of government intervention would be a cause of outcry, right?

Do we really want the government telling people, especially minorities, how their own experiences should be perceived?

Because of Executive Order 2023-31, students are being told that their hard work is equal, but we all know that’s unrealistic.

The government is ordering them to jump through the same hoops as the Larry Birds of the world. So, what happens when you’re a 5-foot minority? You get hurt.

[Editorial / Norman Transcript]

Numbers of the Day

  • 29.8% – States that had a minimum wage greater than $12 per hour experienced a 29.8% increase in average monthly employment in its leisure and hospitality industries during 2021, nearly three times the rate (10.8%) for states like Oklahoma with a minimum wage based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. [Bureau of Labor Statistics via OK Policy]   
  • 20 – The number of states, including Oklahoma, that will still keep the federal minimum wage of $7.25 as of January 2024. On Jan. 1, 22 states are increasing minimum wage above the federal rate. [Axios]
  • 22 – Number of states that are raising their minimum wage in January 2024. [USA Today]
  • 3 – During its 85-year history, the minimum wage has been increased on average every three years — but there have been only three adjustments in last quarter century. The last adjustment was in 2009. [OK Policy analysis]
  • 14 – Number of states that rely on the federal rate to establish a minimum wage for tipped workers. Employers of workers who “customarily and regularly” receive at least $30 a month in tips can pay those workers just $2.13 an hour in direct wages, as long as they also receive the equivalent of at least $5.12 an hour in tips. [Pew Research]

What We’re Reading

  • A $15 minimum wage would help millions of struggling households in small and mid-sized cities achieve self-sufficiency: According to the Congressional Budget Office, a $15 federal minimum wage would boost the earnings of low-wage workers and decrease poverty. In its absence, a national policy agenda focused on raising wages is still urgently needed. For now, at least, increasing the minimum wage will remain a bottom-up exercise led by local and state policymakers. In a new report, we argue that raising the wage floor can not only help reduce poverty (a worthy goal unto itself), but it can also support individual and family self-sufficiency—the ability to cover living expenses without relying on public subsidies. [Brookings]
  • The value of the federal minimum wage is at its lowest point in 66 years (2022): The value of the federal minimum wage has reached its lowest point in 66 years, according to an EPI analysis of recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. Accounting for price increases in June, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is now worth less than at any point since February 1956. At that time, the federal minimum wage was 75 cents per hour, or $7.19 in June 2022 dollars. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Minimum wages are going up, but typical workers still don’t make enough to get by in any U.S. state: Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., raised their minimum wage in January 2023. While the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, many states have continually raised theirs. Still, the vast majority of single people working fulltime and making a local minimum wage aren’t earning enough to get by. [CNBC]
  • A history of the federal minimum wageThe minimum wage is a New Deal era policy established initially through the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). The original bill set a wage floor, instituted a 44-hour work week, and protected children from prematurely entering the workforce. Since its inception, the FLSA has been amended multiple times, with added exemptions and expansions specifying which groups of workers are covered under different aspects of the law. We take a look back at the 85-year history of the minimum wage, how it differs in states and localities, and how minimum wage laws continue to have implications for racial, gender, and economic justice today. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Small Businesses Get a Boost From a $15 Minimum Wage: For the United States to achieve a meaningful economic recovery that lifts up all families, Congress must raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, including for tipped workers and workers with disabilities. Raising the minimum wage would benefit small businesses and the economy at large. While critics of a fair wage argue that a $15 minimum wage would put a heavy burden on small businesses, economic literature demonstrates that these concerns are not borne out by the facts.  [Center for American Progress]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.