Oklahoma State Budget

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.

State of Oklahoma

It’s official, the state is headed toward budget failure. The $900 million dollar shortfall is blamed mostly on dropping oil prices, but the head of an Oklahoma think tank says bad policy has contributed to the crisis.

Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt says ‘we can’t make it through by doubling down on deep cuts and one-time fixes. The responsible path is to put new revenue on the table and reassess tax cuts and tax breaks granted by the legislature.’

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.