The Edmond Sun
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate swore in their newly elected and re-elected members in preparation of the 2013 legislative session. It was a moment for those elected to public office to savor their success, share their victory with family and friends who came to watch the ceremonies and be cordial with their new colleagues.
We want to congratulate those in the Edmond delegation who regained their offices and to heartily welcome newly elected House District 82 Rep. Mike Turner, R-Oklahoma City, whose district includes much of the Deer Creek area.
This next legislative session will be one of the most intriguing sessions to watch in recent memory for a variety of reasons.
The saga of how much federal funding Oklahoma will accept and the mandates that come with those monies will be an overriding theme of the next session. The debate over federally mandated health exchanges will be just the first of probably several such fights to occur in the next year.
At the same time, Oklahoma’s continued strong economy likely will give legislators a significant increase in revenue to spend, putting the state almost back to pre-recession income levels. A Tax Foundation report recently critiqued the 2012 legislative session for its spending growth, citing Oklahoma as one of the states with the largest government spending increase in the nation while in the hands of a Republican-dominated government.
While that political conundrum is true, there are some good reasons for it. For decades, when Oklahoma was under Democrat control, the state utterly failed to appropriately maintain and fund regular infrastructure improvements. Those failures ranged from a deteriorating highway system to a failure to adequately maintain law enforcement levels commensurate with the state’s growing population. The state also allowed the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office to stagnate to the point the agency lost its accreditation. Our state’s citizens cannot even visit the state Capitol without fear of masonry falling on their heads as they walk in the door.
Since Republicans took over the House and Senate reforms have been in the making such as the consolidation of the state’s IT infrastructure that is estimated to save more than $200 million when complete. Particularly since the election of Gov. Mary Fallin, the state is starting to see some of the above-mentioned problems corrected. There are many more problems waiting to be tackled and most will take funding to fix them.
It stands to reason that Oklahoma will need to increase spending in certain areas to correct the past gross mismanagement of state resources.
The key to this expenditure increase, however, will be to ruthlessly eliminate government excess and waste in other areas that are not core functions of government. By focusing on repairing necessary infrastructure, adequately funding public safety and creating policies that foster economic growth, Oklahoma has a chance at creating a haven in the U.S. for those who believe that limited government is the best government. It is also a path to creating a state that offers a quality of life and a business environment that will be the envy of the rest of the nation.
To achieve these goals — a state that supports its citizens’ economic development efforts instead of just taking their money for wasteful reasons — our 2013 legislative leadership must demonstrate perseverance, vigilance, integrity and a passion for doing the right thing, which includes continued government spending reforms.