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What's New on OK Policy's Blog

       The Weekly Wonk: May 4, 2012
       In The Know: Legislature nears budget agreement, uncertain about tax cuts
       Poll dancing: Advocates exaggerate public support for tax cuts

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            News aggregator
In The Know: Judge rules Oklahoma school voucher law unconstitutional

OK Policy Blog - Wed, 03/28/2012 - 13:55

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a Tulsa County judge ruled that state-funded vouchers for children
with disabilities to attend private schools is unconstitutional. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
named 200 school districts nationwide, including 13 in Oklahoma, with irregularities similar to
those that exposed a cheating scandal in Atlanta. The state Department of Education is preparing
to take operational control of as many as 10 of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

The OK Policy Blog explains what’s in the current criminal justice reform bill and what
obstacles stand in the way of real change. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines how drug courts are
providing a cheaper, more effective path to rehabilitation of Oklahoma addicts. The first draft of
the improvement plan for Oklahoma’s child-welfare system will call for overhauling the staff
structure, increasing the number of and support for foster homes, and lowering workers’
caseloads.

More than half of Oklahoma’s non-profits say they do not think they can meet rising demand due
to a still weak economy and state and federal budget cuts that are creating new gaps in services.
OU engineering professor Karl Bergey writes in the Norman Transcript about the fallacy of tax
cuts stimulating growth. The OKC Council voted unanimously to commit $9 million of the $80
million needed to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

Legislation that would grant “personhood” status to human embryos was approved by an
Oklahoma House panel, despite concerns that it would prohibit in vitro fertilization and popular
forms of contraception. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is suing the Oklahoma
Health Care Authority, claiming it missed a deadline to open bids for administration of the
Medicare Advantage Waiver Program so that workers can prepare competitive bids to keep their
jobs.
The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in the percentage of at-risk adults (aged
50 and over with a chronic disease) who have visited a doctor for a checkup in the past two
years. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how the
individual health insurance mandate will benefit everyone but directly affect only a few.

In The News

Judge rules Oklahoma school voucher law unconstitutional

A 2010 Oklahoma law that authorizes state-funded scholarships for children with certain
disabilities to attend private schools is unconstitutional, a Tulsa County judge ruled Tuesday.
District Judge Rebecca Nightingale delivered her ruling from the bench after oral arguments in
the case in which public schools in Jenks and Tulsa countersued the parents of children who
sought the scholarship vouchers. Nightingale agreed with the school districts that the law violates
a constitutional prohibition of public money being used — directly or indirectly — for any
sectarian institution. Eric Baxter, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for
Religious Liberty who represented the parents, said it was not immediately clear based on the
judge’s decision what would happen to 149 special-needs students who currently are taking
advantage of the scholarship but said he anticipates filing a motion to keep the law in place
pending an appeal.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Test scores in 13 Oklahoma districts suspected of irregularities

State and local leaders are reacting to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis of 69,000 U.S.
schools’ standardized test results, which named the Tulsa, Owasso, and Choctaw-Nicoma Park
districts among 200 with the “most suspect” irregularities. The report named 10 other Oklahoma
school districts – Bartlesville, Broken Arrow, Edmond, Oklahoma City, Muskogee, Mustang,
Norman, Sand Springs, Western Heights, Yukon – as having fluctuations in test scores deserving
of further examination. The Georgia newspaper delved into the issue of standardized test
integrity nationwide after a criminal investigation by state officials determined last year that
cheating had occurred in more than half of Atlanta Public Schools’ elementary and middle
schools in 2009. This week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released its examination of test
results for 69,000 schools in 49 states and found high concentrations of test-score shifts outside
statistical norms in 200 school districts. The paper’s researchers acknowledged that their analysis
didn’t prove cheating, but said the “troubling patterns” they found in hundreds of cities
“resemble early indicators in Atlanta” that ultimately led to the scandal.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma education department preparing to take control of up to 10 low-performing
schools

The state is preparing to take operational control of as many as 10 of the state’s lowest-
performing schools, a top education official told lawmakers Tuesday. Comments by Department
of Education Chief of Staff Joel Robison to the House Common Education Committee made it
clear that Tulsa and Oklahoma City schools are among those on the cusp of intervention –
described as a “takeover” by some and a “partnership” by Robison. The Education Department
will release its list of designated schools on Thursday, Robison said. He described the
preliminary work with school districts – including “the two largest school districts in the state” –
as cooperative. “At no point in time has anybody told us we’re going to draw the line in the sand;
we’re not going to partner with you; if you’re going to come, you’re going to have to take it
away from us,” Robison said.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Reforming criminal justice: What the latest bill does and what stands in the way

A criminal justice reform bill, HB 3052, has been making its way through the legislature to great
fanfare. More recently rebranded as a “public safety bill,” it is the result of Oklahoma’s
participation in the Justice Reinvestment initiative, which seeks data-driven ways to reduce
crime and recidivism and ease the burden on overcrowded prisons. Reforms are direly needed.
The state’s incarceration rates are among the highest in the nation. An overcrowded, understaffed
prison system is putting both inmates and correctional officers in danger. And all that
imprisonment is not paying off in public safety, with Oklahoma’s violent crime rate remaining
above the national average. So are these latest reforms the answer?

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma’s drug courts are a better path to rehabilitation

She was able to overcome her drug addiction without going through jail time or rehab, but has
worried about her husband’s similar struggles. Right now, Clay Sumpter is in Oklahoma City
Community Correctional Center, serving for nonviolent offenses. This center is a little different
than typical jail. The OCCC opened in October 1970 to offer offenders an opportunity to achieve
a successful “re-entry” into the world. The center offers supervision as offenders take on
treatment and employment through public works program and work-release job opportunities.
Catherine Sumpter is glad to see her husband get help. “The reality is he’s a drug addict and
treatment for that is what’s really needed,” she said. Sumpter watched helplessly as her husband
endured the struggles of jail — the weight loss, alleged blackmail — only to come home and
battle the same substance abuse demons year after year. She’s glad the cycle may finally end. Of
the inmates in DOC custody, 33 percent were imprisoned for drug and alcohol offenses, and at
least half were incarcerated for a crime related to substance abuse. The majority of Oklahoma’s
incarcerated are serving time for nonviolent crimes.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

DHS drafts plan for child welfare system overhaul

The first draft of the improvement plan for Oklahoma’s child-welfare system will call for
overhauling the staff structure, increasing the number of and support for foster homes, and
lowering workers’ caseloads. The plan must be submitted to a three-person independent
monitoring panel on Friday. Deborah Smith, director of the Department of Human Services
Children and Family Services Division, previewed the plan for the agency’s oversight
commission meeting Tuesday. She said the monitors, as well as lawmakers and children’s
advocates, have had input. The staff named the reform document the Pinnacle Plan to reflect
reaching the highest possible standards. The plan has seven key points that will be tied to the
settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought against DHS by a national children’s rights group. The
agreement mandates improvements in 15 areas of child welfare. Details of the improvement
plan, including the number of foster families to recruit, how much caseloads will be decreased,
and method of implementation and costs of each point, will be released Friday.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Nonprofits struggle to meet growing demand

While businesses are beginning to recover, the clouds have not yet parted for many nonprofits.
Instead, nonprofits are being hit from two sides with increased demand. Individuals affected by
the economic downturn are not yet back on their feet and still require assistance. State and
federal cuts mean governments are looking to nonprofits to fill in the gaps where they formerly
provided services. Those cuts mean the state is currently serving fewer Oklahomans through the
affected agencies. This leads individuals to the doors of nonprofit organizations, who once again
courageously tackle the job of filling the gap. In a 2011 State of the Sector Survey by the
Nonprofit Finance Fund, 77 percent of nonprofit organizations were experiencing an increase in
demand for services and 54 percent did not think they were going to be able to meet this demand.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Fallacy of tax case for stimulating growth

When individual states attempt to attract corporations, they often join chambers of commerce in
making a business case for lowering corporate and personal taxes. Oklahoma is no exception.
The present governor and legislature not only subscribe to this popular belief, but are proposing
to act on it by applying a machete to all possible state taxes. They justify the cuts as leading to
economic growth, brought on by lower tax rates. Unfortunately, their actions are more likely to
do just the opposite. The annual State Business Tax Climate Index, compiled by The Tax
Foundation, is aimed at selecting the most business-friendly states. It celebrates those states that
have extremely low tax rates in the three major categories: corporate taxes, individual income
taxes and sales taxes. The low level of such taxes, and in some cases the absence thereof, are the
dominant factors in choosing the most business-friendly states. The 10 best states, according to
the 2012 Tax Climate Index, are: 1. Wyoming, 2. South Dakota, 3. Nevada, 4. Alaska, 5. Florida,
6. New Hampshire, 7. Washington, 8. Montana, 9. Texas and 10. Utah. Excepting Texas and
Washington, none of the other eight are noted for either business activity or high average
income.

Read more from The Norman Transcript.
Oklahoma City commits $9M to American Indian Cultural Center and Museum

The half-finished American Indian Cultural Center will get $9 million from Oklahoma City to
help complete construction if the state agrees to provide $40 million for the project. The
Oklahoma City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to commit $9 million of the $80 million
needed to finish the $170 million museum. Construction began in 2006 but was halted last year
when the Legislature didn’t approve a request for a bond issue to pay for finishing it. The city’s
decision is contingent upon the state providing an additional $40 million for the museum. Tribes
and private donors have pledged the rest of the money needed to finish the project, said J. Blake
Wade, CEO of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority (NACEA), the state
agency building the museum. Wade and other supporters will soon put together a package
detailing the commitments from the city, tribes and private donors to state officials in hopes the
state will fund the remaining $40 million.

Read more from NewsOK.

House committee passes personhood bill

Legislation that would grant “personhood” status to human embryos was approved by an
Oklahoma House panel Tuesday in spite of the concerns of opponents that it could have
unintended consequences, including prohibiting some forms of contraception and in vitro
fertilization. The Oklahoma House’s Public Health Committee voted 7-4 for the Senate-passed
measure and sent it to the full House, where it is also expected to pass. Following the vote, the
head of an abortion-rights group said the measure will be challenged in court if it is signed into
law by Gov. Mary Fallin. “This is going to cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma money,” said Martha
Skeeters, of Norman, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. Susan Plath
Winston, of Norman, whose 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were conceived through in
vitro fertilization, became emotional following the committee hearing and said the techniques
used to conceive her children would be banned under the law.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Oklahoma Public Employees Association sues over health care bid process

The state’s largest association of public workers is suing the Oklahoma Health Care Authority,
claiming it missed a deadline to open bidding on health care services for the elderly and disabled
provided by the Department of Human Services. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association
filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on March 23, alleging the Oklahoma Health
Care Authority missed a Jan. 1 deadline to issue a request for proposals to competitively bid on
administrative services for the Advantage Waiver Program. Attorneys for the association fear
that time is running out for workers in the Advantage Waiver Program to prepare and submit
competitive bids to keep their jobs.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day
This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about
freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live.
It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the
phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we
know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.
-Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate Magazine about the Supreme Court hearing over health care
reform

Number of the Day

50th

Oklahoma’s rank nationally in the percentage of at-risk adults (aged 50 and over with a chronic
disease) who have visited a doctor for a checkup in the past two years

Source: Commonwealth Fund

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Individual mandate will benefit all, but directly affect only a few

The Supreme Court examined today the requirement in the Affordable Care Act (that is, health
reform) that individuals have health coverage or face a penalty. Apart from the legal questions
before the Court, here’s what Americans need to know about this “individual mandate.” It won’t
affect the vast majority of Americans. Most Americans already have insurance — through their
jobs or through a program like Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program
(CHIP). They simply will check a box on their tax forms stating they have coverage. A new
Urban Institute study found that only 7 percent of people under age 65 will have to buy health
insurance or face a penalty — and many of them will get subsidies to make coverage more
affordable. Most uninsured Americans want coverage. Many uninsured people don’t have a job
that provides insurance and either can’t afford to buy it in the individual market or would get
rejected by insurance companies because they have (or have had) serious health problems. Only
7 percent of the uninsured report that they don’t have insurance mainly because they don’t think
they need it, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. The small
number of uninsured people who don’t want coverage will simply pay a modest fee.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

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Reforming Criminal Justice: What the latest bill does and what stands in the way
OK Policy Blog - Tue, 03/27/2012 - 14:54

Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Photo by Charles Duggar used under a Creative
Commons license.

A criminal justice reform bill, HB 3052, has been making its way through the legislature to great
fanfare. More recently rebranded as a “public safety bill,” it is the result of Oklahoma’s
participation in the Justice Reinvestment initiative, which seeks data-driven ways to reduce
crime and recidivism and ease the burden on overcrowded prisons.

Reforms are direly needed. The state’s incarceration rates are among the highest in the nation.
An overcrowded, understaffed prison system is putting both inmates and correctional officers in
danger. And all that imprisonment is not paying off in public safety, with Oklahoma’s violent
crime rate remaining above the national average.

So are these latest reforms the answer?

As a whole, the bill contains several good ideas, but two serious potential obstacles remain. First,
many of the reforms depend on cooperation by district attorneys and judges in each of
Oklahoma’s 26 judicial districts. The Oklahoma District Attorneys Association has endorsed HB
3052, but they will need to actively participate in the implementation for reforms to be
successful. Oklahoma DAs have already pushed back against last year’s reforms.
Their complaints about offenders scheduled for release with GPS trackers led the DOC to
significantly scale back the program.

The second obstacle is inadequate funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment. HB
3052 creates new tracks for directing offenders to treatment instead of prison, but the tracks
won’t be much use if there’s no destination at the end. That takes money. Like so many other
goals for our state, it is highly unlikely that we will see real improvements in public safety if tax
cuts remain lawmakers’ number one priority.

Here’s what the bill would do:

Probation and Drug Court Reforms:

   1. Establishes “intermediate revocation facilities” for alternative sentencing of drug
      court and probation violators. The Department of Corrections (DOC) does not have
      funds to build new institutions that would serve as intermediate revocation facilities, but
      DOC Director Justin Jones said they plan to designate beds at community correction
      facilities to fill this role. Jones said the difficulty will be providing “intensive
      programmatic services” that the bill calls for at these facilities, since the department does
      not have resources to expand already overburdened mental health, substance abuse, and
      domestic violence counseling and treatment programs.
   2. Provides an option for a sentence of 6 months at an “intermediate revocation
      facility” for those who violate the terms of a drug court program or probation. Jones
      said drug court violators in Oklahoma currently serve an average of three years, so an
      alternative sentence of 6 months would help reduce incarceration if it was widely
      adopted. However, the impact depends on the cooperation of Oklahoma judges and
      district attorneys, because the law makes the sentence a new option for the courts, not a
      mandate. Jones gave the example of a law passed in the 1980s that provided an option for
      weekend and nighttime incarceration. The option is still on the books but has been used
      rarely if at all.
   3. Requires a probation period of at least 9-months to be included with any sentence
      and instructs DOC to develop a sentencing matrix for probation violations. The
      mandatory probation time is aimed at reducing recidivism, and the sentencing matrix is
      intended to ensure that sanctions for probation violations are applied consistently and
      fairly. To be most effective, the added probation time would need to be paired with more
      treatment and reintegration resources. It remains to be seen whether the legislature will
      provide funds needed to offer these services.

Sentencing Reforms:

Click for larger.

