Taking health care from struggling parents is no way to fix the budget

by | March 28th, 2018

Oklahoma already has one of the strictest standards for Medicaid enrollment in the country. A single parent with one child taking home $625 dollars per month makes too much to be eligible. SB 1030 would cut that threshold even lower. The monthly income limit for a single mother with one child would be just $275 per month. This new cutoff would be lower than every state in the U.S. except Texas and Alabama.

Over 40,000 Oklahoma parents could lose their health care if this bill should pass. That’s a number equal to the number of undergraduate students at OU and OSU combined. Two in three of those who would lose coverage are mothers.

SB 1030 has been assigned to the House Appropriations and Budget Health Subcommittee. Please call the members of the subcommittee and ask them to vote NO to SB 1030:

Rep. Chad Caldwell (Chair): chad.caldwell@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7317
Rep. Dale Derby (Vice Chair): dale.derby@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7377
Rep. Mickey Dollens: mickey.dollens@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7371
Rep. Claudia Griffith: claudia.griffith@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7386
Rep. Glen Mulready: glen.mulready@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7340
Rep. Mike Ritze: mike.ritze@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7338
Rep. Sean Roberts: sean.roberts@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7322
Rep. Michael Rogers: michael.rogers@okhouse.gov; 405-557-7362

Cutting parents off SoonerCare will increase Oklahoma’s already high uninsured rate and put even greater strains on our already-underfunded safety net health centers and hospital emergency rooms. People with disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders will lose coverage as a result of this bill. This will leave them with nowhere to go for the care they need and make it even harder for them to maintain the health they need to be productively employed.

Please tell the subcommittee members that Oklahoma has better options to increase working and reduce poverty, but taking away health care from struggling parents will only make our state’s economic future worse.

Learn more about attacks on Oklahomans’ health care here.

Big money interest groups are trying to stop this bill. Don’t let them.

by | March 26th, 2018

Big money interest groups are trying to stop a bill that would repeal the capital gains tax deduction–SB 1086. Oklahoma’s capital gains deduction allows income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm to go fully untaxed. Here are seven reasons why we can’t let them block a repeal of this wasteful tax loophole.

 

Capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as income earned by hard-working Oklahomans. It’s time for this inefficient and unfair use of tax dollars to go. You can find your legislators information herePlease call your state representative today and ask them to vote YES to SB 1086.

For tips on how to boost your influence when advocating with your lawmaker, see our advocacy tipsheets.

 

We have a chance to repeal a wasteful tax loophole. Here’s how.

by | March 13th, 2018

What if there was a tax break costing the state over $100 million every year and benefiting just 1 percent of households? What if nearly two-thirds of that benefit went to fewer than 1,000 households making over $1 million a year, while the vast majority of Oklahomans, those making under $100,000 a year, shared less than 10 percent? Finally, what if repealing this tax break would boost state revenues by an estimated $120 million, enough to partly fund a teacher pay raise? Turns out there is such a tax break and this session we have a chance to repeal it.

SB 1086, a bill that would repeal the capital gains tax break, is up for a vote this week. Oklahoma’s capital gain deduction allows income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm to go fully untaxed. The capital gains tax break is poorly targeted and poorly monitored. Economic development experts working with Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission concluded that this tax break reduced state revenues by $474 million from 2010 to 2014 while creating only $9 million in revenue growth, for a net cost of $465 million. They concluded that this tax break “cannot be credibly shown to have significant economic impact or a positive return on investment” for Oklahoma, and recommended its repeal.

Oklahomans agree. Fifty-five percent of Oklahoma registered voters favor ending the capital gains tax break, compared to just 35 who would oppose ending it. 

Capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as income earned by working Oklahomans. It’s time for this inefficient and unfair use of tax dollars to go. You can find your legislators information herePlease call your state senator today and ask them to vote YES to SB 1086. This bill will be heard this week. (For tips on how to boost your influence when advocating with your lawmaker, see our advocacy tipsheets.)

