Weekly Wonk: Top priorities for 2016; reactions to Gov. Fallin’s budget; & 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 shared our top priorities for the 2016 legislative session in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, voting and elections, economic opportunity, education, and criminal justice. We released a statement that Governor Fallin’s recurring revenue proposals are a good starting point for closing the state budget hole, but there are more sensible revenue options that should be considered. We also released the 2016 Legislative Primer, our popular guide to Oklahoma’s legislative process in a concise, user-friendly format.

In his Journal Record column, David Blatt discussed why this may be the year Oklahoma commits to a smarter approach on criminal justice. A guest post by Rogers State University student Andrew Hocutt described his proposal for boosting the minimum wage that was awarded Best Legislation in the Senate by the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update summarized 20 measures that have been filed to change Oklahoma’s judicial system this year. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke on a panel at Rose State College about “America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Liberty.” Video of the panel is on YouTube.

Upcoming Events

  • On Wednesday, Feb. 10, from 10am-2:45pm in Oklahoma City, a series of speakers and panels will discuss where “civil asset forfeiture” came from, how it works, and what reforms are on the table. Learn more and RSVP for this free event here.
  • On Thursday, Feb. 11, 2pm-3pm, we will host a free webinar on Oklahoma Advocacy and the Legislative Process with OK Policy’s Outreach and Advocacy Specialist KJ McKee and Legislative Liaison Damario Solomon-Simmons. RSVP here to receive login directions.
  • Also on Thursday, Feb. 11, 6pm-8:15pm in Oklahoma City, you can join OK Policy and others for a conversation about criminal justice reforms possible this year that could change the direction of Oklahoma for the better. A reception will follow the evening’s discussion. The event is free but seating is limited. You can learn more and RSVP here.
  • OK Policy, The Community Service Council, Metropolitan Human Services Commission in Tulsa, and Tulsa Community College will host State Treasurer Ken Miller on Friday, February 19, from 12pm to 1:30pm for “Up Close – Oklahoma’s Budget Crisis.” The event is free and lunch will be provided, but space is limited! Click here to register. For more information, contact Dan Arthrell (darthrell@csctulsa.org).
  • On Saturday, Feb. 20, 2pm-4pm, residents of the Tulsa metro are invited to a Together Tulsa Action Planning meeting where you can get to know your neighbors and build on our strategy for advocating with our legislators to create public policies that work. You can RSVP on Facebook here. On Thursday, March 3, 6pm-8pm, residents of the OKC metro are invited to a Together OKC Action Planning meeting. You can RSVP on Facebook here.

OK Policy in the News

KGOU shared OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt’s comments on how state budget cuts are harming Oklahomans with serious diseases. NewsOn6 quoted Blatt in an investigation finding that despite a hiring and salary freeze by the Fallin administration, the governor’s cabinet has approved thousands of exemptions to the executive order. PBS Newshour spoke to Blatt for a story on Oklahoma’s successful universal pre-K program.

OK Policy’s Gene Perry appeared on Tulsa World TV to talk about Oklahoma’s relationship with the energy industry. KFOR shared OK Policy’s reaction to Governor Fallin’s State of the State address. Summer Policy Institute alumni Aubree Hughes was profiled by the Oklahoman as an up and coming student leader.

The Norman Transcript published an in-depth report on what was said at OK Policy’s State Budget Summit. In a second story, they shared comments from the State Budget Summit on why Oklahoma should accept federal dollars to expand health coverage. In the Tahlequah Daily Press, Tahlequah Superintendent Lisa Presley cited information from the State Budget Summit to explain why there aren’t enough savings to be found in school consolidation to meaningfully boost Oklahoma’s funding ranking.

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is a state agency that administers a range of programs aimed at helping Oklahomans in need, including food benefits (SNAP); temporary cash assistance (TANF); services for persons with developmental disabilities and persons who are aging; adult protective services; child welfare programs; child support services; child care assistance, licensing and monitoring; and SoonerCare applications and eligibility.

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

Quote of the Week

“We have schools moving to four-day weeks to save money and others who are already laying off employees to make ends meet this school year. She didn’t address those problems in her speech today.”

-Alicia Priest, president of Oklahoma Education Association, expressing skepticism about the $3,000 teacher salary raise proposed by Gov. Fallin in her State of the State address on Monday (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Margaret Swimmer, The Tulsa World

Lower taxes and business exemptions have not worked but are still defended by many at the Capitol. It is only common sense that a well-educated, healthy citizenry is what attracts new businesses and jobs to a state along with friendly, competent, hard-working people. We cannot continue to allow further erosion of our educational system and accept a lack of needed basic services. We need our governor and Legislature to join with the many voices in Oklahoma calling for action to move forward. We must insist that they develop a positive plan and reach for results.

Numbers of the Day

  • 78.5 years – Life expectancy at birth for women in Oklahoma, 4th lowest in the U.S.
  • 5th – Oklahoma’s ranking for beef and veal exports in the US in 2014, with $351.4 M in exports.
  • 78.3% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s total land area that is farmland, 2012.
  • $5,771 – Total state expenditures per capita in Oklahoma in state fiscal year 2014.
  • 428 acres – Average Oklahoma farm size in 2012.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Study Finds Better Health Care Access in Kentucky and Arkansas after Medicaid Expansion [New York Times]
  • The big paradox of criminal justice in America [Washington Post]
  • Most who OD on opioids are able to get new prescriptions [Boston Globe]
  • The water crisis in Flint, and the strategy of government failure [Washington Post]
  • In State Legislatures, Millennials Are Often Left Out [Pew Charitable Trusts]


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

Leave a Reply

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