   1. Allow credits for time off a sentence to be earned during “85 percent time.” For the
      most serious crimes in Oklahoma, offenders are required to serve at least 85 percent of
      their sentence. This section clarifies that they can earn time off for good behavior during
      that 85 percent time, but the credits will still not go into effect until at least 85 percent of
      the sentence is served. A 2007 audit by MGT of America cited the rise in 85 percent
      sentencing as the reason for “virtually all” of the projected growth in Oklahoma’s prison
      population. Last year’s corrections reform bill, HB 2131, did finally implement one of
      MGT’s recommendations to make 85 percent offenders eligible for community
      sentencing.
   2. Reduces sentence for a second drug conviction in some circumstances. A second
      conviction involving any Schedule III, IV, or V substance or marijuana that is not during
      probation or within ten years of a previous conviction would be punishable by a sentence
      of one to five years, instead of the current two to ten years. Because it is a relatively
      minor change to a small subset of convictions, this is unlikely to have a major effect on
      prison populations.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Reforms:

   1. Requires assessment of anyone convicted of a felony for mental health and
      substance abuse problems. The assessments will provide information for courts to
      consider in sentencing, and anyone who is found to need treatment will be referred to the
      Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Yet treatment programs
      inside prisons have been slashed due to budget cuts, and DMHSAS is currently able to
      serve only about one-third of the Oklahomans who need treatment. We can identify who
      needs treatment, but little will be accomplished without more resources to provide it.
   2. Increases the eligibility for sentence modification from 12 to 24 months after
      conviction. This section is in response to long waiting lists that often make it impossible
      for offenders to get into treatment programs within 12 months of sentencing. It does not
       provide any funding to offer more treatment in order to shorten the waiting lists. District
       attorneys would have to approve any sentence modification after 12 months, which may
       create a conflict of interest since their role in the justice system is to advocate against
       defendants. Overseeing a modification could also create more work for the DA’s office
       compared to reinstating the original sentence.

Law Enforcement Reforms:

   1. Creates the Justice Reinvestment Grant Program. If fully funded, this program would
      provide about $5 million per year to local law enforcement agencies for new strategies to
      combat violent crime. It would give preference to initiatives that emphasize use of crime
      mapping technology, community engagement, and multi-jurisdictional cooperation.

Oklahoma’s over-incarceration problem is three decades in the making, and there is no easy fix.
HB 3052 has some potential to reduce incarceration while improving public safety in our state,
but only as part of a larger effort, which includes the entire justice system, mental health and
substance abuse treatment programs, and lawmakers who keep up the push for smart reforms.

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In The Know: OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic
cuts

OK Policy Blog - Tue, 03/27/2012 - 13:45

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that lawmakers are building triggers for automatic cuts following
revenue growth into bills to eliminate the income tax. See more about the tax debate at OK
Policy’s tax reform information page. Oklahoma City may pay $9 million of the estimated $80
million it will take to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The OK Policy
Blog shares a report on how health care industries are weighing in on the Supreme Court hearing
over the Affordable Care Act.

Salon explains why Oklahoma’s new Personhood ballot language is misleading, and why the
measure would still effectively ban in vitro fertilization and common forms of birth control. A
Senate panel passed a measure that would require a doctor to be physically present when a
woman takes medicine to induce an abortion. The panel also passed a bill to require drug-testing
of TANF recipients, but they stripped out the requirement to drug test candidates for political
office. OK Policy previously explained why this measure would waste money and harm children.

A House panel rejected a bill to reinstate $5,000 stipends for teachers receiving national board
certification. A leading scientific society expressed concern over a bill that could insert
manufactured controversies into Oklahoma science classes. Read the full letter here. State
Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says his office will investigate a conference held last year by a
private foundation on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Oklahoma has shown modest improvements in college completion rates in the past two years. An
Indian tribe based in Cushing is concerned that the Keystone XL pipeline might disrupt sacred
sites and burial grounds.

The Number of the Day is the average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in
Oklahoma. In today’s policy note, Planet Money gives an overview of the surprisingly
entertaining history of the income tax.

In The News

OCPA/Laffer income tax bills to include triggers for automatic cuts

It likely will take longer than 10 years to eliminate the state’s personal income tax, the author of
one of two measures proposing to dispose of the tax said Monday. Economic triggers will be
added to two bills that call for reducing the top personal income tax rate next year and gradually
phasing out the tax by 2022, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, House author of Senate Bill 1571. The
triggers would require the state’s economy to increase by a certain percentage for additional cuts
to take place in the tax. Opponents have said cutting the personal income tax would harm
funding for essential state services. Personal income taxes bring in about 30 percent of the
money legislators appropriate; that doesn’t count nearly $800 million of personal income tax
revenue that goes to transportation, education and teacher retirement funds before the tax
collections go into the general revenue fund.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Tax Reform Information from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma City may help pay for Indian cultural center

Oklahoma City will pay for $9 million of the estimated $80 million it will take to finish the
funding-plagued American Indian Cultural Center and Museum if a measure at Tuesday’s city
council meeting wins approval and the state makes a similar move. Construction at the $170
million museum began in 2006. It sits half-finished near the intersection of Interstates 35 and 40
downtown and has been beset by cost overruns. Work was halted last year when the state
Legislature turned down a request for a bond issue to continue funding construction. A group led
by people who helped secure funding to renovate the state Capitol dome for the 2007 centennial
celebration is organizing efforts to find the money it will take to finish the museum. Supporters
are looking for a mix of public and private funding.

Read more from NewsOK.

Health industries weigh in on Supreme Court case
Before the raucous legislative battle to pass the health law in 2010, there was a quieter but
significant process that brought health industry players to the negotiating table. Insurers,
hospitals and drug makers all cut deals to help shape what would become the Affordable Care
Act. Now, as the Supreme Court awaits arguments in one of the most closely watched cases in
years, the deals are threatened along with the law. And the industry groups are deploying
different strategies as they seek to defend their interests before the High Court. Insurers have
chosen not to defend the massive dividend for their industry that many believe makes the law
most vulnerable. The “individual mandate” requires almost everybody to buy health insurance or
pay a fine – a major concession the lobby got at the bargaining table. But insurers are not taking
a stand on whether the mandate is unconstitutional. Hospitals, the law’s most energetic health-
industry defender, urge the court to uphold the entire health overhaul act. Drug makers just want
the legal case and resulting uncertainty to be over. The American Medical Association, the
largest doctor lobby, supports the law and is working to influence rules for insurance exchanges
and other components.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

New Oklahoma petition language misleads about impact of Personhood Amendment

A resounding rejection by Mississippi voters last year and two other defeats by Coloradans have
not killed the Personhood movement. “We’re learning as we go, and we’re learning more and
more about how to effectively take the Personhood amendments to the states,” said Dan Skerbitz,
the Tulsa-based CPA who heads the local Personhood movement. That means trying to pre-empt
the concerns that helped unite the opposition in conservative Mississippi — namely, the intended
bans on forms of birth control and IVF. Much to the movement’s delight, the Oklahoma attorney
general’s office has just rewritten the proposed ballot language. He acknowledged in an
interview that Personhood wants to ban the IUD and emergency contraception, because they
“potentially can fall into that category when they disrupt the implantation of an embryo.”
Emphasis on “potentially” — hormonal contraception generally prevents fertilization in the first
place, and many fertilized eggs don’t implant for indeterminate natural reasons. So when the new
ballot language contains the following tautology: “The measure does not prohibit contraceptive
methods that prevent the creation of a person as defined by this measure,” it’s implicitly defining
the IUD and the morning-after pill not as contraception, but as allegedly abortifacient. The
revised language also says that the amendment would “affect, but not prohibit” in vitro
fertilization, with restrictions that infertility advocates say amount to the same thing.

Read more from Salon.

Senate panel passes measure requiring doctor to be physically present when woman takes
RU-486 pill

A Senate committee passed a measure Monday that would require a doctor to be physically
present when a woman takes medicine to induce an abortion. House Bill 2381 by Sen. Kim
David, R-Wagoner, now heads to the Senate floor after securing approval from the Senate Health
and Human Services Committee. The measure would apply to RU-486, also called Mifepristone,
or any other drug or chemical used for abortion. Under the terms of the bill, a doctor would not
be able to watch a woman take the pill via videoconference, David said. The measure would
preserve the relationship between the physician and the woman, she said. Sen. Jim Wilson, D-
Tahlequah, said the bill implies that “women aren’t smart enough to take a pill.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Panel passes drug-testing for TANF recipients, strips out requirement for candidates

In other action, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a measure that would
require drug testing for people receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. A House
amendment that would have required people seeking state or local office to be tested for drugs
was stripped from the version passed by the Senate committee. Brinkley said that under the bill’s
requirements, anyone approved for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families would have to pay
for and undergo a drug test within three months. The estimated cost is $30, he said. Kate Richey,
a policy analyst for the liberal Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the measure would draw a court
challenge “because the court universally strikes down suspicionless drug testing.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Previously: 5 reasons not to drug test welfare recipients from the OK Policy Blog

House panel rejects bill to reinstate bonuses for board-certified teachers

Legislation that would fund $5,000 stipends to Oklahoma public school teachers who are
certified by a national board was defeated Monday by members of a state House panel who
expressed concern about replacing the current certification process with a performance-pay
system. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education defeated the Senate-passed bill
9-2, but its author, Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, said she plans to find another way to pay for
bonuses for certified teachers that were withheld last year due to cuts in the education budget.
Last year’s bonuses were restored in a $92.5 million supplemental funding bill that Gov. Fallin
signed into law last month that included $14.8 million for teacher bonuses. State Superintendent
of Schools Janet Barresi supports any measure that rewards the state’s teachers for their hard
work, spokesman Damon Gardenhire said. “I think the teachers see a lot of value,” Gardenhire
said. He said Barresi requested that money for the stipends be restored to her budget and
recognizes it is a large budget item.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Science groups warn about damage to education from Oklahoma bill

The following information was released by the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS): The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) expressed
concern over proposed Oklahoma legislation that would encourage the states public school
teachers to question the well-established science behind evolution and global climate change.
AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner reaffirmed that there is virtually no scientific controversy among
the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution. The
Oklahoma bill HB1551 asserts scientific controversy where none exists, he writes, and will only
serve to confuse students, not enlighten them. Among the bills aims are to teach critical thinking
skills in areas including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life,
global warming, and human cloning. Leshner, who is also the publisher of the journal Science,
notes that such thinking is already inherent in the way science is taught.

Read more from Power Engineering.

See also: The full letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

State Auditor to review 2011 education conference

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones says his office will investigate a conference held last
year by a private foundation on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Jones
said Monday he plans to launch the investigative audit at the request of state Superintendent
Janet Barresi. Details of an investigative audit released earlier this month showed former
Department of Education officials under the previous administration used secret bank accounts
during a 10-year period that the audit described as a “slush fund.” It was learned during the
investigation that a similar account used under Barresi’s administration was used to finance a
conference in 2011.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma shows modest improvement in college completion rates

Oklahoma has shown modest improvements in college completion rates in the past two years,
according to a new report, but the state must ramp up its degree attainment numbers if it hopes to
keep pace with demand for skilled workers. If the state continues at its current pace, 37 percent
of its residents will hold postsecondary credentials by the target date, up from 31.7 percent in
2010. The state’s two largest metropolitan areas beat the overall state percentage: 35.19 percent
of Oklahoma City residents and 35.55 percent of Tulsans held at least an associate degree in
2010. That places both cities roughly in the middle of the largest 100 metropolitan areas in the
country. Washington, D.C., topped the list with 54.37 percent, while McAllen, Texas, came in
last with 20.78 percent. If the nation is to boost its college completion rates, Merisotes said,
states must increase their capacity to serve more students at the lowest-possible cost. They
should particularly look at underserved groups, such as underemployed adults, returning
veterans, low-income students and ethnic minorities.

Read more from NewsOK.

Indian tribe worries pipeline will disturb graves

As President Barack Obama pushes to fast-track an oil pipeline from Oklahoma south to the Gulf
Coast, an American Indian tribe that calls the oil hub home worries the route might disrupt
sacred sites holding the unmarked graves of their ancestors. Sac and Fox Nation Chief George
Thurman plans to voice his concerns this week in Washington. He said he fears workers placing
the 485-mile Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Cushing to refineries on Texas’ Gulf
Coast could disturb holy ground without consideration of the tribe. He and another tribe member
say the pipeline’s route travels through areas where unmarked graves are likely buried. “We’ve
been here 171 years,” said Sandra Massey, the Sac and Fox Nation’s historic preservation
officer. “We’ve been living and dying here. We are all over.”

Read more from the Associated Press.

Quote of the Day

Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these
concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.
-Alan Leshner, publisher of the journal Science, writing about an Oklahoma bill that would
encourage schools to teach about “controversies” related to climate change and evolution

Number of the Day

$7,100

Average annual cost of care for an infant at a daycare center in Oklahoma in 2011, 37 percent of
the median income for the state’s single mothers

Source: National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The surprisingly entertaining history of the income tax

The U.S. has a really conflicted history with the income tax. For most of American history, there
was no income tax at all. At one point it was ruled unconstitutional. Today, income tax is the
federal government’s main source of revenue. That raises a question: How did something that
was once so strange to us become so central? The answer includes a few wars, a Supreme Court
justice on his deathbed, and Donald Duck.

Read more and listen to the podcast from Planet Money.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

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Kaiser Health News: Health industries weigh in on Supreme Court case

OK Policy Blog - Mon, 03/26/2012 - 16:00
This story was written by Jay Hancock, a staff writer for Kaiser Health News, a publication of
the Kaiser Family Foundation and was originally published on March 22nd, 2012. For a break
down of the issues being debated before the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act, see our
blog post here.


Before the raucous legislative battle to pass the health law in 2010, there was a quieter but
significant process that brought health industry players to the negotiating table. Insurers,
hospitals and drug makers all cut deals to help shape what would become the Affordable Care
Act.

America's Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni (Photo by Chip
Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Now, as the Supreme Court awaits arguments in one of the most closely watched cases in years,
the deals are threatened along with the law. And the industry groups are deploying different
strategies as they seek to defend their interests before the High Court.

Insurers have chosen not to defend the massive dividend for their industry that many believe
makes the law most vulnerable. The “individual mandate” requires almost everybody to buy
health insurance or pay a fine – a major concession the lobby got at the bargaining table. But
insurers are not taking a stand on whether the mandate is an unconstitutional abuse of federal
power, as the law’s opponents contend.

“I don’t think the public or the courts recognize our industry for its constitutional expertise,” said
Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobby.

Insurers do express strong views on what the court should do if the mandate is tossed out. Their
memo to the justices joins more than 130 other briefs, the largest number of “friend of the court”
briefs ever filed for a Supreme Court case.

Hospitals, the law’s most energetic health-industry defender, urge the court to uphold the entire
health overhaul act. Drug makers just want the legal case and resulting uncertainty to be over.

The American Medical Association, the largest doctor lobby, supports the law and is working to
influence rules for insurance exchanges and other components. But, like the largest drug trade
group, it has filed no briefs with the court.

“There have been ample statements on all sides of the issues,” said AMA President Dr. Peter
Carmel. “Our focus now is on assuring effective implementation of the law and on securing
further improvements.”

Much calculation focuses on the individual mandate, a multibillion-dollar source of revenue to
pay for expanded care but one that is opposed by dozens of states as government overreach. If
the mandate disappears, insurers have the most to lose, analysts said.
“You need the individual mandate in place for this reform law to work,” said Rouven Wool-
Lewis, a health services analyst for T. Rowe Price, a Baltimore money management company.
“If that gets ruled unconstitutional, I think people worry about the profitability of managed care.”

The insurers worry that the court could block the mandate but uphold a separate requirement that
they accept all members at a uniform price regardless of pre-existing illnesses, a situation Wool-
Lewis likened to “signing up for fire insurance while your house is on fire.”

Under that scenario insurers could find themselves with sick new members but without much of
the expected money to pay for their care.

“That’s the most important thing here – the linkage” between the mandate and insurers’
obligation to sell policies to all comers, Ignagni said. “The American people want reforms to
work and without that link it’s going to be impossible to make that happen.”

If the court dumps the mandate, insurers want the justices to jettison this “guaranteed issue”
requirement, too. The industry draws comfort from the fact that the federal government has taken
the same position.

Besides threatening insurer profits, which have been robust since the law was passed, a decision
to strike the mandate but leave the expanded coverage requirements in place could hurt all
consumers, the industry contends.

“That’s clearly going to cause premiums to move up for the people who have insurance,” said
Peter Costa, who follows managed care stocks for Wells Fargo.

As evidence, insurers point to states such as New York, New Jersey and Washington that
required plans to expand coverage without a sign-up mandate. The result, they say, was
skyrocketing premiums and a plunge in the number of people covered in the individual market.
Some, however, argue that federal subsidies distributed through health insurance exchanges for
lower income workers would keep individual premiums relatively affordable even in the
mandate’s absence.