Other pieces of legislation we’re following:

  • HB 1270 would require the state to completely rebuild its online SoonerCare enrollment system, at a total one-time cost of $1.2 million and a yearly cost of up to $450,000. This would make it harder for families who need SoonerCare to get and keep their coverage. HB 1270 passed both the House and the Senate last spring and could be heard in the House to approve Senate amendments this week.
  • HB 2932, HB 3556, and SB 1179 would terminate SoonerCare coverage for Oklahoma parents who fail to work a certain number of hours per month  Governor Fallin signed an executive order last week ordering the state Medicaid agency to seek a federal waiver to add a work requirement, but legislators are still moving ahead with bills that have the same purpose. HB 2932 passed the House last week and SB 1179 passed the Senate today.
  • SB 1030 would slash the income eligibility for SoonerCare to just 20% of the Federal Poverty Line. This would cause 43,000 parents to lose their health care coverage. SB 1030 passed the Senate 25-17 with the title stricken and now goes to the House.
  • HJR 1050 would ask the voters to amend the requirement in the state Constitution that requires a revenue bill to be approved by 3/4 of the members of both chambers. In its current form, HJR 1050 would lower the supermajority requirement to 2/3rds, but an amendment filed by House Speaker Pro Tem Harold Wright would set the threshold at 3/5ths. HJR 1050 is set for a vote by the full House this week.

 

We need your help to stop 43,000 parents from losing health care

by | March 11th, 2018

We need your help! Over 40,000 Oklahoma parents could lose their health care if a bill set to be voted on Monday in the Senate should pass. That’s a number equal to the number of undergraduate students at OU and OSU combined. Two in three of those who would lose coverage are mothers.

Oklahoma already has one of the strictest standards for Medicaid enrollment in the country. A single parent with one child taking home $625 dollars per month makes too much to be eligible. SB 1030 would cut that threshold even lower. The monthly income limit for a single mother with one child would be just $275 per month. This new cutoff would be lower than every state in the U.S. except Texas and Alabama.

Cutting parents off SoonerCare will increase Oklahoma’s already high uninsured rate and put even greater strains on our already-underfunded safety net health centers and hospital emergency rooms. People with disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders will lose coverage as a result of this bill. This will leave them with nowhere to go for the care they need and make it even harder for them to maintain the health they need to be productively employed . For more information on SB 1030 and other attacks on the health care safety net, click here.

The vote on this bill is scheduled for this Monday, March 12th in the Senate. Please call your State Senator and tell them that kicking more than 40,000 people off of their health care is not the way to fix our budget. You can find your legislators here. Please call your State Senator and ask them to vote NO on SB 1030.

 

Committee deadline has passed. Here are the issues TOK members are advocating on this week.

by | March 6th, 2018

The deadline for bills to make it out of committee has passed. Both good and bad bills made it over this hurdle. Here are issues that we’re speaking out on this week:

Stop Attacks on SoonerCare

Multiple bills have been proposed this legislative session that would take away SoonerCare health coverage from very low income parents or add unnecessary bureaucracy that prevents families from getting the health care they need. HB 1270 would require an expensive and unnecessary reconstruction of Oklahoma’s SoonerCare enrollment system and make it harder for families who need SoonerCare to get and keep their health coverage. HB 3556 would end SoonerCare coverage for low-income parents who fail to complete work, training, or volunteer requirements. SB 1030 would slash the income cutoff for low-income parents to be eligible for SoonerCare, ending health coverage for thousands of Oklahomans.

Oklahoma has better options to increase working and reduce poverty, but taking away health care from struggling parents will only make our state’s economic future worse. Find your lawmakers here and tell them to stop these attacks on Oklahomans’ health care.

Repeal the Capital Gains Tax Deduction

Oklahoma’s capital gain deduction allows income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm to go fully untaxed. This tax break is costing Oklahoma hundreds of millions without paying off in economic growth. Economic development experts working with Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission concluded that this tax break reduced state revenues by $474 million from 2010 to 2014 while creating only $9 million in revenue growth. Furthermore, in 2014 nearly two-thirds of the benefit went to just 824 household with incomes of more than $1 million dollars. Ending the capital gains tax break is supported by Oklahoma voters. Fifty-five percent of Oklahoma registered voters favor ending the capital gains tax break, compared to just 35 who would oppose ending it, according to a recent poll by Global Strategy Group for OK Policy.

Thankfully we have a chance to put an end to this wasteful loophole. SB 1086, a bill that would sunset the capital gains deduction in 2018, passed the Senate Appropriations committee. Please contact your legislators and ask them repeal this inefficient tax break and support SB 1086.

