The Edmond Sun

Opinion

February 5, 2013

Governor's 2013 agenda: job creation, responsible government and a healthier Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — In recent years, Oklahoma’s state government has played a vital supporting role to the private sector, helping to promote a business friendly environment that has lead to a net gain of over 62,000 jobs created since 2011. Unemployment is down, median income is rising, and the state Rainy Day savings account has gone from $2.03 to almost $600 million.

My role as governor is to keep the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and ensure that Oklahoma is well positioned in a national and international economy that is more competitive than ever.

In this year’s State of the State address, I outlined an agenda for the coming legislative session that will help to continue Oklahoma’s remarkable economic growth and job creation.

That starts with examining our tax climate. In today’s increasingly mobile society, businesses and individuals are leaving states with high taxes and moving to friendlier locations. Oklahoma needs to be at the top of their list. For that reason, I am committed to the gradual reduction of our state income tax. This year I have proposed a responsible, measured income tax cut of 0.25 percent that allows Oklahomans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

We also need to improve our schools, so that Oklahoma is producing the kind of highly skilled, highly educated workforce that can attract and retain high paying jobs. In recent years, the Legislature has passed — and I have signed into law — important reform measures designed to raise the bar on academic achievement and encourage greater accountability. The executive budget I introduced this year proposes a $13.5 million increase in common education funding specifically to suppor3t and implement these reforms, as well as an additional $8.5 million to pay for the rising cost of teachers’ health benefits.

Supporting job growth also requires eliminating cost-drivers to businesses. For decades, out-of-control workers’ compensation costs have been a burden on those doing business in Oklahoma. While recent reforms have effectively worked to reduce the total costs of claims, more needs to be done. This year, I will work with the House and Senate to pursue reforms that lower costs for businesses while treating injured workers fairly.

For Oklahoma to be friendlier to business, it will also have to be run more like a business. That means delivering a more responsible government that spends taxpayer dollars conservatively and wisely. In that light, I have worked with our agencies to develop a catalogue of state assets. I support a plan to evaluate and eventually sell those assets that are unproductive.

Many of our assets, of course, are worth keeping. Unfortunately, some of these same assets are in disrepair, including the state Capitol. My budget includes a $10 million supplemental funding request to immediately begin work restoring the Capitol exterior and to study future renovation needs.

Responsible government also means continuing our efforts to make government smaller, smarter and more efficient. The consolidation of Information Technology resources across dozens of state agencies has saved more than $80 million thus far, and we will continue those efforts to streamline government services and reduce waste in the future.

As I said in my State of the State speech, responsible government certainly means meeting the commitments we have made to state employees by addressing the unsustainable trajectory of our state pension systems. State pensions currently have $11 billion in unfunded liability. Essentially, that amounts to $11 billion in debt. That problem cannot be ignored and I will work with our legislators this session to begin addressing this problem.

Finally, I used my State of the State address to ask our lawmakers to increase resources aimed at boosting the physical health of our residents and improving mental health services. To that end, my executive budget includes more than $56 million in increased funding for health and mental health, money that will be used to improve access to medical care, create a new prescription drug abuse prevention program, and expand counseling to the emotionally disturbed.

Improving health and mental health in Oklahoma is just as important to containing health care costs and promoting economic growth as it is to our quality of life. My budget and my agenda reflect my belief that Oklahomans can and will do better when it comes to health outcomes.

My plan for 2013 is a plan for a more prosperous Oklahoma and a more responsible government. I look forward to working with lawmakers and all Oklahomans to pursue initiatives that continue our state’s remarkable forward progress.

GOV. MARY FALLIN, R-Edmond, may be reached via her website at www.ok.gov/governor/.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results