Hospitals were early proponents of the Affordable Care Act, not least because of the promise of
billions in extra spending through the mandate, government insurance subsidies and a substantial
expansion of Medicaid, the federal program for low-income patients. But hospitals, too, are
concerned the court will outlaw the mandate while upholding provisions that would put them at
financial risk.

One component of the law would cut payments to hospitals treating a disproportionate share of
the medically indigent. Others would penalize hospitals if they don’t increase productivity or
reduce expensive readmissions.

“Those are cuts that the hospitals accepted in anticipation of increased coverage” via the
mandate, said Melinda Hatton, general counsel for the American Hospital Association. Those
parts of the law “are directly linked to the individual mandate” and should survive or disappear
along with it, she said.

The court will also hear arguments against the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion,
another huge source of new revenue not only for hospitals but for insurers, which have
substantially expanded their Medicaid managed care business. States contend the expansion is
unconstitutionally “coercive,” an argument that hospitals sharply dispute.

“It’s clearly within Congress’ power to make changes in the Medicaid program,” Hatton said.
“And this is no different.”

The insurance lobby is just as silent on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion as it is on
the constitutionality of the mandate. Both positions are tactical nods to the act’s Republican
opponents, some say. But insurers may not want the mandate or the entire act overturned any
more than hospitals do.

“I do not believe from the conversations I’ve had that anybody in the insurance industry wants
this law thrown out in its entirety,” said Robert Laszewski, a veteran health policy consultant and
former insurance executive. “While a lot of people in the industry don’t love this law, we didn’t
get a public option and we didn’t get a Canadian-style system.”

Canada’s government-run medical system or a proposed “public-option” government carrier to
compete with commercial insurers are anathema to the industry.

“The notion that we might have to do this all over again is not a notion that anybody in the
industry is going to look forward to,” Laszewski said.

In any event, Wells Fargo analyst Costa believes the stakes for the health care industry are lower
in the Supreme Court deliberations than they are in the November elections.

The individual-policy business affected by any decision over the mandate is “less important
when you consider the big picture of earnings from these companies,” he said.

The bigger problem comes if Republicans take control of the Senate or even the White House, he
said. While they’re unlikely to gain enough seats to repeal the health reform act, they could win
enough control to jeopardize funding for the Medicaid expansion and other measures.

“We believe the biggest risk is around defunding health reform and not repealing it,” Costa wrote
in a report to clients.

Another possible outcome of court deliberations is delay. The justices could rule that the Anti-
Injunction Act prevents the plaintiffs from challenging the mandate until it goes into effect in
2014. On that issue, at least, the industry seems to be in broad agreement with the opinion of the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group.
“We think the court should take the opportunity to see the legal issues resolved,” said PhRMA
spokesman Matt Bennett. “Uncertainty in the law is bad for patients, providers and the entire
health care sector.”

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In The Know: Attorney General revises ‘Personhood’ petition wording

OK Policy Blog - Mon, 03/26/2012 - 14:30

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt has rewritten a personhood initiative
petition to include language explaining that it would ban only some forms of contraception and
would not ban in vitro fertilization. As worded, the measure would still ban birth control pills
and IUDs, and it could require that all embryos created by in vitro fertilization be implanted.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to free up about $46 million in tobacco taxes when it takes
over funding for insurance previously provided by Insure Oklahoma. With the Supreme Court
hearing on the health care law beginning today, OK Policy previously explained what the court
will look at and how the Affordable Care Act is already benefiting Oklahomans.

The number of potential welfare fraud cases referred to the Department of Human Services has
tripled over the past three years due to more effective enforcement efforts. The state Ethics
Commission publicly reprimanded a former Oklahoma Commerce Department recruiter of
business Friday for allegedly leaking insider information to a Texas firm that eventually hired
him. Legislative leaders are developing plans for up to $200 million in bonds to repair the
Capitol building and the nearby Jim Thorpe State Office Building. The Norman Transcript
discussed how OCAST works to diversify Oklahoma’s economy.

The Tulsa World looks at the growing number of voices speaking against tax cuts. A letter to
NewsOK says that lawmakers need to identify what services they would eliminate before they
cut taxes. Oklahoma is ahead of most states in implementing policies to identify effective
teachers and get rid of those who aren’t, according to new 2011 rankings by the National Council
on Teacher Quality. The Tulsa World writes that lawmakers are conducting a war against public
education.

The Number of the Day is the percentage above the national average paid in property taxes by
residents of no income tax states. In today’s Policy Note, a new OMB analysis shows that the
benefits of federal regulations far exceed the cost.

In The News
Attorney General revises ‘Personhood’ petition wording

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has rewritten a personhood initiative petition because
Pruitt says it did not adequately explain the effects. If approved by voters, the measure, State
Question 761, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution. It would define a person as any human
being from the beginning of biological development to death. The reworded measure
says: ”Biological development of a human being begins at fertilization, which is the fusion of a
female egg with a human male sperm to form a new cell. The measure does not prohibit
contraceptive methods that prevent the creation of a person as defined by this measure. The
measure would not ban contraception that prevents the creation of a person but would prohibit
contraception that ends a pregnancy. The measure would also protect persons created in a
laboratory, which would affect, but not prohibit, medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization.
For example, persons created in a laboratory as part of the medical procedure would not be
deliberately destroyed.” The signatures Personhood Oklahoma gathered under the old version of
the ballot initiative are still good, said Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Pruitt. Supporters need to
collect 155,216 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Why a ‘Personhood’ law could outlaw birth control from LiveScience

Affordable Care Act will free up $46 million in tobacco tax dollars for Oklahoma

An unexpected payoff for state government comes with the Affordable Care Act – about $46
million a year in tobacco tax money with no home. Assuming it survives a U.S. Supreme Court
challenge that is set for oral arguments this week and the national elections of November, the law
takes full effect Jan. 1, 2014. That’s the day the law says just about everyone should have health
insurance and the day that a big part of Oklahoma’s tobacco tax becomes homeless. When state
voters approved a net 55-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax in 2008, they dedicated much
of the revenue to health care. The state used much of that funding for Insure Oklahoma, a state
program that mixes Medicaid funding, employer contributions and tobacco tax revenue to
provide health insurance for working Oklahomans who earn up to 200 percent of the federal
poverty level. In fiscal year 2011, Insure Oklahoma received about $46 million in tobacco tax
money, said Ron Jenkins, spokesman for the Office of State Finance. But all that changes Jan. 1,
2014, said Nico Gomez, spokesman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which runs Insure
Oklahoma. Under the federal health care law, people who earn up to 133 percent of the federal
poverty level will be covered by Medicaid. Everyone above that level who doesn’t get insurance
through an employer would be eligible to purchase insurance through a health insurance
exchange with assistance of a federal subsidy. Insure Oklahoma is left without anyone to serve.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Previously: The Affordable Care Act: What has it done for you lately? from the OK Policy
Blog; High Court Hears Health Law: What’s up for debate? from the OK Policy Blog

Government more effective at catching welfare fraud
The number of potential welfare fraud cases referred to the Department of Human Services has
tripled over the past three years – but that doesn’t mean the actual amount of fraud has increased,
says DHS Inspector General Tony Bryan. “We’re just catching more of it,” said Bryan. Greater
federal and state emphasis on fighting fraud is beginning to pay off. Federal overpayments –
including both fraud and honest errors – actually declined last year, according to the Government
Accountability Office. Bryan’s 74-person department reviewed more than 7,100 complaints of
welfare fraud last year. Of those, 43 percent were further investigated. About 725 cases resulted
in prosecution or administrative penalties, including benefit disqualification. Welfare fraud –
encompassing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, and other public
assistance – may be a widely recognized problem, but the nature of it sometimes isn’t. Drug-
testing public assistance recipients, as the Oklahoma Legislature is contemplating, may sound
good to constituents, but catching and preventing fraud is more a matter of oversight and audit
trails. And, almost always, major fraud involves non-recipients, either directly or as facilitators.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Former Oklahoma Commerce Department business recruiter reprimanded

The state Ethics Commission publicly reprimanded a former Oklahoma Commerce Department
recruiter of business Friday for allegedly leaking insider information to a Texas firm that
eventually hired him. The reprimand states that Robbie Ruminer secured confidential
information from the Commerce Department and made it available for his personal gain. The
incidents are believed to have occurred between May 2008 and January 2010. Ruminer began
work with the state agency in 2005 and quit in 2010. “You literally changed jobs over the
weekend, joining an organization which you had supplied with confidential agency-owned
information,” the reprimand states. The Ethics Commission issued the public reprimand after
meeting in a closed session. The commission may issue a private reprimand, a public reprimand
or a fine or file a lawsuit.

Read more from NewsOK.

Okla. Legislature developing bond issue to fix State Capitol, but some lawmakers oppose
bonds

Legislative leaders have been quietly developing plans to ask the House and Senate to authorize
up to $200 million in capital improvement bonds to repair the Capitol building and the nearby
Jim Thorpe State Office Building, which houses the offices of the Oklahoma Corporation
Commission and other state agencies. A structural inspection performed in September found
mortar between limestone panels was disintegrating, and the metal clips that secure the panels to
the building’s exterior have apparently corroded. “Another winter season of water infiltration
coupled with freeze-thaw cycles will cause further degradation of an already poor condition and
has a high probability of causing additional falling debris,” the report concludes. Officials have
estimated that repairs to the Capitol, along with revamping outdated electrical, plumbing and
other systems, could cost as much as $130 million. Conditions at the Jim Thorpe Building are no
less serious. The building’s air conditioning system no longer works and its boilers are about to
collapse. Portable chillers have been located throughout the building in an effort to keep it cool,
but temperatures in the Corporation Commission’s main courtroom have reached the mid to
upper 80s during recent rulemaking hearings on energy issues.

Read more from the Associated Press.

OCAST provides funding for scientists, researchers, manufacturers

Public investment in science and technology will pay rich dividends down the road in terms of
new products, better treatments, job growth, higher per-capita income and better quality of life.
That’s the message being delivered around the state in recent weeks by C. Michael Carolina,
executive director of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. The
little-known state agency provides funding for scientists, researchers, small businesses,
manufacturers and organizations. “It’s about competing in the innovation economy,” Carolina
said. “Our mantra now is ‘how do we compete in the innovation economy.’” Created in 1987 to
help diversify the state’s economy, OCAST has funded 2,327 projects with about $215 million in
state tax dollars. Carolina said they leveraged $20.39 for every $1 invested by the state, for a
$4.3 billion economic impact. More than 1,500 jobs were created or retained by OCAST-
supported organizations in fiscal year 2011. “If Oklahoma wants to be a player in science and
technology, it must invest,” Carolina told a Transcript editorial board meeting Tuesday morning.

Read more from The Norman Transcript.

State tax-cutting effort raising more concerns

“That train has left the station,” said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, about the likelihood of a
tax-cut plan emerging from this legislative session. From the looks of things, it’s a runaway train.
Why, when state services are crippled and concerns about tax cuts are growing, are state
lawmakers still hurtling toward that goal? Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa,
says it’s because “Oklahomans have told us time and again they are hungry for a meaningful tax
cut.” Maybe they’re clamoring for cuts in Creek County, but that does not appear to be the case
in the Ardmore area. “I have yet to have a constituent come up to me and say, ‘I’m sure glad
you’re getting rid of that income tax,’” said Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, at a recent event. In
an effort to satisfy all stakeholders, tax-cut proponents keep saying they’ll protect “core services”
like education in the process. But the awful, unsaid truth is these core services haven’t been
protected for years and as a result are decimated by recent cutbacks. Which is why more and
more people are speaking out against tax cuts: local school leaders, local city leaders, senior
citizens, health-care advocates, college professors, business leaders – the list goes on.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Identify spending cuts before cutting taxes from NewsOK

State teacher evaluation plan gets B- in 2011, up from D- in 2009

Oklahoma is ahead of most states in implementing policies to identify effective teachers and get
rid of those who aren’t, according to new 2011 rankings by the National Council on Teacher
Quality. The state scored an overall B-minus in the council’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook, up
from a D-plus in 2009 and one of the highest grades ever given by the nonprofit nonpartisan
group. Florida received the highest grade of B, with Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee
each getting a B-minus. The report features a detailed 166-page analysis of Oklahoma’s progress
on the policies it sets for teacher preparation, licensure, evaluation, career advancement, tenure,
compensation, pensions and dismissal. The grade is based on the quality and rigor of these
policies and is not an evaluation of the quality of teachers in Oklahoma.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Full Oklahoma analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality

The war on public education

The war on public education continues. Just a few days ago state Superintendent of Public
Instruction Janet Barresi called local school officials “the usual complainers” when they pointed
out, correctly, that their districts were being strangled (our word, not theirs) by a combination of
sharply reduced state funding and unfunded mandates imposed on them in the form of added
testing and remediation requirements. Local school officials also noted that new end-of-
instruction tests are creating a class of students who have successfully completed all their courses
and other graduation requirements but won’t be allowed to graduate because they did not pass
enough of the newly required tests. Those complaints, too, raised Barresi’s ire. Barresi called a
meeting to let educators discuss the new requirements but then neither she nor any member of
the state Board of Education bothered to attend and listen. Then on Thursday, state Rep. David
Dank, R-Oklahoma City, called local school officials “tax hogs.” That came after educators
pointed out, again correctly, that his proposal to freeze property taxes on homes owned by
everyone 65 or older would result in less revenue available for local schools. Seniors’ property
taxes already are frozen if their income is at or below their home county’s median income. Dank
said local school officials were lying and that his proposal is not a tax cut. Well, here’s the thing,
Rep. Dank: If it results in some people paying lower taxes, which it will, it is a tax cut.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

Years down the road, I don’t want my children or grandchildren to be saddled with dealing with
a broken system that doesn’t have the money to fund state operations.
-Oklahoma City resident Bill Moore, in a letter publish by The Oklahoman

Number of the Day

21 percent

Percentage above the national average paid in property taxes by residents of no income tax states

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute
See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Benefits of federal regulations far exceed the costs

Today’s debate about “regulatory overreach” is filled with mostly empty talking points, so it’s
easy to forget that there’s actually a ton of regularly-updated, widely available data analyzing
precisely the cost-benefit breakdown of federal rules and regulations. Yesterday, the OMB
released a draft of its annual report titled, literally, “On the Benefits and Costs of Federal
Regulations,” spelling out in clear terms how much money different federal regulations save us
each year, compared to the costs of compliance. The report is long, but there are a couple main
points that every critic of regulatory overreach should take note of: First, according to the report,
the year with the highest regulatory costs was actually 2007 — right in the middle of the Bush
Administration’s second term. That’s surprising, since I don’t remember so much talk of “job-
killing regulations” at the time. But the point is not the costs, since for every single year over the
past decade, the benefits have yielded massively greater savings. From 2001 to 2011, the
estimated annual benefits of all federal regulations range from $141 to $700 billion, while the
costs fall between $43.3 and $67.3 billion.

Read more from Policy Shop.

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The Weekly Wonk: March 23, 2012

OK Policy Blog - Fri, 03/23/2012 - 16:28

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s
events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy explained the issues scheduled for debate in an upcoming Supreme Court
hearing on the Affordable Care Act. We also cataloged how Oklahomans have benefited from
health care reform since it was signed into law two years ago.

We advocated for a PAYGO system in Oklahoma, where tax cuts are matched dollar for dollar
with spending cuts. OK Policy’s PAYGO proposal was featured on KWGS Public Radio Tulsa.
We also presented data showing that states without an income tax have higher sales and property
taxes than the national average.

We announced that we will be hosting a public forum on April 5th, “Eliminating the Income
Tax: Silver Bullet or Fool’s Gold,” featuring Oklahoma’s most respected economists and
economic developers discussing legislative proposals to eliminate the state’s income tax. New
fact sheets on why saving the income tax is critical for business and economic development,
higher education, and low-income Oklahomans are now available along with an updated side-by-
side comparison of the major income tax proposals. For more resources and information on the
tax reform debate, see our tax reform information page.