You are making a difference! Let’s keep going.

by | February 26th, 2018

You are making a difference! Thanks to your calls and emails, a bill that would end the capital gains income tax deduction – SB 1086 – has cleared the first hurdle and made it out of subcommittee. Now let’s keep the momentum going. Here are three bills that need our attention this week.

Support SB 1086: Repeal the capital gains tax deduction

Unlike similar capital gains deductions in other states that have them, Oklahoma’s deduction is not targeted to any specific industry and has no requirement that gains from this tax break be re-invested in Oklahoma. In 2014, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of this more than one hundred-million dollar tax break went to just 824 households with incomes of more than $1 million. SB 1086 is now up for a vote in the appropriations committee. This committee is comprised of the entire Senate, so passage here will be a great sign that SB 1086 will make it through the Senate and move on to the House. Now is the best time to call your Senator and ask her or him to vote YES on SB 1086. You can look up contact information for your Senator here.

Support SJR 52: Allow lawmakers to approve popular revenue bills

SJR 52 would send to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment that reduces the supermajority requirement to pass a revenue bill in Oklahoma from the current 75 percent to 60 percent. The three-fourths requirement has allowed a minority of legislators to block revenue solutions favored by a majority of Oklahomans. Rather than encouraging compromise, the three-fourths hurdle has increased gridlock and prevented lawmakers from doing the job that Oklahomans expect. The cost of lawmakers’ inability to raise revenues includes the largest cuts to general K-12 education funding in the nation, serious threats to the care of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, tens of thousands of Oklahomans losing needed mental health care, and a prison system at the brink of collapse. To make our state government again work effectively for the people of Oklahoma, we need to remove barriers that prevent popular revenue solutions.

Please call the members of the Senate Rules Committee and ask them to vote YES on SJR 52.

Senator Eddie Fields (Chair)–(405) 521-5581; efields@oksenate.gov
Senator Frank Simpson (Vice Chair)–(405) 521-5607; simpson@oksenate.gov
Senator Mark Allen–(405) 521-5576; allen@oksenate.gov
Senator Stephanie Bice–(405) 521-5592; bice@oksenate.gov
Senator Michael Brooks–(405) 521-5557; brooks@oksenate.gov
Senator Nathan Dahm–(405) 521-5551; Dahm@oksenate.gov
Senator Kim David–(405) 521-5590; david@oksenate.gov
Senator Kay Floyd–(405) 521-5610; floyd@oksenate.gov
Senator AJ Griffin–(405) 521-5628; griffin@oksenate.gov
Senator Rob Standridge–(405) 521-5535; standridge@oksenate.gov
Senator Gary Stanislawski–(405) 521-5624; stanislawski@oksenate.gov
Senator Roger Thompson–(405) 521-5588; thompson@oksenate.gov

Oppose SB 1179: Don’t take health coverage from low-income parents

SB 1179 would end SoonerCare coverage for low-income parents in Oklahoma who fail to prove they are working or meeting volunteer requirements. SoonerCare is how we ensure that very low-income Oklahomans can get a flu shot or see a doctor. It is not a jobs program, and losing access to that health care will only make it more difficult for Oklahomans to stay healthy enough to get or keep a job. A SoonerCare work requirement will hurt many Oklahomans who are already working. Low-wage jobs often come with limited, unreliable hours. Many of these jobs are also seasonal. Oklahomans who have inconsistent employment through no fault of their own could lose their health coverage under this bill. SB 1179 won’t meaningfully help the budget or get more people into the workforce. Please ask you Senator to vote NO to SB 1179. You can look up contact information for your Senator here

To read more about any of these issues, explore our legislative priority fact sheets.

Two important votes this week and we need your voice!

by | February 19th, 2018

Support SB 1086: Repeal the capital gains deduction 

Oklahoma’s capital gain deduction allows income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm to go fully untaxed. The capital gains tax break is costing Oklahoma hundreds of millions without paying off in economic growth. In addition, the capital gains tax break benefits a small number of households at the expense of most Oklahomans. In 2015-2016, the capital gains deduction cost more than $100 million going to less than 20,000 households, or barely 1 percent of all households filing tax returns in Oklahoma. More than 85 percent of the benefit is going to individuals with income of more than $200,000. Oklahoma’s capital gains tax break is shown to be a wasteful loophole and inefficient use of tax dollars. Lawmakers should repeal this tax break to ensure a broad-based tax system that works for all Oklahomans without unduly burdening or supporting any small group of people.

