The Blog for Oklahoma Forum
Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday May 7, 2010
Legislators are heading into the homestretch of the 2010 legislative session, and this week we discuss what’s left to be done with a roundtable (literally) of state capitol reporters: Sean Murphy of the Associated Press, Shawn Ashley of eCapitol, Michael McNutt of The Oklahoman/NewsOK, and Scott Carter of The Journal Record.
We shed as much light as possible on the state budget situation, which must be resolved by May 28 when the legislature reaches Sine Die Adjournment. Budget negotiations are continuing in private, as Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee told us, “You can get the state tax commission numbers. You can evaulate these things. You can determine whether you think you’re exposing members to political risk and whether you can pass it. If you can’t pass the measure no matter how good the policy is, there’s no reason to put it in the public forum and expose members to risk.”
There are about 400 bills remaining for action, but most of them are held up by the budget. In addition to the Pro Tempore, Speaker of the House Chris Benge and Governor Brad Henry (along with his chief budget negotiator, Treasurer Scott Meacham) will hammer out the state budget, in cooperation with House and Senate A&B chairs Rep. Ken Miller and Sen. Mike Johnson. The state is looking at a revenue shortfall of about $1.2 billion for FY2011, with a total general revenue fund budget of about $5.6 billion.
In addition to the budget, we also discussed legislation regulating abortion, guns, health care opt-out, and other bills to watch in the final days of the session. That’s when “wooly-boogers” (unexpected legislation attached to other bills) often come to the floor for a vote, along with other key legislation that gets put off until the end.
I hope you enjoy the program. We plan another Capitol Reporters Roundtable shortly after the end of the 52nd legislature’s second regular session. Thank you for reading, and watching Oklahoma Forum.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Sean Murphy, Shawn Ashley, Michael McNutt, Scott Carter)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday April 30, 2010
With the budget still the biggest story in state government, this week we visit with Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (in a program that originally aired on March 28). Most of our discussion concerns the state revenue shortfall and the ongoing efforts to craft a balanced budget.
Since we taped the program, Gov. Henry has disclosed that current budget negotiations have education taking a 12% budget cut, and he urged teachers and others involved in education to call and write their legislator to urge them to keep the cut to a minimum. The governor’s call for elimination or freeze of tax credits and incentives still appears to have considerable opposition, although there are indications that momentum is building to evaluate some of them.
Oklahoma City Rep. David Dank has suggested a blue ribbon panel to look into the tax credit situation, and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee has shown his support. This may be too little, too late for this year’s budget (FY2011), but it might help legislators and the next governor make decisions next year. With a revenue shortfall of 1.2 billion dollars for next fiscal year, the governor proposed substantial savings by at least delaying certain tax credits.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute estimates that Oklahoma’s 450+ tax credits cost the state about $5.4 billion per year, which is about the same as the amount of money that will be available for appropriation next year. By comparison, Missouri’s new budget (agreed to on April 29) is $23.3 billion, but that state lists less than $600 million in annual tax credits. Figures are hard to come by in Oklahoma because there are confidentiality concerns expressed by the Oklahoma Tax Commission about specific tax payments, and there does not seem to be a system set up to evaluate the effectiveness of the credits and incentives.
So, more cuts are still expected to state government and the services it provides, and discussions between legislative leadership and the governor are secret. The new fiscal year begins on July 1, yet agencies (and the people who rely on them) are not expecting any definitive news until later this month. There are signs the legislature may end a little early, but the session could go right up to the drop-dead day of May 28.
Since Gov. Henry taped this program, there have been developments with immigration, abortion, and a few other high-profile bills, but we will discuss those issues next week when we will have a capitol reporters roundtable. Thanks for reading, and watching.
Until next time,
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday April 23, 2010
Later this year, U.S. troop levels in Iraq are scheduled to go from 96,000 to 50,000. The deadline for the reduction is August 31. While the American forces are leaving Iraq, more troops are needed in Afghanistan. That country’s government remains unstable, and the Taliban is building back. In addition, the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is growing increasingly volatile. Pakistani troops have been killing insurgents and forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee. Add in the nuclear threat of Iran, and it’s clear that the region remains a major problem area for United States foreign policy and world stability.
This week’s guests on Oklahoma Forum bring special and distinct credentials to a discussion of the Middle East. Zach Messitte is Vice Provost for International Programs at the University of Oklahoma and holds the William J. Crowe Chair in Geopolitics, but before that he worked as public information officer for the United Nations and served as press spokesman for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Joshua Landis teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics at OU and writes the highly-read Syria Comment daily newsletter. And, Mike Boettcher is a lecturer and professor at OU, bringing his many years of experience as a foreign correspondent for ABC, NBC and CNN to the classroom. Recently, he has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a freelance embedded journalist, posting stories on his On the Line blog.