Finally this week, our Director David Blatt was quoted in two stories by StateImpact Oklahoma
and the Tulsa World on the state’s lackluster open government laws. OK Policy Director David
Blatt also appeared on CBS affiliate news broadcasts in Tulsa and Oklahoma City decrying
efforts to eliminate the state income tax:

Policy Notes

      Economist Christina Romer surveys the research showing that most tax rate changes have
       very little effect on the economy.
      The New York Times reports on a study showing that women are routinely charged more
       than men for the same health insurance coverage.
      Atlantic Cities discusses the “uninsured belt” running through much of the deep south
       and the Sunbelt, including Oklahoma.
      Education Week reports on how widening gaps in economic and social resources between
       rich and poor children have eroded public schools’ capacity to overcome those
       disadvantages.
      The Center for Housing Policy found that the share of working households paying more
       than half their income for housing rose significantly between 2008 and 2010 for both
       renters and owners.

Numbers of the Week

      1 in 42 – Number of Oklahoma adults under correctional control, 7th most in the nation
       in 2007
      2,500 – Number of homeless children in Oklahoma who are under age 6
      70 percent – Percentage increase in multi-family residential building permits issued in
       Oklahoma in 2011, compared to 2010
      1,714,900 – Number of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who are covered under employer
       sponsored health insurance, a little more than half (55 percent) of nonelderly adults in the
       state
      26.3 percent – Percentage of marriages in Oklahoma between people of different races or
       ethnicities, 2nd most in the nation, 2008-2010

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin statement blasts President’s visit

OK Policy Blog - Fri, 03/23/2012 - 13:20

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin issued a statement criticizing the President’s energy
policy and his motives for visiting Oklahoma. The President defended his record on energy and
ordered federal agencies to quickly review and continue to support the Cushing pipeline project.
Economist Kent Olson wrote in the Oklahoman about the hazards of basing tax policy decisions
on ‘voodoo economics.’

State Senator Sean Burrage warned of deep cuts to public education and critical state services if
the income tax is eliminated. A new report found that states without an income tax have higher
sales and property taxes. The Oklahoma Policy Institute will host the state’s most respected
economists and economic developers at a free public forum on April 5th to discuss legislative
proposals to eliminate the state income tax.

Tribal leaders met with the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and urged him to hire an area
director for Oklahoma, a slot that has been vacant for some time. Lawmakers filed a resolution
to raise awareness about the growing crisis of hunger in the state. In today’s Policy Note, a new
report from the Center for Housing Policy found that the share of working households paying
more than half their income for housing rose significantly between 2008 and 2010 for both
renters and owners. The Number of the Day is the percentage of marriages in Oklahoma
between people of a different race or ethnicity, 2nd most in the nation.

In The News

Gov. Fallin Issues Statement Regarding Obama’s Remarks

Gov. Mary Fallin released the following statement Thursday, regarding President Obama’s
remarks on energy policy during a visit to Cushing: “I am happy that President Obama took the
time to visit Oklahoma today, and I welcome him to our great state. Oklahoma offers a fine
example of how a thriving energy industry coupled with pro-growth policies can lead to low
unemployment and a strong economy. Energy exploration and production is an important part of
our history and our current success, and it is my hope the president was able to learn something
from our many industry experts during his time here.

Read more from KOCO at http://www.koco.com/news/30740591/detail.html#ixzz1pwX90NK7

Obama defends handling of Keystone pipeline

President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the
government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with
a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project. Deep in Republican oil country, Obama said lawmakers
refused to give his administration enough time review the controversial 1,170-mile Keystone XL
pipeline in order to ensure that it wouldn’t compromise the health and safety of people living in
surrounding areas.
Read more from Bloomberg at http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TLPAJ04.htm

Don’t base decisions on ‘voodoo economics’

In the 1980 presidential primary debates, George H.W. Bush referred to Ronald Reagan’s claim
that a cut in tax rates would be offset by an increase in tax revenue (the Laffer Curve effect) as
“voodoo economics.” In spite of three decades of evidence to the contrary, the theory still lives.
In fact, a November 2011 report based on this notion by Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics
for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is the basis for recent efforts (including that of Gov.
Mary Fallin) to phase out and eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax.

Read more from NewsOK at http://newsok.com/dont-base-decisions-on-voodoo-
economics/article/3659890

Looking closely at income tax proposals

If as a parent, you could choose between putting your child in a school with 35 or 40 students per
classroom, or a school where each teacher has about half that many students, which do you think
would give your child the greatest chance for success? Smaller class sizes mean teachers can
spend more time with each student. Over 20 years ago, pro-education advocates worked hard to
pass legislation that enabled schools to have smaller classes, as well as enacting a host of other
reforms. Many of those reforms have been stripped away because of budget cuts.

Read more from the Pryor Daily Times at
http://pryordailytimes.com/editorials/x1862286417/Looking-closely-at-income-tax-proposals

Surprise! States without an income tax have higher sales and property taxes

States without an income tax rely on other taxes to fund government. Far from discovering
magical, revenue boosting powers by not having an income tax, these states simply charge higher
sales and property taxes. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows
how much higher: -In fiscal year 2009, the nine states without an income tax had property taxes
that were, on average, 12 percent higher per capita and 8 percent higher as a share of personal
income than the national average. -Sales taxes in those nine states were 21 percent higher per
capita and 18 percent higher as a share of personal income than the national average.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog http://okpolicy.org/blog/taxes/surprise-states-without-an-
income-tax-have-higher-sales-and-property-taxes/

Upcoming Event: Eliminating the Income Tax – Silver Bullet or Fool’s Gold?

On April 5th, Oklahoma Policy Institute is hosting a forum, “Eliminating the Income Tax: Silver
Bullet or Fool’s Gold,” from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
Several of Oklahoma’s most respected economists and economic developers will discuss the
methodology and conclusion of the report from Arthur Laffer and his colleagues that has formed
the basis for proposals being considered by the Oklahoma legislature to do away with the state
income tax. They will also focus on what the implications of doing away with the income tax
could be on Oklahoma’s public finances, economic development, and the overall state economy.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://okpolicy.org/blog/events/upcoming-event-
eliminating-the-income-tax-silver-bullet-or-fools-gold/

BIA meets with Oklahoma tribal leaders

Twenty-three tribal leaders from eastern Oklahoma met with Larry Echo Hawk, assistant
secretary of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs head, March 14-15 in the Hard Rock Hotel
and Casino Tulsa. Echo Hawk came to Oklahoma at the invitation of tribes to discuss with them
common issues and concerns. During two days of meetings, he met with tribal leaders
individually. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the issue all of the tribes agreed was most
paramount was getting a BIA area director for the bureau’s area Muskogee office.

Read more from the Cherokee Phoenix at http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/Index/6097

Legislators promote hunger awareness initiative

In an effort to shine a spotlight on the growing crisis of hunger in Oklahoma, four lawmakers
filed a resolution today to designate April 23rd as “Hold Out for Hunger” day in our state, an
event which will kick off other initiatives to assist the tens of thousands of Oklahomans who go
to bed hungry every night. “It’s a tough reality to face, that many of the kids sitting in our
classrooms struggle daily with hunger pains, and that a growing number of cash-strapped seniors
are forced to skip meals,” noted Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “The cupboards
are bare in too many homes in our state, and our local food pantries are stretched thin to meet the
increased calls for aid to low-income workers, seniors, and parents with children – all who have
budgets stretched beyond the breaking point.”

Read more from the Shawnee News Star at http://www.news-
star.com/newsnow/x1231830499/Legislators-promote-hunger-awareness-initiative

Quote of the Day

It’s a tough reality to face, that many of the kids sitting in our classrooms struggle daily with
hunger pains, and that a growing number of cash-strapped seniors are forced to skip meals.

Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City

Number of the Day

26.3 percent

Percentage of marriages in Oklahoma between people of a different race or ethnicity, 2nd most
in the nation, 2008-2010
Source: Oklahoma Department of Commerce

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Housing Landscape 2012

A new study by the Center for Housing Policy confirms that falling home prices have not solved
the housing affordability problems of the nation’s working households. In fact, the Center’s
Housing Landscape 2012 report found that the share of working households paying more than
half their income for housing rose significantly between 2008 and 2010 for both renters and
owners. This annual report explores the latest Census data from 2008 to 2010 on housing costs
and income, including housing cost burden data from the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, all
50 states and the District of Columbia. Among other conclusions, Housing Landscape 2012 finds
that nearly one in four working households in the U.S. spends more than half of total income on
housing.

Read more from the Center for Housing Policy at
http://www.mdahc.org/pdfs/Landscape2012.pdf

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Surprise! States without an income tax have higher sales and property taxes

OK Policy Blog - Thu, 03/22/2012 - 17:56

Photo by Martha Soukup used under a Creative Commons license.

States without an income tax rely on other taxes to fund government. Far from discovering
magical, revenue boosting powers by not having an income tax, these states simply charge higher
sales and property taxes.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how much higher:

      In fiscal year 2009, the nine states without an income tax had property taxes that were, on
       average, 12 percent higher per capita and 8 percent higher as a share of personal income
       than the national average.
      Sales taxes in those nine states were 21 percent higher per capita and 18 percent higher as
       a share of personal income than the national average.

The property tax comparison is especially relevant for Oklahoma, since our income tax helps us
to keep property taxes very low. In every state without an income tax, people pay much higher
property taxes compared to Oklahoma. The average per capita property tax in no-income tax
states is more than two-and-a-half times what we pay here.

Oklahoma lawmakers may promise that they would never raise these other taxes, but if the
income tax is slashed, the intense pressure to maintain schools, roads, and other vital services, as
well pay our debts, would likely force their hand. Or they will pass the buck to local
governments who will then to have raise taxes.

As the CBPP report explains:

Higher sales and property taxes can occur in at least two ways. The state legislature, faced with
the need to fund schools, health care and other services and without the income tax revenue, may
increase sales taxes or property taxes (as well as other revenue sources such as fees or excise
taxes). Or, the legislature may reduce funding to local governments and school districts or shift
spending obligations to localities, which in turn may raise taxes.

The most likely outcome from eliminating the income tax is a combination of tax increases and
additional cuts to core services like education and transportation. That means more taxes are
shifted onto middle- and lower-income families, since sales and property taxes take the largest
share of income from those least able to afford it.

Ultimately, the average Oklahoman would pay more and get less. Far from helping our economy,
slashing the income tax would make it even more difficult for hard-working Oklahomans to get
by.

For more on the income tax debate, see our tax reform information page.

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Upcoming Event: Eliminating the Income Tax – Silver Bullet or Fool’s Gold?

OK Policy Blog - Thu, 03/22/2012 - 15:12

On April 5th, Oklahoma Policy Institute is hosting a forum, “Eliminating the Income Tax: Silver
Bullet or Fool’s Gold,” from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
Several of Oklahoma’s most respected economists and economic developers will discuss the
methodology and conclusion of the report from Arthur Laffer and his colleagues that has formed
the basis for proposals being considered by the Oklahoma legislature to do away with the state
income tax. They will also focus on what the implications of doing away with the income tax
could be on Oklahoma’s public finances, economic development, and the overall state economy.

Participating in the forum will be:

      Dr. Kent Olson, Professor of Economics Emeritus at Oklahoma State University
      Dr. Jonathan Willner, Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance
       at Oklahoma City University
      Dr. Cynthia Rogers, Associate Professor of Economics at University of Oklahoma
      Dr. Alexander Holmes, Regents Professor of Microeconomic Theory at the University of
       Oklahoma
      Roy Williams, President and CEO, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
      Justin McLaughlin, Vice-President of Economic Development, Tulsa Metro Chamber
      Deidre Myers, Director of Policy, Research and Economic Analysis, Oklahoma
       Department of Commerce

The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested. For more
information and to register, click here.

Several of the panelists have studied the Laffer plan and have identified serious flaws in its
methodology and findings. You can read this blog post based on their reports, or see the
individual reports by Dr. Kent Olson, Dr. Jonathan Willner and Dr. Cynthia Rogers. You can
also see this fact sheet summarizing two reports from the Institute on Taxation and Economic
Policy on the Laffer study. For additional information on the tax debate, visit OK Policy’s tax
reform information page.

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In The Know: Oklahoma state officials skip Obama greeting

OK Policy Blog - Thu, 03/22/2012 - 13:19

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that no state officials were on hand to greet the President of the United
States when he arrived in Oklahoma. President Obama directed federal agencies to expedite a
485-mile portion of the Keystone pipeline from Oklahoma to refineries on the Gulf Coast to
alleviate a bottleneck in the nation’s oil transportation system.

A woman listed in documents as a member of a nonprofit board overseeing private funds used by
Superintendent Janet Barresi to finance an education conference in 2011 disputes state Auditor
Gary Jones’ claim that there was effective oversight; she had never even heard of the group.
State Mental Health Services Commissioner Terri White resigned as interim director of the
Department of Human Services; State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger is temporarily
stepping down from his post to serve as the interim director of DHS.

The Norman Transcript speculated that retirees who come back to Oklahoma after living
elsewhere, ‘boomerangers,’ will think twice about relocating if the state eliminates tax breaks for
seniors. A poll of registered voters showed strong support for the alternatives to incarceration
outlined in HB 3052, the Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
In today’s Policy Note, Education Week reports on how widening gaps in economic and social
resources between rich and poor children have eroded public schools’ capacity to overcome
those disadvantages. Today’s Number of the Day is the number of nonelderly Oklahoma adults
who are covered under employer sponsored health insurance.

In The News

No Oklahoma state officials planning to greet Obama

No state officials will be on hand to greet President Barack Obama when he arrives in Oklahoma
on Wednesday. Officials representing Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb confirmed
Wednesday that both Republicans were out of state and would not be available to greet the
president. Next in line as acting governor is Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, and a
spokesman for Bingman says his office hasn’t been contacted by White House officials. Tinker
Air Force Base officials say several military leaders and two local mayors will be on hand to
greet the president when Air Force One arrives about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Read more from the Associated Press at http://www.news-star.com/newsnow/x1231827107/No-
Oklahoma-state-officials-planning-to-greet-Obama

Obama putting Oklahoma pipeline on fast track

Deep in Republican oil country, President Barack Obama is fending off criticism of his energy
policies, pointing to plans to fast-track an oil pipeline that emerged after he delayed the larger
Keystone XL project earlier this year. “We’re drilling all over the place,” Obama said in
Maljamar, N.M., on Wednesday, standing alongside oil rigs on federal land. The president was
announcing his plans for the expedited pipeline, a southern portion of the original Keystone XL,
in Cushing, Okla., where construction is expected to begin this spring.

Read more from the Boston Globe at
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2012/03/22/obama_putting_oklahoma_
pipeline_on_fast_track/

Education funding tied to audit faces new questions in Oklahoma

The investigation called the accounts “slush funds” that were used to expend $2.3 million over
the course of 10 years on education conferences. But state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones
said a similar account used under state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi to finance a
conference in 2011 appeared appropriate because there was a legitimate, independent nonprofit
governing board, and the board knew about the account and managed its finances. Wednesday, a
person listed as a member of a three-person board for the nonprofit organization said she has
never heard of the group and was dismayed to see her name in The Oklahoman as a board
member. “All of this is a complete shock,” said Jamie Dunnington, who was listed in documents
as a board member.
Read more from NewsOK at http://newsok.com/education-funding-tied-to-audit-faces-new-
questions-in-oklahoma/article/3659677#ixzz1pqhw5eI1

Oklahoma finance chief tapped to temporarily head Department of Human Services

Oklahoma Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger is stepping down temporarily to
serve as the interim director of the Department of Human Services. Longtime DHS Director
Howard Hendrick announced in January that he was resigning as head of the agency that had
come under fire in recent years following the high-profile deaths of some children in its care.
The commission that governs DHS named Doerflinger to the post Thursday. State Mental
Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White resigned as interim DHS
director after concerns were raised that her appointment violated state law prohibiting dual office
holding.

Read more from the Associated Press at
http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/c6b04ca359954dc38377ed1404944987/OK–DHS-
Director-Doerflinger/

Retirees could pay more in income taxes

Oklahoma has long been a retirement destination for those who grew up here, went to school and
then left the state for better career opportunities. Our relatively low taxes, breaks for retirees and
affordable cost of living bring “boomerangers” back to the state. But the legislature’s plan to cut
and eventually eliminate the state’s income tax by removing exemptions could cause some of our
recruited retirees to pay state income tax for the first time since moving here. They may think
twice about staying.