Please call the members of the Senate Finance Appropriations Subcommittee and ask them to vote YES to SB 1086! Your call is especially important if any of these members represent your district:

  • Senator Roger Thompson (chair); (405) 521-5588; thompson@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Josh Brecheen (vice-char); (405) 521-5586; brecheen@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Micheal Bergstrom; (405) 521-5561; bergstrom@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Stephanie Bice; (405) 521-5592; bice@oksenate.gov
  • Senator J.J. Dossett; (405) 521-5566; dossett@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Tom Dugger; (405) 521-5572; dugger@oksenate.gov
  • Senator A.J. Griffin; (405) 521-5628; griffin@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Lonnie Paxton; (405) 521-5537; paxton@oksenate.gov
  • Senator John Sparks; (405) 521-5553; sparks@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Gary Stanislawski; (405) 521-5624; stanislawski@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Ervin Yen; (405) 521-5543; yen@oksenate.gov

Oppose SB 1030: Don’t take health coverage from very low-income parents

Oklahoma already has one of the strictest standards for Medicaid enrollment in the country. Parents making as little as one-half of the federal poverty level are not eligible. SB 1030 would cut that threshold even lower, to just 20 percent of the federal poverty level. The monthly income limit for a single mother with one child would be just $275 per month. This new cutoff would be lower than every state in the U.S. except Texas and Alabama. If Oklahoma parents lose their SoonerCare, their kids are less likely to continue to get the healthcare they need, from asthma medications to flu shots. When children are sick and can’t get care, they’re less likely to be able to grow, learn, and develop to their full potential with consequences for years to come. In the long run, we know that a healthier state is a more productive, economically prosperous state. Taking away health care from struggling parents will only make our state’s economic future worse.

Please call the members of the Senate Health Appropriations Subcommittee and ask them to vote NO to SB 1030! Your call is especially important if any of these members represent your district!

  • Senator Rob Standridge (chair); (405) 521-5535; standridge@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Ervin Yen (vice chair); (405) 521-5543; yen@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Allison Ikley-Freeman; ikley-freeman@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Greg McCortney; (405)521-5541; mccortney@oksenate.gov
  • Senator Lonnie Paxton; (405)521-5537; paxton@oksenate.gov;
  • Senator Paul Scott; (405)524-5522; paul.scott@oksenate.gov

 

To learn more about the capital gains deduction and Oklahoma’s safety net programs such as Medicaid, explore our legislative priority fact sheets.

 

 

Our 2018 Legislative Priorities

by | February 13th, 2018

The 2018 regular session is upon us. Despite two special sessions, we are still facing a budget shortfall and have much work to do towards a fair and prosperous Oklahoma. We’ve identified the following legislative priorities for this session.

Increase revenue

Our three health agencies—the Health Care Authority, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Human Services—still face a $70 million shortfall from last year’s budget. State employees and teachers haven’t had a raise in a decade. Health care provider rates have been slashed and the developmental disabilities care waiting list continues to grow. It is clear that our chronic budget shortfall has put our vital core services on life support. We must correct this course of cuts and under-funding of vital public services. It is time to find sustainable revenue sources and reverse irresponsible tax cuts and unnecessary subsidies of the past.

Strengthen working family tax credits

Oklahoma has many tax breaks for high-income individuals, but just 3 that support low- and moderate-income working families. One of those is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC encourages work and supports families and children through a tax credit proportional to their earnings. Families can use their tax refund to pay for things such as bills, groceries, property tax, or tuition. In 2016, Oklahoma slashed the EITC for 200,000 families when it was made non-refundable. That means less money in the pockets of those who need it most. The EITC has been proven to encourage work and help lift families out of poverty. Restoring the EITC should be a priority for legislators this session.

Stop attacks on Oklahoma’s safety net

Safety net programs exist to help our fellow Oklahomans when they fall on hard times. These programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SoonerCare. In a misguided effort to fix our budget crisis, legislators often look to restrict programs such as these by cutting eligibility or requiring enrollees to produce detailed information showing they are working. This is a solution in search of a problem when the majority of non-disabled adults enrolled in SoonerCare or SNAP already work, and cutting Oklahomans’ basic living standards by taking away their health care and food will only make it harder for them to maintain a job and to make ends meet. Furthermore, the proposed restrictions will not strengthen our budget; they will only add to bureaucracy and redirect funding away from the Oklahomans who need it.

