Oklahoma legislature

Our guest on ST is Dr. Deborah Gist, the Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, who's worked in public education for nearly three decades at the school, district, and state levels (in Florida, Texas, Rhode Island, and elsewhere). Dr. Gist grew up in Tulsa -- and attended Tulsa Public Schools -- before earning degrees at the University of Oklahoma, the University of South Florida, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, she returned to Tulsa to begin her current post as TPS Superintendent.

The 2018 Session of the Oklahoma State Legislature recently adjourned, and what a session it was. For the first time since State Question 640 passed in 1992, the Legislature was able to raise revenues by green-lighting an increase in the Gross Production Tax rate as well as increases in fuel and cigarette taxes (with all of these increases passing the 75% threshold, as required by the State Constitution).

On this installment of StudioTulsa, with the Oklahoma State Legislature set to begin its new session on Monday of next week, we check in with David Blatt, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. This non-profit public-policy think tank recently posted a detailed list of legislative priorities for the new year at its website. Blatt reviews several of these goals with us today: from Budget and Taxes to Economic Opportunity and Security, and from Education and Criminal Justice to Health Care.

How will this state's very serious budget problems get solved? And when? What, in the end, is it going to take? On this edition of StudioTulsa, we learn about Step Up Oklahoma, which is, per its website, a "nonpartisan group of business, civic, and community leaders [who have come] together to work with lawmakers to...stabilize state revenue, reform government to increase efficiency and cut abuse, and raise teacher pay by $5,000 a year." Our guest is OKC businessman and attorney, Glenn Coffee, who is a vocal member of the Step Up Oklahoma outfit.

Our guest on this edition of StudioTulsa is Stephen Galoob, an Associate Professor of Law here at TU. Prof.

Last week's Oklahoma Supreme Court decision invalidating the State Legislature's cigarette cessation fee means that there's now a $214 million budget deficit in this year's budget. This gives Oklahoma lawmakers two options: go back into special session to fix the state budget, or else three state agencies -- the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services -- will have to rewrite their budgets to account for a roughly $70 million cut to each agency. So, what will state lawmakers do?

What's to be done regarding the troubling condition of Oklahoma's budget? Lawmakers in OKC have only about a month left to address this serious budget shortfall in the 2017 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, and fixing what Gov. Fallin has recently called "the state's structural budget deficit" seems less and less likely. Therefore, about two dozen nonprofit and professional organizations from across the state have formed the so-called Save Our State Coalition. Our guest is David Blatt, executive director of the OK Policy Institute, which is a member of this coalition.

The "penny sales tax" for education didn't pass, but voters here in the Sooner State did back criminal justice reform; the "Right to Farm" State Question was rejected, yet Republicans won big all over Oklahoma on Election Day, as, indeed, they did nationwide. On this edition of StudioTulsa, we are joined by David Blatt of the OK Policy Institute, an non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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The State of Oklahoma continues to top nationwide stats regarding the number of people it incarcerates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, our state ranks second in the nation in its rate of incarceration at 700 per every 100,000 people; the national average is 471. Oklahoma also imprisons women at the highest rate in the country -- at a rate that's more than twice the national average. Come early November, voters statewide will consider two initiatives aimed at reversing these shameful and embarrassing trends.

"An inadequate budget has state continuing to sink to the bottom." "Legislature cuts budgets for all, except the Legislature." Such have been two recent headlines for editorials appearing in the Tulsa World. On this edition of ST, we look back at the recently completed -- and widely criticized -- Oklahoma Legislative Session, a contentious affair that saw lawmakers cutting spending as well as tax credits, and struggling to find new revenue amid an unprecedented $1.3 billion budget shortfall.

On this installment of ST, we speak with Wayne Greene, the editorial pages editor at the Tulsa World. As noted at the World's website, Greene is a "fourth-generation Oklahoman in his third decade with the [newspaper]. As a reporter he covered several bank failures, one prison riot, three executions, and every aspect of state government during four years at the World's state capitol bureau. He became the World's city editor on April 1, 1995, and served in that post for nearly 13 years.

Yesterday at the State Capitol, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin offered her recommendations to the State Legislature on how to fill next year's estimated $1.3 billion budget deficit. Her "Budget 2.0" provides for exempting Common Education, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and Mental Health Services from cuts -- while also exempting cuts in other areas, including higher education -- and offers significant revenue enhancements to the budget as well.

On Thursday of last week, the State Legislature arrived at a deadline for moving legislation forward -- and thus many bills advanced in the Oklahoma Legislature from one chamber into the other, while many other bills were, in effect, killed. On this edition of ST, we discuss several of the bills now moving forward while also offering a review of several of the troubling issues facing state lawmakers more generally (such as the state budget gap, of course). Our guest is Gene Perry, the Policy Director at the non-profit, non-partisan Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Today marks the beginning of the 2016 legislative session for the State of Oklahoma, and rightly enough, the issue gathering the most attention is the nearly $1 billion gap in the state's budget -- an astounding figure, to be sure. But on today's StudioTulsa, we turn our attention in another important, equally unsettling direction. And it's not a matter of one single troubling issue, actually, but rather a multitude of infractions.

As our state's newly inaugurated legislative session continues, there's been no shortage of bills that've attracted attention from the national media -- for less than favorable reasons -- including bills that would ban "hoodies" or AP History classes, or those that would allow Oklahoma businesses to discriminate against their gay customers or else end civil marriages altogether. What we have not seen -- not yet, anyway -- is a responsible discussion of how to fill a $611 million shortfall in next year's budget.

The Oklahoma Legislature will convene for this year's session on Monday, February 3rd, at noon. Which issues, both greater and lesser, will our state's lawmakers be focused on throughout 2014? We explore that multi-faceted question on this edition of StudioTulsa; our guest is David Blatt, executive director of the OK Policy Institute, which is "a non-partisan independent policy think-tank" you can learn more about here.

The second regular session of the 53rd Oklahoma Legislature (2011-2012) was recently adjourned. (The state legislature will convene for its first regular session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature [2013-2014] on January 8th, 2013.) With the session now over, many citizens are wondering why the legislature DIDN'T adopt a tax-cut plan. Wasn't this the oft-repeated aim of the GOP-controlled House, Senate, and Governor's Mansion?

As tax cut measures move through the state legislature, the head of an Oklahoma think tank calls for lawmakers to adopt ‘Pay as you go’. Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, David Blatt, says pay as you go, or paygo, requires policymakers to pay for the cost of any tax reduction or service expansion. He says state leaders should not cut taxes this year without first identifying how to pay for them.

Blatt says Paygo was used effectively in the late 1990’s to return the federal budget to a surplus, but has never been implemented at the state level.