Read more from the Norman Transcript at
http://normantranscript.com/opinion/x97479862/Retirees-could-pay-more-in-income-taxes

Poll shows support for public safety policies

Poll results indicate the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans support the public safety policies
in House Bill 3052, House Speaker Kris Steele said Wednesday. A recent analysis of
Oklahoma’s criminal justice system concluded that unless policymakers act the state’s high
violent crime rate will likely remain unchanged, thousands of people will continue being released
from prison unsupervised each year and state spending on prisons will increase by more than
$225 million during the next decade.

Read more from the Edmond Sun at http://www.edmondsun.com/local/x467322876/Poll-shows-
support-for-public-safety-policies

Quote of the Day

All of this is a complete shock. If someone had told me the name of it, I would have never even
known I was on the board.
Jamie Dunnington, after seeing her name in The Oklahoman listed as a member of a nonprofit
governing board charged with overseeing an education conference fund

Number of the Day

1,714,900

Number of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who are covered under employer sponsored health
insurance, a little more than half (55 percent) of nonelderly adults in the state

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Growing Gaps Bring Focus on Poverty’s Role in Schooling

The fractious debate over how much schools can counteract poverty’s impact on children is far
from settled, but a recently published collection of research strongly suggests that until
policymakers and educators confront deepening economic and social disparities, poor children
will increasingly miss out on finding a path to upward social mobility. The achievement gap
between poor children and rich children has grown significantly over the past three decades and
is now nearly twice as large as the black-white gap, according to Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford
University sociologist. He examined data on family income and student scores on standardized
tests in reading and math spanning 1960 to 2007.

Read more from Education Week at http://bit.ly/GGmL3G

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The Affordable Care Act: What has it done for you lately?

OK Policy Blog - Wed, 03/21/2012 - 14:57

This week marks two years since landmark health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care
Act (ACA), was signed into law. While some of the law’s major provisions have yet to take
effect, many of the rule-changes and programs that have been rolled out over the last two years
are beginning to have an impact in Oklahoma. Individuals buying insurance in the private
market, families obtaining coverage through their employer, and seniors who rely on Medicare
have all seen their costs go down and the quality of their benefits improve. This post catalogs
some of the ways Oklahomans have benefited under the Affordable Care Act:

Individuals
         576 Oklahomans are now insured through the state’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance
          Plan; these individuals were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing
          condition and previously unable to obtain health insurance
         1,197,000 residents are free from lifetime limits on their health plan
         616,000 Oklahomans received preventive services from their insurer with no cost-
          sharing, i.e. cancer screenings and flu shots

Families

         37,262 young adults in Oklahoma were able to keep their insurance coverage by staying
          on their parents plan until the age of 26
         $14.4 million in support for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting
          Programs in Oklahoma which bring health professionals to meet with at-risk families in
          their homes and offer education and guidance on health care, early education, parenting
          skills, child abuse prevention, and nutrition
         $1.8 million to provide pregnant and parenting teens and women with supportive services
          to help them complete high school or college and access health care, child care, and
          housing

Seniors

         54,173 people with Medicare saved an average of $525 per person on their covered
          brand-name prescription drugs, a total savings of $28.5 million in Oklahoma
         420,097 people with Medicare in Oklahoma received free preventive services, i.e.
          mammograms, colonoscopies, and a free annual wellness visit with their doctor

The ultimate fate of the Affordable Care Act rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Until
we know if the so-called ‘individual mandate’ or Medicaid expansion provisions will be upheld,
future benefits to Oklahomans under the health law are difficult to calculate. However, it’s easy
to see that the health care situation of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans has already
improved as a result of the new regulations and cost-sharing provisions that have already been
enacted. For more on the new law and the health care system in our state, visit our health care
information page.

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In The Know: Cushing is eager to welcome President Obama

OK Policy Blog - Wed, 03/21/2012 - 14:01

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that NewsOK spoke with Cushing residents welcoming President
Obama to their town. A Senate panel voted to increase the income cap for seniors allowed to
freeze their property tax valuations. Tulsa-area home construction is up 22.2 percent above the
first two months of last year.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman called for an investigation by the state Auditor and Inspector
into the relationship between the state Education Department and a nonprofit that paid for
expenses at a 2011 education conference. Okie Funk writes that the controversy over spending
on conferences is missing the real story.

The OK Policy Blog discusses why Oklahoma should adopt PAYGO, which makes sure that any
tax cut or spending increase is paid for. A federal judge denied a request by the Oklahoma
Libertarian Party for more time to collect signatures to get on the ballot. okc.net shares the
stories of six women whose lives would be jeopardized by a Personhood Amendment.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in multi-family residential building permits
issued in Oklahoma in 2011. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities discusses the “uninsured
belt” running through much of the deep south and the Sunbelt, including Oklahoma.

In The News

Cushing is eager to welcome President Obama

Rodger Floyd often uses the sign in front of his Davis Funeral Home to send encouraging notes
to his neighbors and welcome visitors. He put up a special message Tuesday morning:
“Welcome Mr. President. God bless America.” “I never thought I’d be welcoming the
president,” Floyd said. “I’m very pleased that the president is coming. Whether you voted for
him or not, this is big for Cushing.” A community of just more than 8,000 — including about
1,000 at the local prison — Cushing is one of the smallest towns to host a presidential visit in
years. Thursday’s visit also will give the community a chance to show the president, his staff and
the national media the economic growth Cushing has experienced the past five years. Cushing is
locally known as the “pipeline crossroads of America,” and its economy is closely tied to the oil
industry, which currently has more than 40 million barrels of oil in storage tanks scattered
around town. The oil is waiting to move through pipelines to refineries in southern Texas.

Read more from NewsOK.

Property tax cut for older homeowners OK’d by Senate panel

Some older Oklahomans would pay less in property taxes under a measure passed Tuesday by a
Senate panel. House Joint Resolution 1001 now heads to the Senate floor. If approved by the
Legislature, the measure would go to the November ballot for voters to decide. The legislation
passed the Senate Finance Committee by a 10-2 vote. Currently, assessed valuations for
homeowners 65 or older who earn the median income or less in their counties can opt to have the
valuation frozen. Assessed valuation is used to determine property taxes. The original measure
removed the income cap on assessed valuation increases for older homeowners who want
valuations frozen. Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, successfully amended the measure to increase
the current amount allowable to 125 percent of the median income. In Tulsa County, that means
an older homeowners could qualify with an income of $74,500, an increase from $59,600. In
Oklahoma County, the amount would rise to $75,750 from $60,600.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Tulsa-area builders see big jump in home starts

Charles Sanders, a builder and developer with Charles Sanders Homes Inc., didn’t encounter too
many people willing to commit to building a new house last year. But, just two months into
2012, he’s already confident that this year will be different. “It seems like we’ve had a flurry
since the first of this year,” he said. “I’ve had more business than I had all last year.” He’s not
the only one. Home construction through February is up across the board — a 20 percent rise
over January 2011 and 11.6 percent above February of last year, and altogether 22.2 percent
ahead of the first two months of last year, according to figures from New Orders Weekly.
According to building permit data, ground was broken for 173 homes across the metro area last
month. Tulsa had the most home starts by far with 43, followed by usual No. 1 Broken Arrow,
then Bixby and Jenks.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

House Minority Leader calls for investigation into nonprofit’s ties to Education
Department

Oklahoma Minority House Leader Scott Inman called Tuesday for an investigation by the state
Auditor and Inspector into the relationship between the state Education Department and a
nonprofit that paid for expenses at a 2011 education conference. “These actions mirror a similar
practice by previous Education Department officials under the leadership of former state schools
Superintendent Sandy Garrett, which your office investigated, then criticized,” Inman wrote.
Jones said what his investigators found being done under Garrett’s administration was
significantly different from what appears to have been done under Barresi’s administration after
a cursory examination of documents. He said board members of the nonprofit under Garrett were
not aware of the accounts, while his investigators found that under Barresi’s administration the
foundation was aware of the accounts.

Read more from NewsOK.

Okie Funk: Reports on non-profit ties to Education Department are missing the real story

The sensationalized “slush funds” and “chocolate fountain” media story about conferences held
by the state Education Department under former schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett has begun
to unravel, but the larger, more compelling questions remain unanswered. Just how many state
agencies either have a relationship with a nonprofit board or directly accept private donations?
What do those private companies and individuals get in return for their donations? How many
state contracts are directed to companies that donate money to nonprofit boards associated with
particular state agencies? What is the total amount of that money? Are taxpayers getting the best
deal from these companies? Are there any personal kickbacks? Are companies that do business
with a certain state agency expected to donate to its nonprofit affiliation? If reporters and Jones
would get the answers to those questions, we might have a real story.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Pay-as-you-go is a promising approach to fiscal responsibility

As Oklahoma’s tax debate unfolds, it has been encouraging to hear a rising chorus of influential
voices insist that any tax plan must be revenue neutral. Given deep cuts that state agencies have
absorbed in recent years and the long-term fiscal challenges the state faces in the years ahead,
eroding our revenue base with one-sided tax cuts would be hugely irresponsible and fiscally
unsustainable. One promising approach to ensure that we do not bankrupt the state is for
Oklahoma to adopt a pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, requirement. PAYGO would require
policymakers to pay for the cost of any reduction in revenues or expansion of services. Paying
for these policy changes could take the form either of an offsetting revenue increase or cuts to
other services. Regardless of how it is paid for, the goal is to maintain a responsible balance. The
undesirable alternative is to cut taxes or increase services and then throw the whole budget into
chaos because the money isn’t there.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Judge denies request by Oklahoma Libertarian Party for more time to get signatures

The Libertarian Party has suffered a legal setback in its attempt to get their presidential candidate
on the November ballot in Oklahoma. A federal judge on Monday denied a request by the
Oklahoma Libertarian Party for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented state election
board officials from enforcing new election laws. The Libertarians wanted the judge to give them
more time to gather signatures — or to reduce the number of signatures they’re required to
collect — to put their presidential candidate on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. A new election
law approved by the Legislature moved up the filing period and primary election dates, cutting
short by two months the amount of time political parties have to gather signatures to put their
candidates on the ballot. The law was changed to comply with federal election law and to give
military and overseas voters more time to vote and have their ballots counted. Linger said the
group submitted about 57,000 signatures to the Oklahoma State Election Board, which will
validate the signatures and determine if they meet the threshold of 51,739 to place their candidate
on the November ballot. Linger said he will wait to see the outcome of that validation process
before deciding how the lawsuit will proceed.

Read more from the Associated Press.

A tale of six women: Op-ed against the Personhood Amendment

Oklahoma SB 1433, also referred to as the “Personhood Amendment” would establish in the
Oklahoma State Constitution that “Life begins at conception,” thereby opening the door to
criminalizing abortions, contraception, and fertility treatments. While there have been a
surprising number of supporters who are against this cause, that this type of legislation was
introduced in the first place should come as no surprise to anyone in this state. Oklahoma has
long history of backing conservative politics and politicians (Rick Santorum’s recent Primary
victory is one example), and with this being an election year, most Republican (and some
Democrat) legislators are following the trend of their party’s current hot-button issue. Since the
men who introduced this legislation claim that they are “speaking on behalf of the unborn”, I – as
a woman – would like to put a face to the real issue at stake, and share with you the tales of six
women whose lives would be jeopardized by this kind of amendment had their stories taken
place today.

Read more from okc.net.

Quote of the Day

I think it is another reduction in funding for schools at a time when schools are struggling
already, not just schools but county government. I just see it as another erosion of our tax base.
-Jeff Mills, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on the
expansion of a property tax break to higher income seniors

Number of the Day

70 percent

Percentage increase in multi-family residential building permits issued in Oklahoma in 2011,
compared to 2010

Source: Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s uninsured belt

As the U.S. Supreme Court readies itself to hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of the
Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate,” a map from Gallup shows us which states have the
heaviest concentrations of people without health insurance. Nationally, 17.1 percent of
Americans were uninsured in 2011. But that rate is not spread equally across the country. Indeed,
there is something of an “uninsured belt” running through much of the deep south and the
Sunbelt. Despite the “economic miracle” that has sustained Texas throughout the crisis, more
than one in four of its residents (27.6 percent) are uninsured – the highest percentage in the
nation by far. More than one in five people are uninsured in roughly a dozen other states,
including Mississippi (23.5 percent), Florida (22.9 percent), Oklahoma (22.1 percent), California
(22.0 percent), and Nevada (21.9 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, less than five
percent of Massachusetts residents were uninsured last year, the lowest rate in the nation (thanks
in part to Mitt Romney’s advances in health-care, whether he likes to take credit for it or not).

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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Pay-as-you-go is a promising approach to fiscal responsibility

OK Policy Blog - Tue, 03/20/2012 - 14:33

As Oklahoma’s tax debate unfolds, it has been encouraging to hear a rising chorus of influential
voices insist that any tax plan must be revenue neutral. Given deep cuts that state agencies have
absorbed in recent years and the long-term fiscal challenges the state faces in the years ahead,
eroding our revenue base with one-sided tax cuts would be hugely irresponsible and fiscally
unsustainable. One promising approach to ensure that we do not bankrupt the state is for
Oklahoma to adopt a pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, requirement.

State Treasurer Ken Miller recently stated:

Budget writers should adopt a “pay-as-we-go” approach to reducing taxes. To responsibly
finance tax cuts, policymakers should eliminate one dollar of spending or credits for every dollar
cut in taxes.

This can be accomplished with fiscal discipline, better spending prioritization and a refined
approach to budgeting.

Miller’s call for a pay-as-you-go approach was quickly endorsed by both the Oklahoman and
Tulsa World.

As we discussed in this blog post last November, PAYGO would require policymakers to pay for
the cost of any reduction in revenues or expansion of services. Paying for these policy changes
could take the form either of an offsetting revenue increase or cuts to other services. Regardless
of how it is paid for, the goal is to maintain a responsible balance. The undesirable alternative is
to cut taxes or increase services and then throw the whole budget into chaos because the money
isn’t there.

Oklahoma’s recent history is full of examples where budget decisions have been made without
regard to the long-term health of the state’s finances. Income tax cuts adopted during periods of
strong growth have reduced revenue when the state needed it to maintain services during the
recession and recovery. Actions to divert revenue from the general revenue fund to other uses
such as scholarships, road repair, employee retirement, and tourism, while well-intentioned, have
been taken with little understanding or appreciation of the impact on other state services.
PAYGO would require such an understanding and would only allow such diversions if “paid for”
by additional revenue or specific cuts in other programs. If, for example, the Legislature wanted
to devote more funding to road repair, it could do so by increasing gas taxes or tolls or by cutting
some other service (such as new road construction).

PAYGO was used effectively to return the federal budget to a surplus in the late 1990s but has
never been implemented at the state level. A recent paper by the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities and an OK Policy issue brief set out what is needed to make PAYGO an enforceable
budgeting principle. In addition to a PAYGO requirement, adopting multi-year forecasting and a
current services budget, which would inform lawmakers and the public of the cost of
maintaining today’s level of programs and benefits, would put us on a more sustainable fiscal
course.

We hope that state leaders make sure that we do not cut taxes without paying for it this year, and
that they also make PAYGO a binding requirement to guide the tough choices on the horizon.



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In The Know: State Auditor doesn’t investigate nonprofit funds used by current
Superintendent Barresi

OK Policy Blog - Tue, 03/20/2012 - 14:21

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Superintendent Barresi used a non-profit fund for conference
expenses that is very similar to what State Auditor Gary Jones criticized as “slush funds” when
they were used by former Superintendent Garrett. Jones said his investigators were aware of
Barresi’s fund but did not look into the matter. The OK Policy Blog breaks down the issues
scheduled for debate in next week’s Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act.

Deportation rates have begun to decline after a large rise in 2008, but deportations from
Oklahoma remain high. Oklahoma educators criticized the new evaluation system that give each
public school and district a grade of A-F. School districts are keeping a wary eye on rising fuel
prices which put even more pressure on strapped school budgets.