What can I do?

To help join the effort to create a budget that reflects our values, please consider joining your local Together Oklahoma chapter at togetherok.org.

You can receive important advocacy alerts and learn about Together Oklahoma events by texting TOGETHEROK to 51555.

Lastly, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to help fund this important work: https://togetherok.org/donate/

–Sabine Brown, sbrown@togetherok.org

Introducing the New TOK Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator

by | January 30th, 2018

Hello, Oklahoma Advocates! Let me introduce myself. I am Sabine Brown and I am taking over for Kara Joy McKee as the new Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator for Together Oklahoma. I want to tell you a bit about myself, but first I’m going to tell you a story about my son.

My son is 10 years old, he’s in the 4th grade, and he attends public school. He’s always done well there, but he is super shy. Due to that shyness, recess hasn’t always been his favorite part of the day. That changed when he met a teacher’s aide named Elizabeth. Elizabeth talked to him when he was feeling anxious or lonely. They discussed movies and books, and she made him finally feel comfortable at school. He eventually started making friends of his own, but when he started having trouble with bullies Elizabeth was there to save the day once again.

One day last year he came home looking quite down. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Elizabeth isn’t going to be there anymore.” I asked him where she was going and he responded, “I don’t know, but she said something about the budget.”

The budget is personal. I’m sure many of you have more heartbreaking and more life-altering stories than mine—teachers trying to make ends meet, parents struggling to care for disabled children, family members helping loved ones battle mental illness and substance abuse. I hope that we will come together to elevate all our voices and fight for a budget that reflects our Oklahoma values.

I look forward to seeing you all at Together Oklahoma meetings and events and at the Capitol! I’m bringing with me five years of organizing experience as the Oklahoma Chapter Leader for a gun violence prevention organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I will do whatever I can to help make your job as citizen advocates easier.

If you’re ready to dive in and get started, I hope you will join me in Oklahoma City on Feb. 5th. Together Oklahoma is proud to be a co-sponsor of “Women and Children First” advocacy training. We will have a great line-up of speakers to help you learn how to more effectively communicate with your legislator.

The next regular session is right around the corner, so I will be hitting the ground running, as I’m sure you will too. Let’s lace up our shoes and get this state moving in the right direction!

–Sabine Brown, sbrown@togetherok.org

Can you believe they are going into ANOTHER special session?

by | December 12th, 2017

Wow!

Can you believe they are going into ANOTHER special session? I’ll talk more about why later in this email. It’s been a long year for all of us advocates in Oklahoma, but we still need to make our voices heard in this special session.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to the Capitol in person, though I hope many can and will. If you can’t go in person, you can write a letter!  Think of it as just one more holiday card that has tangible potential to  improve our state.

Here is is the how and why of it:

Hand written letters can be particularly effective in influencing legislators’ views. Why? Who tends to hand write things? You guessed it! Older people write AND older Oklahomans vote. Write to give the legislators one more good reason to take you seriously!

Writing to legislators also offers an opportunity to maintain contact and keep your issues on the front burner even when you cannot meet personally. Find your two state legislators here! (See also Talking to Legislators Face to Face

Writing an Effective Letter

  1. KEEP IT BRIEF
  2. IDENTIFY YOURSELF
  3. BE POLITE
  4. GET TO THE POINT
  5. RELATE IT TO HOME
  6. REMIND THEM OF YOUR SPECIFIC REQUEST
  7. ALLOW FOR FOLLOW-UP
  8. THANK THEM FOR THEIR TIME AND FOR SOMETHING MORE SPECIFIC IF YOU CAN.
  9. Address your letter correctly

There you have it! If you want more details on each of these points check, a sample letter, and/or details on how to address these letters, you can find all that on my blog post  Writing to Your Legislators .  Otherwise, get to writing those letters!  

Remember, nobody wants to go back for a second special session, but it’s still necessary.  See if you can make this extra-special special session, and the year to come, a little better for you, me, and our fellow Oklahomans. Take this little letter action right now.

Happy holidays!

-KJ

PS: (You can even print this out and send it inside your holiday cards to non-legislators asking your friends to write to their legislators too. The more the merrier! For real.)