Oklahoma Politics

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.

On this edition of ST, we are joined by Craig Jones, who is President of the Oklahoma Hospital Association. Given the recent cuts in both Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, large cuts in federal reimbursement costs for uninsured patients, as well as ongoing transformations in standards of care, medical technology, and qualitative outcomes, times are tough these days for hospitals, especially rural hospitals. Nationwide, 673 rural hospitals are considered "on the edge" -- and here in Oklahoma, it's estimated that more than three dozen rural hospitals are facing a troubled future.

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 2016 gets underway, the most vexing question confronting Oklahoma legislators, policymakers, and various state agency heads is...how will the Sooner State solve the glaring budget hole that Oklahomans will face this year -- and next year. State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger has declared a "revenue failure" for this year, resulting in a 3% cut to all state budgets funded by General Revenue -- and the preliminary projection of revenue for next year sees a shortfall of $900 million out of an approximately $7 billion state budget.

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.

News flash: Government is broken in Washington. Problems aren't being solved. New solutions aren't being put forward. "Compromise" (as has been so commonly observed) has become a dirty word. Or at least, such is the opinion of many of us. Indeed, poll after poll has found that a large majority of Americans believe government isn't working, and that it's -- on the contrary -- dominated by special interested and partisan gridlock. But...come to think of it...could your average American citizen do any better?

On May 23rd, the Oklahoma State Legislature approved HB 3399, a bill which would, if it became law, withdraw this state from the Common Core State Standards initiative. This bill is now on Gov. Mary Fallin's desk, awaiting her decision; the Governor has until June 7th to sign the bill into law, or veto it, or do nothing (in which case the bill will not take effect).

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.

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