Well, 2015 has come and is nearly gone. Here, at the end, it’s a mixed bag of curses and blessings. Our budget deficit seems to be growing by the day, the Sooners are in the College Football Playoffs, and we all hope the Thunder get it together under new coach Billy Donovan sometime before the playoffs come around.
In light of the successes and failures realized during the past year, I present my Christmas wish list in the hope that there’s still time for Santa to deliver some small miracles to our humble state for the year to come.
First, the opportunity for my legislation to be heard.
You see, what you don’t remember from the old “I’m Just a Bill” Schoolhouse Rock cartoon is that legislators can have some amazing, ground-shaking legislation, but if the chairman (or woman) of the committee it’s assigned to chooses not to hear it, the bill is dead and never gets discussed again.
Some may think I am talking about my efforts to reform Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture laws, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. From reducing the tremendous amount of administrative overhead in state government to getting more resources to classrooms, I have several bills I’m working on this year.
Second, for false impressions to fall away.
Oklahomans have been polled repeatedly about how much of the state’s budget goes toward education. Without fail, polling shows Oklahomans believe we pay somewhere between 15 to 25 percent on education.
Care to offer your own guess as to how much we spend, in total (higher ed, common ed and career tech), on education?
It’s 51 percent.
Let me repeat that: FIFTY. ONE. PERCENT.
Just over half of our state’s budget goes toward education. False narratives and distortions are harmful to a civil discussion regarding policy in Oklahoma. In the recent discussions about our state’s budget shortfall, education’s proponents have claimed that education will take the biggest hit. There is a reason: If you are the No. 1 expense and there are cuts coming across the board, you will get cut the most.
Republicans must be honest with teachers, education proponents and the public. The state’s GOP must be be straightforward on how we are forging ahead and what unique challenges Oklahoma faces. We must work together to find solutions in the tough times so we can flourish when the oil and gas markets bounce back.
Third, I wish Oklahomans would be more welcoming to change.
In my three years at the Legislature, I have found that the most common answer to any question on reforming literally any law, program, system or organization is, “Well, we have done it this way for years.”
Whether eliminating duplicative agencies or removing the entrenched power brokers that want to keep their kingdom, we as Republicans should be running a government that is leaner, more streamlined, more responsive to the needs of more Oklahomans, while still sticking to the basic functions of government. Do these functions well, and do them better than generations before. The people of Oklahoma agree we need to do better, they just need some leadership to show them the way.
The Wildcatter’s Prayer: “Dear Lord, just let there be one more oil boom. I promise not to screw this one up.”
Despite the economic downturn, Oklahoma is stronger than ever before. Our people are a testament to resolve and grit. I wish we would see that the stuff we agree on is much more powerful than what we disagree on.
T’was the night before Christmas when all through the House,
Every lawmaker was cutting budgets. It was almost a joust.
The agencies trembled, their funding in peril
We all hoped oil would bounce back to $75 a barrel.
The Senate was calm, just like they were dead,
With visions of surplus dancing in their head.
The Governor was looking for revenues to tap,
The Lt. Governor, back from a 77-county tour, needed a nap.
When out in the rotunda there was such a clatter
The Supreme Court said, “You must stick to one subject matter.”
Away Jerry Fent, he filed an injunction like a flash.
Clark Jolley was spotted wearing his backpack.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear?
Was it Donald Trump mongering fear?
No, just a jolly fat man who arrived real quick,
Because this is the season for old St. Nick.
He called out the legislators name by name:
Bingman, Hickman, Schultz, Denney and Shortey
Marlatt, Holt, Cleveland and Marty (Quinn).
Yes, I heard St. Nick say as he was taking his last flight
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.