They are three Oklahomans who are well-positioned to discuss not only the military conflict in the region, but also the flow of information and the need for diplomacy. Messitte, Landis and Boettcher host a regular radio program on foreign affairs on KGOU Radio in Norman. We decided to bring their radio show to television, giving our statewide viewers to learn about this critical region. For unique analysis of the challenges facing the United States and its troops, be sure to watch this discussion and let us know what you think. This is the kind of discussion you won’t find many other places, and we’re glad to be able to bring it to you. Thanks for reading…and watching.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Joshua Landis, Zach Messitte, Mike Boettcher)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday April 16, 2010
This is the week when we pause to remember the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building. Monday marks the 15th anniversary of that tragic day, when 168 people were killed, many hundreds more were injured and all of us were changed forever.
The senseless act of violence committed against innocent Americans by another American on American soil reminds us of what can happen when people become, angry, frustrated and inspired. Disagreement and robust policy debate is essential in our society, but mean-spirited and inflammatory rhetoric can have dramatic, and sometimes deadly, consequences. Those of us in Oklahoma have seen that up-close. We’ve felt the sting. We’ve grieved for our friends and relatives. As President Bill Clinton said this week in examining the parallels between 1995 and today, “words matter.” He said that inflammatory speech falls equally over “the serious and the delirious.”
So, this week on Oklahoma Forum, we talk to Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, about bringing civility to our public discourse. Rev. Gaddy proposes that everyone in the public sphere dial down the rhetoric and talk to each other in civil terms, especially when discussing those two topics that are often considered off-limits for polite dinner conversation, religion and politics.
This is a thoughtful program that I won’t paraphrase here, but invite you to watch and discuss with your family and friends. We’d also like to see your comments. Thanks for watching.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor and Rev. C. Welton Gaddy.Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Monday April 12, 2010
This week marks, for all intents and purposes, the first anniversary of the birth of the Tea Party movement. It was on April 15, 2009 when “Tax Day Tea Parties” were held at dozens of locations across the nation to protest various aspects of government and policy. One of the largest protests was held on the south steps of the Oklahoma capitol, where a few thousand people showed up to make their voices heard. Since that day, Tea Party groups have sprung up across America. In Oklahoma there are now 22 “Tea Party Patriots” groups, located in Ada, Duncan, Enid, Grove, Ponca City, Idabel, Muskogee, Norman, Stillwater, Hooker, Morris, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
On this week’s Oklahoma Forum program we learned more about the Oklahoma Tea Party movement from Al Gerhart, the founder of the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance. The OCA is the umbrella organization for Oklahoma Tea Party groups. Mr. Gerhart is a carpenter by trade, and he has become energized by the opportunity to influence policy that the Tea Party movement presents. It is difficult to label Tea Partiers, because there are so many different issues that concern them. Each person may have their own set of ideas that they support and oppose - there is no coherent theme, unless it is a general distrust of large government. Al Gerhart told me that most of the Tea Partiers are not angry as much as they are scared. He says they are scared about the direction of the country and the increasing national debt. To be sure, they are also concerned about the rate of taxation (although nationally taxation is trending downward, and has been heading that direction for several years).
Since the movement is amorphous, Mr. Gerhart doesn’t speak for everyone, and admittedly that is one of the problems for the Tea Party: the central theme is hard to define, there is no centralized organization, and there is not an established spokesperson around which to coalesce. To be sure, people such as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Dick Armey talk the Tea Party talk and have generated much enthusiasm and funding for the movement, but they each have their own take on what the Tea Party stands for and should become.
Our other guests on the program, OCU Political Science Professor and Department Chair Richard Johnson and OU Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie, see the Tea Party as a movement that will likely be absorbed into one of the two major political parties, most likely the Republican Party. They say that is what usually happens to such groups, especially those without a recognized leader such as Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader. There are strong indications that the Tea Party will become more politically-involved in 2010, but due to ballot access laws it is highly-unlikely you will see the Tea Party on the ballot, according to Dr. Gaddie.
That doesn’t mean the Tea Party won’t influence elections. Dr. Johnson expects the Tea Party to influence some races in Oklahoma. There are already signs that the movement is causing candidates here and in other states to change their rhetoric, if not their policy goals. The Tea Party claims to have played a key role in the election of Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown, and there are other high-profile races where Tea Party-sympathizing candidates may emerge. Where the Tea Party has shown strength, it tends to be pushing Republican candidates more to the right (conservative) side of the political spectrum. “Mainstream” Republicans such as U.S. Representatives Tom Cole and John Sullivan have already drawn challengers who are opposing them, in part, because of their support of financial bailouts for American banks.
Gaddie is also Vice-President of Research for Sooner Poll, which has found that 42.7% of Oklahomans surveyed have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party, while 30.30% have no opinion and 27.00% have an unfavorable opinion. Gaddie says, “the tea parties are an anti-government party, but they are also anti-big business party. They just haven’t said it yet.” According to Gaddie, distrusting big government and big corporations is “an Oklahoma tradition.” He adds that the average Oklahoma Tea Party supporters are predominantly Republican or Independent, are highly ideological and 60% of them are evangelical Christians. The Sooner Poll was conducted using telephone research of 1000 likely voters from February 25-March, and has a margin of error or plus or minus 3.1%.
The next big Oklahoma Tea Party demonstration is scheduled for Thursday, April 15 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. What do you think of the Tea Party movement? Let us know. We’d like to hear from you.
Until next time,