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Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma Policy Institute’

David Blatt at OK Policy does a nice job of explaning the “cliff effect”, whereby people lose important public benefits as their earnings increase. This means that struggling families who manage to raise their incomes face a sort of “tax” on their efforts toward economic self-sufficiency:

The cliff effect is most dramatic for Medicaid health insurance coverage, which tends to be an all-or-nothing benefit. Children in Oklahoma are eligible for Medicaid up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, while adults lose eligibility when they make less than 50 percent of the poverty level. Other work support programs, including the earned income tax credit, the food stamp program, and child care subsidies, minimize the cliff effect by phasing out the amount of benefits at higher incomes, or in the case of child care subsidies, requiring higher co-payments. The cumulative effect, however, is that for most low-income workers who are attempting to move up the income ladder, additional earnings can be largely or fully offset by higher taxes and the loss of benefits. At a certain threshold, workers find themselves in a situation where the rational response to an offer of a raise or a better job is to respond, “Sorry, but I just can’t afford it.”

I did some work on this issue a while back, in order to better understand what exactly those “cliffs” look like to our families. We found that a single mom with two children takes home an average of just 34 cents for every additional dollar she earns, with the largest impact (as Blatt notes) caused by the loss of health care coverage for her and her children.

cliffeffect

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David Blatt at the Oklahoma Policy Institute details some odd alliances in the Oklahoma legislature over education reform:

But on SB 1111, a bill authored by Sen. Clark Jolley that moves various education reporting and accountability functions from the State Department of Education to the Office of Accountability based with the Regents for Higher Education, it was four mostly liberal Democrats (Anastasia Pittman, Rebecca Hamilton, Seneca Scott, and Jabar Shumate), representing some of the lowest-income urban districts in the state, who joined with 54 of 59 Republicans to pass the bill in the House and send it to Governor Brad Henry…

The vote on SB 1111 suggests that on educational issues, old assumptions and old alliances seem to be breaking down. The bill represents at least the third time in three years that Oklahoma Democrats representing low-income urban districts have opposed their party leadership and most of the organized educational interest organizations on education bills.

What gives?

At its essence, these battles represent a profound frustration and disappointment in the poor performance of public schools in low-income, disproportionately-minority urban neighborhoods and a belief that poor families deserve a wider array of choices for their children.

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The Oklahoma Policy Institute announced the coming launch of their very own blog. Citizens take note: you will have no excuse to lack basic (and thorough!) awareness of the most important policy issues facing our state. That includes this frightening fact: state revenues for February came in 30.4 percent below projections. That’s $104 million that we thought would be there and isn’t.

In other blog-related news:

  • For CAP employees: We now have a link on the Inside CAP website, under “News and Info.”
  • The Nudge blog linked to our story about behavior change and Tulsa printers. As Diama says, “this is nerd famous.”

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If you’re like us and you’re a huge David Blatt fan* (and who isn’t?), you can catch him on the Studio Tulsa replay tonight at 7:30pm on Tulsa’s NPR affiliate, KWGS 89.5.  David will be talking up OK Policy Institute and what Oklahoma can expect to get from the stimulus package. So if you’re sitting in your rocker tonight at 7:30 and just can’t find anything on the radio, tune in! (They should have the show archived on their website in the next day or two.)

P.S.: By the way, alerting us to this appearance would have been a great use for OPI’s new twitter.

P.P.S.: Did you know that David Blatt is not only a pretty great policy analyst, but he also coaches the Russian national basketball team, too?

*Consider this post Blatt bait.

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Oklahoma Policy Institute puts out a monthly publication called Numbers You Need, capturing key economic and budget trends in Oklahoma. It’s a good quick way to keep track of conditions in our state.

Their February report (PDF) indicates that the state is faring better than the rest of the nation, with key indicators moving more mildly than elsewhere. So while the number of unemployed in Oklahoma spiked 32 percent since September and the unemployment rate has risen from 3.8 to 4.9 percent, the state is still in considerably better shape than the rest of the nation (whose unemployment rate was 7.2 in December).

Meanwhile, the inflation rate was 0.0 percent over 12 month period since December. Obviously that’s mostly due to the decline in gas prices. The overall rate conceals increases in areas like food and beverages, though, which were up 5.8% for the year in the South region. Families reliant on food stamps thus saw their food budgets stretched tighter, as the benefit is only adjusted on an annual basis.

Finally, enrollment in most work supports in Oklahoma showed only modest growth, with increases of 4.2 percent in food stamps, 4.0 percent in WIC, and just 0.3 percent in Sooner Care (Medicaid). Child care subsidy participants actually declined. Since this benefit covers only child care for the purposes of work or training, rising unemployment may actually make it more difficult to keep children in early childhood programs.

Anyway give it a read, sign up for their email updates, join their facebook group (but not while at work!), or follow them on Twitter. (Way to skip the blog and go straight for the micro-blogging, David!)

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