Oklahoma 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.

At the end of 2014, a surprising announcement appeared in the Tulsa World. A subsequent news item expanding on this announcement had the following headline: "Morton Clinics Won't Accept New Uninsured Patients, Citing State Cuts to Funding." Morton Comprehensive Health Services -- with clinics in Tulsa, Nowata, and Bartlesville -- is one of Northeastern Oklahoma's leading providers of health care for uninsured patients.

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.

On today's program, we speak with Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard, who --- like every other school system administrator across Oklahoma --- is working hard to deal with the new reality of reduced state expenditures for education. Indeed, such aid is now lower than it was four years ago. Less and less money for schools, teachers, classrooms, and textbooks means more and more to be alarmed about, according to Dr.