WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who has been working on a deficit-reduction plan worth $9 trillion over 10 years, said he hopes to release the blueprint late this week.
That timetable may slip since the scope of the plan requires so many calculations (mathematical, not political). Coburn, R-Muskogee, and his staff have been working on the plan since the senator dropped out of the bipartisan Gang of Six deficit reduction talks in May.
He has declined to discuss details, though a plan that big — more than twice what the president's fiscal commission recommended in December — would have to include everything, including new revenue. Coburn has said repeatedly that new revenue — from eliminating or modifying tax breaks — will be necessary.
In an interview after the budget talks collapsed Thursday between lawmakers and Vice President Joseph Biden, Coburn said he was worried that “nothing's going to happen” before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury secretary to raise the debt limit. Republicans have said they won't vote to raise the debt limit unless a major deficit-reduction plan also is passed.
“And if something does happen, I'm worried that it won't be enough to send the right signal,” Coburn said. “It may get us past the bump.”
For Coburn, “enough” is at least $4.75 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
“What's going to happen is that in 2012, interest rates are going to start rising … and could very well rise 1 to 2 percent,” Coburn said. “That's $300 billion right there (in additional interest costs on the national debt) — $3 trillion over 10 years.
“So if you haven't figured in some interest rate increases in what you're cutting, you haven't helped us. If you only do $2.5 trillion (in cuts) and you got $3 trillion in interest costs, where are you? You're half a trillion in the hole.”
In an editorial Friday, The Washington Post urged Coburn to rejoin the Gang of Six, but a Coburn spokesman said the senator would remain “on sabbatical” from the group.
Insured numbers drop
Oklahomans covered by employer-sponsored health insurance dropped below 60 percent in 2008-09, as premiums rose significantly for both single and family policies, according to a new study.
Just 59.4 percent of non-elderly Oklahomans had employer-sponsored coverage in 2008-09, down from 62.4 percent in 1999-2000, figures from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota show.
That followed a nationwide trend that saw the percentage of non-elderly Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance drop from 69 percent to 61 percent over the decade.
In Oklahoma, the average annual premiums for single employee policies rose from $2,548 to $4,158, while the premiums for family coverage rose from $6,403 to $9,958. The share of the premiums paid by employees for both types of coverage also rose.
According to the report, the percent of eligible employees in Oklahoma who declined to enroll in coverage dropped by about 5 percent, both for small businesses (under 50 workers) and larger ones.
An analysis by the Urban Institute says the health care legislation, when fully implemented, should result in more coverage for employees of small businesses because of market reforms and federal aid.
• Gov. Mary Fallin will be among the Oklahomans promoting the state at a bioscience conference in Washington this week.
• The AARP is endorsing a bill by Sen. Tom Coburn and other senators to crack down on Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
• U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, released a list of more than 220 businesses, from bus and cab companies to utilities, supporting his legislation to offer tax incentives for natural gas vehicles.
• Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner, who operates a gymnastics academy in Norman, was named by President Barack Obama to a presidential delegation to the Special Olympics in Athens, Greece.