NewsOn6 spoke to OK Policy Director David Blatt about why ending the income tax is a bad
idea. In a Q&A with NewsOK, State Treasurer Ken Miller explained the importance of
the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan deduction, which is targeted for elimination in the push
against the income tax. News9 reports on how budget cuts have led to long waiting lists for
Oklahomans seeking to enter rehab.
A House panel backed a plan to fund a new Medical Examiner’s Office with a higher education
bond issue. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the City of Hugo for the right to sell
water to Texas. NewsOK takes on lawmakers who refuse to apply the Open Records Act to the
legislature.

The Number of the Day is how many homeless children in Oklahoma are under age 6. In today’s
Policy Note, the New York Times reports on a study showing that women are routinely charged
more than men for the same health insurance coverage.

In The News

Current state Education Department officials used funds similar to those attacked by state
Auditor

Current Education Department officials hosted a conference in 2011 using private donations and
payments held in the bank account of a nonprofit foundation. The foundation paid for expenses
at Innovation 2011 under the leadership of current state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. A
similar practice by previous Education Department officials under the leadership of former state
schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett was criticized by the state auditor and inspector’s office in
an investigation released earlier this month. The auditor’s report on activities during Garrett’s
administration said that two bank accounts under the name of the nonprofit organization
Oklahoma Curriculum Improvement Commission appeared to be slush funds. Garrett contends
that the accounts were not a secret but were fully audited and saved taxpayers money by using
private funds to help host education conferences. Documents that showed the remaining balances
in the two conference accounts held by the Oklahoma Curriculum Improvement Commission
were transferred to the Foundation for Innovation in Education. State Auditor Gary Jones said
his investigators were aware of the Foundation for Innovation in Education and the role it played
hosting the 2011 conference but did not look into the matter.

Read more from NewsOK.

High Court Hears Health Law: What’s up for debate?

The United States Supreme Court is gearing up for oral argument in what is sure to be a
landmark case in American history – the multi-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the
federal health reform law passed by Congress in 2009. The court has scheduled an
unprecedented six hours for oral argument over three days, the most time allocated to a single
case since the 1960s. Oral argument is the only interactive portion of the Court’s decision-
making process, where attorneys from both sides state their case and take questions from the
justices. This post breaks down the issues scheduled for debate and summarizes each side’s
position.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma deportations remain high despite national decline
Oklahoma is behind the national trend in deportations, showing a slower decline in the number
of removal orders than overall U.S. numbers, according to data released by a national nonprofit
organization. Nationally, about half of the immigration cases filed result in deportation, while
defendants in 76 percent to 97 percent of immigration cases in Oklahoma are ordered out of the
country. Deportations reached decades-long highs during the past two years, leading to record
backlogs in immigration courts and longer wait times for hearings. The Department of Homeland
Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement started an effort last summer to focus on
deporting the most dangerous people, and that change may be leading to significant national
drops, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, based at Syracuse
University in New York. However, as Oklahoma lags in the trend, the wait for a hearing date
here has reached an all-time high of 336 days, and pending cases remain at record levels.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma educators give new school grading system poor marks

Educators and advocates from throughout the state called a new system to grade school districts
punitive, unfair and vague at a public hearing Tuesday morning. Nearly 75 superintendents,
teachers and parents asked questions and made comments to the state Education Department’s
legal team at a hearing about the new school improvement and accountability system. The
system would give each school and district a grade of A-F. The A-F system replaces the federal
requirements of No Child Left Behind, which Oklahoma no longer has to follow. About 4
percent of schools would earn an A and about 1 percent would receive an F this year, according
state Department of Education calculations. The other 95 percent of schools would be graded B,
C or D. The quality of schools affects quality of life and business development, said Chris Deal,
president and CEO of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce. A town with one school district
labeled with a D or F might deter companies looking to open shop.

Read more from NewsOK.

Okla. school officials keep wary eye on fuel price

In school districts large and small across Oklahoma, school officials say they are keeping a wary
eye on the rising price of fuel that had reached an average of almost $3.66 per gallon of self-
serve regular gasoline and $3.91 for diesel on Friday, according to AAA Oklahoma. The prices
are .25 and .16 cents, respectively, higher than one year ago, according to AAA. In 2003, when
state finance officials ordered statewide budget cuts because of an overall revenue shortfall, the
Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association board cut schedules by 20 to 25 percent for
spring sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, and soccer in an effort to reduce
travel costs for districts statewide, Chief Operations Officer Jim Burkey in the Oklahoma City
district, the state’s largest, said the district pays less than a motorist at the pump because it buys
in bulk, but still paid $3.21 per gallon for about 15,000 gallons of gas earlier this month, up from
$2.45 per gallon the district paid in December. He said the cost, which he estimated at about
$6,000 a day, has not yet led to the consideration of canceling or suspending field trips or travel
for athletic events “Not at this point, but again, that is going to be something we constantly
review,” Burkey said. “These are all things we’re going to have to take a look at, if these things
(rising fuel costs) continue, a serious look at.”

Read more from The Associated Press.

Group says bill to eliminate income tax flawed

Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature are moving forward with a plan to phase out the state’s
personal income tax over the next 10 years. Governor Fallin has been pushing to reduce the state
income tax. The bill that just passed in the House is bringing that goal one step closer. But it’s
also frustrating others. “This is not what we need to be a healthier state, better educated state,”
said David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The Oklahoma Policy Institute has been an
active voice in the debate over the proposed elimination of the state’s personal income tax. They
argue no state income tax means more cuts to education, less funding for disabled Oklahomans,
and possibly higher sales and property taxes. “I think most Oklahomans would rather not be
paying more at the grocery store or when filling up their car with gas or when their annual
property tax bill comes around,” Blatt said.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Ken Miller: Don’t cut the College Savings Plan deduction

Q: Is the state tax deduction on contributions to Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan in danger
of being eliminated? A: The Legislature is considering a few proposals to end the tax deduction.
The governing board of the saving plan unanimously has voted to oppose efforts to eliminate the
deduction and the plan has widespread support in the Legislature. I believe support for
continuing the deduction will grow as lawmakers hear from the Oklahoma families who are
seeing their loved ones benefit from earning a college degree paid for with money invested in the
plan. Families have used the plan to pay for more than $152 million of higher education costs. Q:
How do the tax deductions to the state plan encourage saving for college? A: Oklahoma families
can deduct up to $20,000 per year from their state taxable income for contributions to the
Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan and, as with an individual retirement account, taxpayers can
claim the deduction for contributions made up until the tax-filing deadline of April 17. Nearly
10,000 Oklahoma taxpayers annually claim the deduction, keeping on average an extra $242 of
their hard-earned money each year.

Read more from NewsOK.

Budget cuts lead to long waiting lists for rehab

Oklahoma ranks at the top of the nation when it comes to prescription painkiller abuse. We also
rank high in meth and alcohol addiction. But for those people seeking help, it doesn’t come
easily. The waiting list for state-run rehab facilities has between 600 and 900 people any given
day. The reason: less money and more addicts. And while addicts are waiting for their name to
get at the top of that list, many end up in jail or worse: they overdose. “The challenge of having
such a significant and daunting waiting list is many times by the time their name is called, the
throws of addiction have re-emerged and they may be off doing something different that isn’t so
healthy,” said Steven Buck, deputy commissioner of Communication and Prevention Services of
the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance abuse services. Budget cuts in 2009,
2010, and 2011 led to the closure of some state-run facilities. In the last few years, The
Oklahoma Department of Substance Abuse’s budget has remained flat. But the number of people
needing treatment has continued to grow, and has the overall cost of doing business. “Every time
those costs increase, we don’t receive additional resources,” said Buck. “We lose ground in this
fight.”

Read more from News9.

Panel backs plan to fund new Medical Examiner’s office with higher ed bond

A legislative committee turned back an attempt Monday to block bond financing for a $42
million state Medical Examiner’s Office facility on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.
On an 11-1 vote, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee rejected an effort by Rep.
Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, to remove the new facility from the Oklahoma State Regents for
Higher Education’s master lease program. Under a state law passed in 2008, if the Legislature
doesn’t vote to remove the plan from the list within 45 days of notification, the regents can go
ahead with bond financing. Murphey said the master lease program was designed for relatively
small, short-term financing projects, such as roof repairs, and the Medical Examiner’s Office
facility would open the door for any project that backers can’t muster political support for in the
Legislature under an ordinary bond proposal. Reached by telephone after Monday’s hearing,
State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph said the master lease program has been used for a larger project
than the Medical Examiner’s Office once in the past – a student union project for Oklahoma
State University.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

U.S. Supreme Court rejects city of Hugo’s appeal for right to sell water

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected without comment the city of Hugo’s appeal to sue
the state of Oklahoma for the right to sell water in southeastern Oklahoma to the city of Irving,
Texas. The high court’s ruling upholds a 2-1 ruling in September by the 10th Circuit Court of
appeals to dismiss Hugo’s lawsuit. The divided three-judge panel on the Circuit Court ordered
that the lawsuit by the far southeastern Oklahoma city of just fewer than 5,400 be dismissed.
Hugo officials had sought legal authority to sell 200,000 acre-feet, or about 65 billion gallons, of
water to Irving, located northwest of Dallas. The lawsuit sought to overturn a law requiring
legislative approval before the city is allowed to sell the water.

Read more from the Associated Press.

So many other states can operate in the open, why not Oklahoma?

An effort to shine a little light on the sausage-making process at the state Capitol has come and
gone, and is most certainly finished for good this session. It’ll return, although the bill’s demise
last week was an indication of just how protracted and challenging will be the push to hold
Oklahoma lawmakers to most of the same open record and open meeting laws as other public
officials. Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, called the opposition “intense,” and said it was clear
that there were “a large number of members who are not prepared for transparency.” Why not?
Perhaps because the bill would have opened access to correspondence between lawmakers and
lobbyists, who can have considerable sway as bills are being written and rewritten. Or perhaps
because they believe the current setup is just fine, thank you, and doesn’t need to be messed
with. Those excuses and others are hogwash. If city and county governments can be held to the
state’s open records and open meetings laws, then certainly the men and women who are
responsible for producing state law can do the same.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

If city and county governments can be held to the state’s open records and open meetings laws,
then certainly the men and women who are responsible for producing state law can do the same.
-NewsOK editorial board

Number of the Day

2,500

Number of homeless children in Oklahoma who are under age 6

Source: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance

Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new
research and data from online brokers. The new health care law will prohibit such “gender
rating,” starting in 2014. But gaps persist in most states, with no evidence that insurers have
taken steps to reduce them. For a popular Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Chicago, a 30-year-old
woman pays $375 a month, which is 31 percent more than what a man of the same age pays for
the same coverage, according to eHealthInsurance.com, a leading online source of health
insurance. In a report to be issued this week, the National Women’s Law Center, a research and
advocacy group, says that in states that have not banned gender rating, more than 90 percent of
the best-selling health plans charge women more than men.

Read more from The New York Times.

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High Court Hears Health Law: What’s up for debate?

OK Policy Blog - Mon, 03/19/2012 - 16:08

The United States Supreme Court is gearing up for oral argument in what is sure to be a
landmark case in American history – the multi-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the
federal health reform law passed by Congress in 2009. The court has scheduled an
unprecedented six hours for oral argument over three days, the most time allocated to a single
case since the 1960s. Oral argument is the only interactive portion of the Court’s decision-
making process, where attorneys from both sides state their case and take questions from the
justices. This post breaks down the issues scheduled for debate and summarizes each side’s
position.

Day 1: Monday March 26th, 2012

The first day of argument will focus on a procedural question: are the states even allowed to
bring suit over a portion of the law that hasn’t yet been enacted? An existing federal law, the
Anti-Injunction Act, prohibits challenging a tax prior to that tax being imposed. Proponents of
the Affordable Care Act argue that since the ‘individual mandate’ amounts to a tax that doesn’t
take effect until 2014, this little-known law might actually pose a significant threat to the health
law’s challengers. As Stuart Taylor of the Brookings Institution wryly observes:

If the justices agree that the Anti-Injunction Act applies, this year’s case will be perhaps the
greatest anticlimax in Supreme Court history. And, the justices’ assignment of a full hour of oral
argument to this question suggests that some take this issue very seriously.

Day 2: Tuesday March 27th, 2012

The second day features the main event: the constitutionality of the so-called ‘individual
mandate.’ The Affordable Care Act requires most adults to carry health insurance starting in
2014 or pay a penalty. Challengers argue that this requirement is unconstitutional. Lower court
judges who have ruled the mandate unconstitutional cite a lack of precedent for Congress to
require people to buy a commercial product, particularly if it’s against their will.

Yet, several prominent and staunchly conservative federal appeals court judges have upheld the
mandate on commerce clause grounds. The constitution’s commerce clause permits Congress to
regulate economic activity amongst the states. When the uninsured get medical treatment they
can’t pay for, it’s ultimately taxpayers who foot the bill. Thus, the uninsured are making an
economic decision that largely impacts the residents and economies of all states and should be
subject to regulation under the commerce clause.

Day 3: Wednesday March 28th, 2012
The court will also entertain debate about what should happen to the rest of the health care law if
the individual mandate is struck down. In other words, is the individual mandate severable, or
should the entire law go down if it does. This ‘severability’ question is highly technical and a bit
thorny, but explained well by an industry association here:

The Affordable Care Act does not contain a severability clause. Severability clauses provide that
the failure of one provision in an act of Congress does not affect the remaining portions of the
act. The absence of a severability clause does not mean that provisions are not severable, but it
can leave the decision regarding severability up to the courts.

So far, the lower courts have diverged regarding the severability of the individual mandate from
the rest of the law, in different ways and for different reasons. How the nine sitting Supreme
Court Justices will rule is impossible to predict with certainty, but that hasn’t stopped anyone
from trying.

The final day of argument will also consider a portion of the health law that many thought was
out of reach of a legal challenge: the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to all working age adults
up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The suit alleges that the federal government is
unconstitutionally “coercing” states into expanding Medicaid. It’s an awkward argument on the
part of the twenty-six states in the suit, given nearly a century of precedent upholding the federal
government’s power to make federal funds to the states conditional upon certain requirements, as
the Medicaid program has always done. Health policy historian Timothy Jost points out:

[States] could hardly argue otherwise because the power of Congress to make conditional grants
to the states has been recognized in Supreme Court precedent since the 1930s. Federal
government conditional grant programs are in fact pervasive, including not just health and
welfare programs, but also programs providing federal assistance for education, transportation,
infrastructure, and indeed homeland security.

But the states say that Medicaid, while technically not a compulsory program, isn’t functionally
voluntary anymore either. They argue that the new healthcare law makes participation in
Medicaid all but mandatory because there is no alternative for states who want to drop the
program. More to the point, there is no alternative for the residents of those states who are
eligible for Medicaid and required to carry insurance.

Speculation on how the Supreme Court will rule is rampant. We likely won’t know the answer
until June of this year, when the Court will issue its ruling and written opinions. Oklahoma has
suspended action on creating a state health insurance exchange, a required component of the
Affordable Care Act, in hopes that the Court’s decision will slow the implementation of health
care reform. Given that health insurance exchanges aren’t being challenged in the pending
lawsuit, this strategy seems a bit foolhardy. In the meantime, the oral argument proceedings
should give us a glimpse into how the Justices are thinking through the major points of
contention in the case. We are in uncharted legal waters on many of these claims. No matter
what happens over the spring and summer, this case is shaping up to be one for the ages.

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In The Know: Despite Open Records Act, Oklahoma is not as open as advertised

OK Policy Blog - Mon, 03/19/2012 - 13:40

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that exemptions to the state Open Records Act combined with lax
enforcement and underfunded ethics agencies are hampering Oklahomans’ ability to see what is
happening in their government. State Treasurer Ken Miller said for lawmakers to be responsible,
they need to pay for tax cuts on the front end, not base them on “presumed revenue growth.” A
letter to NewsOK points out that states with high “business climate” rankings due to low tax
rates aren’t actually attracting more economic activity.

Lawmakers still have no agreement on what a plan to cut the state income tax would look like.
OK Policy updated our side by side comparison of the major tax proposals to reflect the bills that
passed on the House and Senate floors.

