The Weekly Wonk: Potential financial crisis facing Indigent Defense System, Solving our budget crisis will require responsible revenue options, 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

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler made us aware of the potential financial crisis facing the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System if their funding levels are not restored in this year’s budget. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison reminded us that a decision made last year to cut Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit is impacting many low-income Oklahoma families this tax season. OK Policy Intern Maggie Den Harder told us about a new school meal program in some Oklahoma school districts providing after-school meals and snacks to food insecure students.

Executive Director David Blatt celebrated the 5-year anniversary of his Prosperity Policy column with some good news – tax cut fever seems to have broken in the state legislature this year.  In an editorial for the Tulsa World, Blatt contended that solving our budget crisis will require policy makers to adopt responsible revenue options like restoring the tax on oil and gas drilling to its historic rate. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update reminds us of the importance of increased revenue in this year’s budget discussion. 

OK Policy in the News

The Save Our State (SOS) coalition, a group of more than 21 statewide organizations including OK Policy, unveiled their budget blueprint for Oklahoma’s current fiscal emergency. Click here to find out more about the coalition or see the budget blueprint.

Gentzler was interviewed by OETA for Dollars for Dimes, which explores the increasing cost of fines and fees in the Oklahoma criminal justice system.  You can view the full episode at OETA Presents. Blatt was interviewed by The Oklahoman for an article about the the legislature’s decision to halt the next income tax cut. Cullison’s work was used by the Muskogee Phoenix for a story about the importance of the EITC to low-income families in Oklahoma

Upcoming Opportunities

We are 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.

Advocacy Alert

A strong and prosperous Oklahoma depends on communities and families that thrive with the help of quality schools with good teachers, well-maintained infrastructure, safe streets and neighborhoods, and public works like state parks, libraries, and arts initiatives. We can’t wait another year to fix this. Without budget reforms this year, revenues may plunge to an all-time low compared to what our communities need to thrive and what Oklahomans expect.

Now’s the time to contact your Senator and Representative — by phone, email, or in person, if possible — and urge them to support the Blueprint for a Better Budget as way to avert further budget cuts, invest in key priorities, and bring the budget into balance. Click here for the easy 30-second guide for saving our state!

Weekly What’s That

Striking Title

Striking title is a common procedural maneuver in the Oklahoma Legislature. It is used especially on bills that impact the state budget or bills that are considered to be a work-in-progress. Striking the title allows the bill to move forward in the legislative process while recognizing that it needs further changes before it gets final approval. Click here to read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“I’ll never forget last fall. I was at a business recruitment trip, talking about all the great things in Oklahoma. But a businessman said to me ‘I can’t come to Oklahoma because you’re so poor you only educate your children four days a week.’ … We have to fix these problems. We have to recognize that it hurts us economic development-wise.”

– Governor Mary Fallin, calling on the Legislature to pass new revenues at an event at the Tulsa Regional Chamber (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Writers, Tulsa World

No one likes to pay taxes. But they are necessary. They pay for our military, infrastructure, education, healthcare and many other needed services. Think taxes are unnecessary? Take a look at the mess Oklahoma is in right now — four-day-a-week schools, overcrowded prisons and state troopers who can’t afford to patrol. Oklahoma has cut its state income tax unwisely and too deeply, and now it can’t afford to pay for basic state government services…Too few people still consider paying their taxes a patriotic duty. It is a part of the social compact between citizens and their government, and it is essential to accomplishing those things in common that we cannot accomplish individually.

Numbers of the Day

  • 15.4% – Percentage of women in Oklahoma with a recent live birth who reported experiencing postpartum depression in 2016
  • 32 – Oklahomans killed by police in 2016, the third highest per capita rate in the country
  • -3.8% – Change in the number of total index crimes reported in Oklahoma between 2014 and 2015
  • 59% – Opioid overdose deaths as a percentage of all drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma in 2015. The US average was 63%
  • 994,553 Number of district court cases pending on June 30, 2016

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • What the Unemployment Drug-Testing Bill on Trump’s Desk Means for States [Governing]
  • Undocumented immigrants pay taxes too. Here’s how they do it [Vox]
  • Failed Health Bill Fuels New Momentum for Expanding Medicaid [Governing]
  • We Should Be Paying A Lot More Attention to Community College [Demos]
  • Supply-Side Economics, but for Liberals [The Upshot/The New York Times]


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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