State Capitol

In a budget year with a predicted $1.3 billion shortfall, today is a major day in the Oklahoma Legislature; it's the last day (ostensibly) during which the state legislature can consider revenue bills. So far, very few bills have passed that have narrowed the budget gap...and time, of course, is seriously running out at this point. So, what is going through the minds of state lawmakers today? We put this question to Steve Lewis, who joins us by phone from the State Capitol Building.

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 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.

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).

Today on ST, a special interview from our archives as we listen back to a 1993 discussion with Charles Banks Wilson. The widely beloved artist died last week at 94. Wilson was born in Arkansas and grew up in Miami, Oklahoma; over the course of his long and prolific career, he worked as a painter, printmaker, art teacher, lecturer, historian, and magazine and book illustrator --- and his works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Corcoran Gallery, the Oklahoma State Capitol, the Smithsonian, and other notable institutions.

KWGS News File Photo

Lawmakers are back to work in Oklahoma City today after a brief Easter break. Rush Springs Democrat Joe Dorman hopes the legislature decides quickly what to do about the crumbling state capitol building. He says it’s a part of the history of our state that needs to be repaired. He especially wants the south doors reopened and the yellow barricade markers in front of the capitol steps removed.

While the debate in Washington, amid these dreaded days of "sequestration," is about whether to increase revenues or cut spending --- or somehow achieve a compromise that does both --- here in Oklahoma, the state legislature is (once again) looking to reduce tax revenues. This comes despite the fact that our state currently has a number of extremely pressing needs vis a vis education, DHS, corrections, and infrastructure --- as well as, of course, the long-term and likewise urgent problem of pension liabilities.

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