Recent slashes in publicly funded treatment centers mean that few beds are available for those
seeking help for addiction. Private treatment programs for substance abuse are frequently
inaccessible because insurance companies will not cover the needed care. The Tulsa World
contrasts Gov. Fallin’s call for increasing the number of college graduates with her moves to cut
funding to higher education.

The Oklahoma City emergency children’s shelter will remain open after DHS presented a plan to
reduce overcrowding, which includes sending children to a private residential facility and to the
agency that houses juvenile offenders. Broken Arrow and several other Tulsa-area cities have
declined membership in the Oklahoma Municipal League this year, citing a low return on their
investment.

The Number of the Day is the proportion of Oklahoma adults under correctional control. In
today’s Policy Note, economist Christina Romer surveys the research showing that most tax rate
changes have very little effect on the economy.

In The News

Oklahoma is not as open as advertised

The state seal of Oklahoma was smuggled out of Guthrie, the original capital, in the dark of
night, hidden in some dirty laundry. The clandestine operation on June 12, 1910, moved the state
capital to Oklahoma City and set the state on a path that it remains on today when it comes to
openness. Oklahoma has a populist streak in principle but power often remains tightly held in the
hands of a few who prefer doing the public’s business in the dark. While Oklahoma has an
inclusive open records law, a variety of forces have been chipping away at the public’s right to
know in recent years. Exemptions to the state Open Records Act have combined with lax
enforcement and underfunded ethics agencies to create a recipe for corruption and a public less
informed about its government.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

State Treasurer urges caution in cutting state income tax rate

Reality will have to replace rhetoric when legislative leaders and the governor’s office meet to
develop a proposal to reduce the state’s personal income tax, state Treasurer Ken Miller says.
“To responsibly finance tax cuts, the Legislature should eliminate one dollar of spending or
credits for every one dollar cut in taxes,” said Miller, who served four years as a state House of
Representatives budget chairman before being elected treasurer in 2010. “They need to pay for
the tax cut on the front end, not on presumed revenue growth in the future.” Three of the four
tax-cutting bills depend on increased state revenue to occur because of the lower income tax
rates. “We have to be very careful,” Miller said. “As state treasurer, I feel one of my tasks is to
safeguard the financial house of the state by promoting sound fiscal policy. I want to make sure
that we don’t get into a situation of a structural imbalance.”

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: LETTER: Business activity may not increase if state income tax is eliminated from
NewsOK

No tax agreement yet

Oklahoma lawmakers passed a key deadline and passed hundreds of bills from the floor, but still
have no agreement on the most far-reaching policy issue this legislative session — a plan to cut
the state income tax. There are four major proposals that have passed the House or Senate to
either slash or completely eliminate the state’s personal income tax, although leaders of the
Republican-controlled Legislature acknowledge there is no consensus on what the final product
may look like. While Steele is optimistic there will be a “significant” reduction in the income
tax, it’s become apparent a steep cut will be difficult to achieve this year, especially as
opposition is mounting to the elimination of dozens of exemptions, deductions and tax breaks
that would be needed to offset the lost revenue. Republicans already have caved to pressure from
groups representing seniors to restore tax deductions for things like retirement and Social
Security income, and lobbyists that represent industries receiving tax breaks also have been
working to keep those intact. Meanwhile, little progress has been made on crafting a budget for
the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, because any tax cut will significantly reduce how
much revenue lawmakers have to spend.

Read more from the Enid News and Eagle.

See also: Side by side comparison of major tax proposals from OK Policy

Substance abuse programs struggle to keep up with huge demand for services
Recent slashes in publicly funded treatment centers meant that few beds were available when
Lindsey Arias finally worked up the courage to seek help for her addiction. Arias is one of
thousands of Oklahomans with little or no health insurance asking for an intervention in her
prescription painkiller addiction but finding few options. As Oklahoma tops the nation in
nonmedical use of prescription painkillers and remains high in meth and alcohol addiction, the
state agency charged with addressing those problems has had to deal with severe budget cuts.
When residents without health insurance ask for help, many are forced to wait nearly six months,
leading to dire results. Since 2009, funding to the agency has been cut by 11 percent – from
$326.3 million to $289.8 million.

Read more from this Tulsa World.

Insurance is a major obstacle for those seeking private treatment programs in Oklahoma

Private treatment programs for substance abuse have the potential to be more successful than
their state-run counterparts, but some say there’s a massive obstacle sitting in the way. Charles
Joseph Shaw, a medical doctor who deals exclusively with addicts, says insurance companies
rarely cover extended stays in substance abuse treatment programs. The problem with that, Shaw
says, is that longer stays in treatment result in higher rates of success. “There’s no question,” he
said. “The longer you stay the better.” Shaw, who has treated more than 100,000 drug addicts
and alcoholics over the past 23 years, has his own practice in Oklahoma City and also works at a
major hospital. He says most of the patients he sees are struggling with addiction to opiates, and
they seem to be getting younger and younger. Some insurance companies won’t pay for opiate
abuse treatment, Shaw said. “And I’m talking about good insurance companies, but that’s their
policy,” he said.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Higher education facing world of hurt

Last fall, Gov. Mary Fallin, to her credit, announced an initiative to increase the number of
college graduates produced in Oklahoma to 50,900 annually by 2023. That’s a 67 percent
increase over the 30,500 degrees and certificates state institutions currently issue each year.
About 22 percent of Oklahomans have degrees, but the national average is almost 6 percentage
points higher. But how exactly does she expect an increase of 20,400 more graduates annually by
2023 as long as higher education repeatedly plays the role of legislative slasher victim? Last
session, lawmakers cut higher ed by 5.8 percent. Oklahoma reportedly ranked 12th in the nation
in such cuts. When federal stimulus money was excluded, state funding declined by 9.6 percent
from fiscal 2011 to FY 2012. Meanwhile, more than 16,000 students were added to the system
over the past two years. But let’s return to the initiative Fallin is backing, which would unfold
over the next 10 years. Is that the same 10 years that the state income tax would be gradually
eliminated under legislation that is shooting through the Legislature, and which Fallin
champions?

Read more from The Tulsa World.
Agreements allow DHS children’s center in Oklahoma City to remain open

A request to revoke the license of a DHS-operated shelter for abused and neglected children has
been rejected — at least for now. Persistent overcrowding problems at the Pauline E. Mayer
Children’s Shelter in Oklahoma City prompted a state fire marshal’s agent to issue a report Feb.
28 recommending that the shelter be closed if those problems weren’t quickly resolved. DHS’s
corrective action plan includes a number of changes designed to quicken the placement of
children in foster homes, including hiring an additional “shelter expediter” within one to three
months and finding a way to complete home studies more quickly. It also included emergency
measures to be taken anytime the census reaches 38. If capacity ever is reached, Whitefields, a
licensed residential facility in Piedmont, has agreed to house up to 10 male children free of
charge, with the caveat that DHS would be responsible for all care including staffing, food,
clothing, education and transportation. The Office of Juvenile Affairs, which houses juvenile
offenders, has agreed to accept six to eight children from the shelter at a cost of $60 a day, if
needed.

Read more from NewsOK.

Cities decline membership in Municipal League, citing low return on investment

Broken Arrow and several other Tulsa-area cities have declined membership in the Oklahoma
Municipal League this year, citing a low return on their investment with the lobbying and
training organization. “We’re hoping this joint action by the cities will gain the attention of the
Municipal League and perhaps allow it (to change) so that we can go back in the organization
next year,” Broken Arrow City Manager David Wooden said. Mayor Mike Lester sent a joint
letter to OML President Homer Nicholson, mayor of Ponca City, in December, citing key
concerns. Other cities behind the letter were Bixby, Collinsville, Jenks, Owasso, Coweta and
Mannford. Wooden said in a report to the City Council that the Municipal League had taken a
position on the Police and Fire Arbitration Act last legislative session that conflicted with the
positions of its member cities.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

 When someone comes to ask for treatment, we need it at that time. By the time there is a bed
available, we often call and can’t find the person because they have moved on, the person has
committed a crime and is sitting in jail or worse – losing them to an overdose or suicide.
-Terri White, director of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Services

Number of the Day

1 in 42

Number of Oklahoma adults under correctional control, 7th most in the nation in 2007
Source: Pew Center on the States

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

That wishful thinking about tax rates

At least since Calvin Coolidge, politicians have trumpeted the supply-side benefits of cutting
marginal income tax rates. Lower rates will unleash economic growth and the cuts will largely
pay for themselves — or so it’s often said. This idea was the essence of President Ronald
Reagan’s theory of supply-side economics, and his justification for large, permanent tax cuts in
the early 1980s. Yet careful studies find little evidence of such effects. History shows that
marginal federal income tax rates have varied widely. If you can find a consistent relationship
between these fluctuations and sustained economic performance, you’re more creative than I
am. Perhaps it’s time to reform tax policy based on facts, not worn-out assumptions.

Read more from The New York Times.

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In The Know: Bill to subject Legislature to Open Records and Meetings laws
unlikely to pass

OK Policy Blog - Fri, 03/16/2012 - 13:36

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that House Speaker Kris Steele told reporters that he doubts a bill to
require the Oklahoma Legislature to be subjected to Open Records and Meetings laws will pass.
Budget cuts have created long waiting lists and deteriorated the quality of care at the state’s
substance abuse treatment facilities. A letter to the editors of the Tulsa World explained why a
‘flat’ tax burdens poor families to benefit the rich.

HB 1551 and SB 1742 would undermine the credibility of science education in Oklahoma
schools. Three leading Oklahoma economists released reviews of bills to eliminate the state
income tax and found serious errors and shortcomings. The state Senate passed a bill to require
high schools in Oklahoma to teach students about the Tulsa Race Riot. The House of
Representatives approved five bills this week to address concerns about the Department of
Human Services raised in a federal class-action lawsuit.
A letter to the editors of the Oklahoman defended tax credits for rehabilitating historic buildings
as a way to create local jobs and businesses while retaining pieces of our history. The Number
of the Day is the average per capita property tax collections in Oklahoma, compared to states
with no income tax. In today’s Policy Note, the National Women’s Law Center answers
frequently asked questions about preventive health services for women in the new health care
law.

In The News

Speaker: Open records for Okla. lawmakers unlikely

House Speaker Kris Steele says he doubts a bill to require the Oklahoma Legislature to be
subjected to provisions of the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws will pass this year.
Steele told reporters it’s “unlikely” the bill would be considered before Thursday’s deadline for
hearing bills on the floor. A House committee already approved the bill by Guthrie Republican
Rep. Jason Murphey. The plan was likely to face resistance in the Senate, where a similar
measure was not granted a hearing in committee. Oklahoma is 1 of the few states in which the
Legislature is not subjected to so-called “sunshine” laws that require meetings and records to be
open to the public.

Read more from NewsOn6 at http://www.newson6.com/story/17168038/speaker-open-records-
for-okla-lawmakers-unlikely

State of Addiction: Cash-Strapped State Rehabs are Looking for a Fix

Oklahoma was one of the country’s biggest abusers of prescription medications last year, news
that comes after several years of budget cuts that have reduced state treatment programs.
Dramatic TV news coverage can make it look like methamphetamine is Oklahoma’s biggest
drug problem. But Terri White, Commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services, says that’s never really been the case.

Read more from StateImpactOK at http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2012/03/15/state-of-
addiction-cash-strapped-state-rehabs-are-looking-for-a-fix/

Tax ‘fairness’ not fair proposal for all

It wears me out listening to the right wing of the Republican Party – which includes all of their
candidates for the nomination for president – whine that almost 50 percent of the people in the
country pay no income tax. In the spirit of fairness, they propose a flat tax of 15 percent on
everyone or something similar. Americans are nothing if not fair. There is not class warfare; the
poor do not begrudge the rich their wealth; we are a nation of “haves” and “soon-to-haves,” they
tell us. Let’s take a look at the real effect of a 15 percent flat tax on two groups: 1) those living
at the poverty line of $22,314 for a family of four, and 2) those living at the median household
income of $42,076 in Oklahoma for a family of four. Median is the point at which half make
more and half make less.
Read more from the Tulsa World at
http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=65&articleid=20120316_65_A19_UL
NSbf797809

Two bills in Oklahoma Legislature promote nonscience agenda

Ewert wrote, “Science lends credence to an agenda because it’s revered as the bastion of
objectivity and truth.” This is indisputable; we entrust our very lives to the science that keeps
planes aloft and our medical procedures effective. Neither realm is perfect, but in the past two
centuries while modern science’s rigorous standards have come into practice, travel has
accelerated astonishingly, communication technology has been revolutionized, human life spans
have roughly tripled, etc. The overall methodology provides extraordinary benefits to society and
shows no sign of faltering. It follows that undermining those standards is unwise. Yet that is
precisely what House Bill 1551 and Senate Bill 1742 aim to do. Wrapped in the deceptive
language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel
(pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This camel has tried before, many times, and been
rebuffed — for good reason.

Read more from NewsOK at http://newsok.com/two-bills-in-oklahoma-legislature-promote-
nonscience-agenda/article/3657912#ixzz1pHjg4XSD

Oklahoma economists give Laffer a failing grade

The push to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax relies heavily for intellectual support on
a study done for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist Arthur Laffer and his
colleagues at Aduin, Laffer & Moore econometrics. Last month we reported on a pair of studies
from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a leading national tax policy think-tank, that
revealed fundamental flaws with the Laffer/OCPA report.

Read more from OK Policy at http://okpolicy.org/blog/taxes/oklahoma-economists-give-laffer-a-
failing-grade/

Senate passes bill requiring teaching of Tulsa Race Riot history

The Senate passed a measure Thursday that would require high schools in the state to teach
students about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Senate Bill 1381 by Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-
Tulsa, and Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, passed by a vote of 33-6 and now heads to the House.
“School districts shall ensure that information concerning the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is
presented in high school courses in U.S. history or Oklahoma history,” the bill states. The
measure would be effective July 1. McIntyre said no cost would be associated with it.

Read more from the Tulsa World at
http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20120316_16_A9_CUT
LIN688290

Work to improve Oklahoma DHS continues apace at the Capitol
The House of Representatives this week approved five bills crafted following meetings held last
year by five House members. They were appointed by House Speaker Kris Steele after DHS
came under fire for not publicly addressing high-profile instances of children dying while in the
agency’s care. The bills approved this week seek to address concerns about DHS including those
raised in a federal class-action lawsuit filed against DHS in 2008 by a New York-based
nonprofit. The state agreed in December to settle the lawsuit, and work continues on a DHS
improvement plan that will be submitted to a federal judge. Specifics of the legislation are being
hashed out in conjunction with the formulation of the improvement plan. The speaker’s office
says it expects substantive, specific policy to be added to the bills in the near future.

Read more from NewsOK at http://newsok.com/work-to-improve-oklahoma-dhs-continues-
apace-at-the-capitol/article/3657910#ixzz1pHfA5JYL

Rehabilitating historic buildings good use of tax credits

The goal of our historic renovation of the Ward Building, in the Brady District of Tulsa, was to
encourage private business, especially startups, and to transform a building that was an
abandoned warehouse into an asset that would increase productivity and jobs. The tax credit
process involved is totally transparent; no credits will be earned until the project is complete.
Just as small businesses can’t afford to wait years on construction, small investors don’t have the
capital to wait years to see a return on investment; “transferable” credits allow those with limited
tax liability to access the capital needed to undertake these projects through a legal process used
all over the country. In short, transferability makes the economics work.

Read more from NewsOk at http://newsok.com/rehabilitating-historic-buildings-good-use-of-tax-
credits/article/3657917#ixzz1pHhe5DBp

Quote of the Day

Like it or not, when we deal with changes in tax law, some people win and some people lose.
This is just what happens. It is not class warfare or envy, it is real.

Brice Bogle, CPA who lives in Broken Arrow

Number of the Day

$582

Average per capita property tax collections in Oklahoma, compared to $1,507 in states with no
income tax, 2008

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note
Women’s Preventive Health Services in the New Health Care Law: Frequently Asked
Questions

The new health care law makes preventive care more accessible and affordable to millions of
Americans. This is especially important to women, who are more likely than men to avoid
needed health care, including preventive care, because of cost. To help address these cost
barriers and make sure all women have access to preventive health care, one section of the new
health care law requires all new private insurance plans to cover a wide range of preventive
services, including services such as mammograms, pap smears, smoking prevention and
contraceptives without co-payments or other cost sharing requirements.

Read more from the National Women’s Law Center at
http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/faq_contraceptive_coverage_rule.pdf

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Oklahoma economists give Laffer a failing grade

OK Policy Blog - Thu, 03/15/2012 - 14:10

The push to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax relies heavily for intellectual support on
a study done for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist Arthur Laffer and his
colleagues at Aduin, Laffer & Moore econometrics. Last month we reported on a pair of studies
from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a leading national tax policy think-tank, that
revealed fundamental flaws with the Laffer/OCPA report.

Now three leading Oklahoma economists – Dr. Kent Olson, Professor of Economics Emeritus at
Oklahoma State University, Dr. Jonathan Willner, Professor and Chair of the Department of
Economics and Finance at Oklahoma City University, and Dr. Cynthia Rogers, Associate
Professor of Economics at University of Oklahoma - have released their own reviews of the
Laffer/OCPA report. Each has found serious errors and shortcomings in the OCPA/Laffer
analysis and each cautions strongly against using it as the basis for public policy decisions.

Dr. Kent Olson, in a paper titled, “The Voodoo Economics of Phasing out Oklahoma’s Personal
Income Tax,” focuses on a regression equation that yields Laffer’s predictions of spectacular
economic growth rates from eliminating the income tax. Carefully replicating the data and
assumptions built into Laffer’s equation, Olson uncovers multiple errors that lead to mistaken
conclusions. Olson writes that the design of Laffer’s key equation and his use of data:

… produces biased and greatly exaggerated estimates of the effects on personal income and non-
personal-income tax revenues from phasing out Oklahoma’s personal income tax. In this
author’s view, it fails totally to provide adequate justification for such an important change in
Oklahoma’s tax structure.
Dr. Jonathan Willner, in a piece titled, “Putting Real Economics into an Economic Assessment
of the Oklahoma State Income Tax,” focuses on inconsistencies in Laffer’s selection of key data
and failure to consider a full range of explanatory variables, that serve to render “the entire report
valueless.” After sampling some of the problems with the study, Willner concludes:

Between data inconsistencies, omitting things that matter, and not asking about relevant impacts,
the Arduin, Laffer and Moore assessment of the impact of eliminating the Oklahoma Income Tax
does not constitute economic analysis in any real sense. As a consequence, its suggestions should
be ignored as economics.

Finally, a similar assessment is reached by Dr. Cynthia Rogers in her paper, “The Flawed Case
for Eliminating Personal Income Taxation in Oklahoma.” Dr. Rogers emphasizes that the Laffer
study mistakes correlation for causation, selects flawed data, and fails to consider important
variables that are likely to influence economic growth and tax policy. She states that:

… the analysis does not meet professional standards for economic studies of this sort, which
require comprehensive robustness checks to test for the influence of outliers, specification of
variables, time periods selected, and non-linear effects.

Rogers, who has published extensively on state tax policy and economic growth, concludes that
“neither the OCPA report nor existing academic research supports the claim that eliminating
Oklahoma’s income tax will lead to enhanced growth in the state economy.”

Along with the ITEP reports and findings from Professor William T. Terrell of Wichita State
University, these pieces reflect a broad consensus among economists that the Laffer/OCPA study
is riddled with errors and problems that undermine its findings and conclusions. We hope that
Oklahoma legislators take these assessments from national and Oklahoma economists seriously
and conclude that decisions based on bad economics can only yield bad policy.

On April 5th, Drs. Olson, Willner and Rogers, along with several of their peers from the
economics and economic development field, will be participating in a public forum at the
Oklahoma History Center, “Abolishing the Income Tax: Silver Bullet or Fool’s Gold?” Click
here for more information and to register for this free event.

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In The Know: Agencies that help poor being deluged in ‘perfect storm’ of need

OK Policy Blog - Thu, 03/15/2012 - 13:31

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story
does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your
suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In
The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that prolonged huge demand for food and housing assistance is forcing
Oklahoma non-profits that help the poor into the red. The House of Representatives passed two
proposals to cut the income tax, while reinstating exemptions that mean legislators would have to
find more state services to cut. The OK Policy Blog shares a graph showing that state tax
collections are at historic lows.

The House voted to expand the Quality Jobs tax incentive to make payments to underperforming
businesses. Students not meeting new high school graduation testing requirements may be forced
to turn down college scholarships. In being the only state Attorney General to file a separate
settlement with the mortgage industry, Scott Pruitt turned down an estimated $10.2 million that
would have gone to Oklahoma victims of unlawful or unfair foreclosure practices. Tonight at the
Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, OK Policy is hosting free lectures on how the housing crisis affected
Oklahoma and the racial wealth gap.

In This Land Press, Michael Bates discusses how technology is providing new tools for citizens
to interact with city governments in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed
various trends in this movement, often called Government 2.0.

A Tulsa aircraft maintenance firm agreed to pay an $11.8 million criminal penalty for bribing
officials in Mexico and Panama. The Oklahoma State Athletic Commission has suspended
all professional wrestling, mixed martial arts, and boxing events in the state due to a dispute
over the right to collect taxes on pay-per-view purchases. An annual conference on race relations
held at OU has grown substantially in 25 years of existence.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of jobs lost during the Great Recession that Oklahoma
had recovered by 2011. In today’s Policy Note, Dean Baker explains how companies frequently
break laws meant to protect labor organizing with few consequences for the employers.

In The News

Tulsa-area agencies that help poor being deluged in ‘perfect storm’ of need

Prolonged increased demand for food and housing assistance have forced some area agencies
into the red. Since 2008, Iron Gate has seen a 45 percent increase in the number of people
seeking assistance and the nonprofit’s yearly expenses have increased from $277,367 to
$833,472. Keeping up with the increase has forced the agency to have a deficit for the first time,
said Connie Cronley, executive director of the soup kitchen. “The people who come to Iron Gate
have a lot of life problems – employment, health, transportation, financial. As one of our guests
told us, ‘It’s hard to solve other problems if you’re hungry,’ ” she said. “I never want to hang a
sign on the Iron Gate door that says, ‘Out of food. Try again tomorrow.’ We will keep
scrambling to feed people.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

House passes two income tax cutting measures
The House of Representatives passed two proposals to reduce and gradually eliminate the state’s
personal income tax Wednesday, but only after restoring exemptions and deductions for retirees
and veterans. Reinstating the exemptions means legislators will have to find more state services
to cut. Opponents also argued that the plans would be especially harsh on low-income families
and individuals. “You’re going to tear it down without knowing the outcome of the results,” said
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “You can’t rebuild it once you destroy it. You’re
jumping off a cliff.” House Speaker Kris Steele said the plan is for lawmakers to review all the
proposals, which call for reducing the personal income tax by one-half percent to as much as 3
percent next year, and to develop the best ideas from each proposal. Rep. Earl Sears, chairman of
the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, told House members that legislative leaders
and the governor’s office will “go to a room and hammer out a proposal.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Graph of the Day: Tax collections at historic lows

The share of income Oklahomans pay in state taxes has fallen to its lowest point in decades. In
2010, Oklahomans paid just 5.5 percent of their total income in state taxes. This includes sales
tax, income tax, motor vehicle tax, excise taxes on oil and gas production, and all other state
taxes. This is a major drop from the average of 6.9 percent over the past three decades, and it is
well below the previous low of 6.1 percent in 1987 and 2009. As the graph shows, the share of
income paid in taxes has been falling since 2006. In 2007 and 2008, collections grew but less
rapidly than the state economy as the income tax cuts of the mid-2000s phased in. Once the state
was hit by the recession in 2009, collections fell for two straight years, with 2010 collections
coming in 15 percent below 2008. Even before the latest steep drop, Oklahoma was among the
lowest tax states in the nation, ranking 40th in total state and local taxes as a share of personal
income in 2009.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

House votes to expand Quality Jobs incentive, ban transferable tax credits

The House of Representatives took aim at some tax incentive programs Wednesday but also
voted to expand the Quality Jobs program, the state’s most popular business incentive program.
House Bill 2980, which passed 72-18, would expand a portion of the program called 21st
Century Quality Jobs to “strategic industries” identified by the state Commerce Department.
Sponsor David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said the bill is designed to help key industries that have
become “distressed” through circumstances beyond their control. The Quality Jobs program
reimburses employers for as much as 5 percent of qualified payroll in certain sectors of the
economy. The House also passed HB 2621, which in its current form outlaws all transferable tax
credits. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, said some transferable credits may
be restored to the bill before the House sees it again in its final form.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Educators work feverishly to help Oklahoma high school seniors graduate
The deadline for this year’s Oklahoma high school seniors to pass a battery of tests to graduate is
quickly approaching, and school administrators are working feverishly to help students meet the
requirement. The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face the state graduation
requirement created by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence – or ACE
– legislation. Most of the students who haven’t met the requirement by now will not walk across
the stage for graduation in May or June. The reason is that end-of-instruction tests will be held in
April, but results typically aren’t back until September or October, educators say. The timing
issue can also mean students miss out on college scholarship opportunities, said Steve Clark,
counselor at Broken Arrow High School. “Numerous students have been offered scholarships to
attend college,” he said. “But if they do not meet the EOI requirement, they will be forced to
decline those scholarships, which in many cases could affect their ability to obtain a college
degree.”

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma mortgage settlement filed

Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt has filed an $18.6 million settlement with the five largest U.S.
mortgage servicers to compensate Oklahoma residents who were harmed by unfair banking
practices during the foreclosure crisis. Oklahoma was the only state to opt out of the $25 billion
national settlement with the mortgage lenders after Pruitt said the national agreement was an
attempt by the federal government to regulate the industry through litigation rather than
legislation. In rejecting the federal agreement, Pruitt turned down an estimated $10.2 million that
would have gone to Oklahoma victims of unlawful or unfair foreclosure practices.

Read more from NewsOK.

Government 2.0 in Oklahoma

There’s an app for Shawnee, Oklahoma. On Android-powered smartphones, on iPhone or iPad,
or on a mobile web browser you can access maps of police incidents and listen live to police,
fire, and EMS radio, pay a water bill or a parking ticket, search a clickable City Hall phone book,
look at city job openings, get all the details on the upcoming sales tax and bond issue election,
find the weather forecast and see the current weather radar, browse upcoming events, read the
agenda for the next planning commission meeting, search for the minutes of the council meeting
where they voted on the name for the dog park, and then watch that meeting (via YouTube). This
Shawnee app has maps: city limits, active and recent emergency calls, upcoming garage sales,
code violations, fire hydrants, sex offenders, dilapidated structures, and abandoned refrigerators.
All of this information and more is available to interested residents via a single, free app called
YouTown. The cost to the City of Shawnee to provide this app: $0.

Read more from This Land Press.

Previously: Watchdogs, code monkeys, and budget hawks: The many species of Gov 2.0 from
the OK Policy Blog
Oklahoma firm fined for paying bribes in Mexico, Panama

An Oklahoma company that provides aircraft maintenance services agreed Wednesday to pay an
$11.8 million criminal penalty for bribing officials in Mexico and Panama to obtain business.
The Justice Department said that BizJet, a Tulsa firm, had bribed officials at four Mexican state
and federal agencies and the Panama civil aviation authority. It said top officials at BizJet
“orchestrated, authorized and approved” of the payoffs. The Mexican attorney general’s office
issued a statement saying that the BizJet payoff occurred between 2004 and 2009, and that a
BizJet sales manager had gone into hiding. The Justice Department said U.S. prosecutors would
defer prosecution of BizJet executives for three years, and if the company cooperates with a
probe and heightens compliance efforts, the threat of criminal charges would end.

Read more from The Bellingham Herald.

Oklahoma to suspend all pro wrestling, MMA, and boxing events over tax dispute

Effective March 31, the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission will no longer be accepting new
applications for combat sport events to be held within the state. This includes professional
wrestling, MMA, and boxing. Oklahoma currently taxes pay-per-view buys made by residents
4%, no matter where the events are held. UFC, operated by Dana White, says they plan to sue the
Commission to stop the tax. The Commission claims that without the tax, they can’t maintain the
overhead needed to provide for the public safety and for the health and safety of the athletes. The
tax accounts for 2/3rds of their budget, and is responsible for 65% of the Commission’s revenue
receipts. “The Oklahoma State Athletic Commission does not receive any state funding,” said
Joe Miller, Executive Director of the Athletic Commission. “We are funded solely from license
fees, assessment on live events, and an assessment on pay-per-view events. … For the Oklahoma
Commission to survive and for Combat Sports to continue in Oklahoma it will be up to the
Oklahoma legislature to come up with a solution to the funding shortfall.” Until the threat of the
lawsuit is resolved, all licenses have been revoked, including for events already scheduled.

Read more from Examiner.com.

University of Oklahoma annual conference on race relations grows over 25 years

In 1988, the University of Oklahoma established a conference to foster dialogue about campus
race relations and educational access. After 25 years, organizers say that conversation is as rich
as it has ever been. OU Outreach established the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in
Higher Education, or NCORE, as a way to discuss the inclusion of racial and ethnic minority
groups in colleges and universities. The conference brings together representatives from
universities across the United States and abroad, as well as experts in areas related to race
relations, human rights and access to education. In the early years of the conference, it attracted
about 200 participants, said James Pappas, OU’s vice president of university outreach. Today, he
said, the number of participants tops 2,000.

Read more from NewsOK.
Quote of the Day

It seems to be a perfect storm. Low income, unemployed and working poor people are struggling
to pay their bills and put food on their tables. More and more Tulsans need food assistance. Food
costs keep climbing. Donors are being deluged with requests for funding assistance, exacerbated
by government assistance cuts. We social service agencies are caught in the middle, standing on
a smaller and smaller piece of dry land and calling out “Help!”
-Connie Cronley, executive director of the Iron Gate soup kitchen

Number of the Day

71.6 percent

Percentage of jobs lost during the Great Recession that Oklahoma had recovered by 2011,
7th best among the states

Source: Oklahoma Department of Commerce

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why labor organizing should be a civil right

In an environment of unrelenting employer hostility to unions, there can be little doubt that there
needs to be some change in the rules if workers in the private sector are going to have chance of
being able to organize successfully. As it stands, it is standard practice for employers to fire
workers who are engaged in an organizing drive. While such firing is against the law, the
penalties are trivial. When it gets around to hearing the case, which could take years, the
National Labor Relations Board can order that a worker wrongly fired be rehired. Meanwhile,
the union is shown to be impotent and the rest of the workforce conceals any possible interest in
the union in order to avoid the same fate. It doesn’t help much if the organizers get rehired a year
or two later. Imagine that President Obama got to jail his opponent’s campaign workers for the
two months prior to the election, but had to release them the month after. That is the roughly the
state of union elections in America today.

Read more from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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Graph of the Day: Tax collections at historic lows

OK Policy Blog - Wed, 03/14/2012 - 16:12
The share of income Oklahomans pay in state taxes has fallen to its lowest point in decades. In
2010, Oklahomans paid just 5.5 percent of their total income in state taxes. This includes sales
tax, income tax, motor vehicle tax, excise taxes on oil and gas production, and all other state
taxes. This is a major drop from the average of 6.9 percent over the past three decades, and it is
well below the previous low of 6.1 percent in 1987 and 2009.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau - Tax Collections; Bureau of Economic Analysis - State Personal
Income

As the graph shows, the share of income paid in taxes has been falling since 2006. In 2007 and
2008, collections grew but less rapidly than the state economy as the income tax cuts of the mid-
2000s phased in. Once the state was hit by the recession in 2009, collections fell for two straight
years, with 2010 collections coming in 15 percent below 2008.. During the same period, state
personal income contracted by 4 percent.

Even before the latest steep drop, Oklahoma was among the lowest tax states in the nation,
ranking 40th in total state and local taxes as a share of personal income in 2009. As we struggle
through an incomplete recovery, and with tax cuts back on the front burner of the political
agenda, the failure of our tax collections to keep pace with growing costs and growing needs
raises critical questions of how we can meet the core responsibilities that Oklahomans expect
from state government.



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