The Pryor Times

Opinion

May 31, 2012

Legislative session series of missed opportunities

Senate Review

On the last day of the session, members of the State Capitol Press Corps wanted my assessment of the 2012 legislative session. I told them as far as I was concerned, it was a series of missed opportunities to move our state forward and create an environment where our economy, our families and individuals could thrive.

A standstill budget for education is nothing to celebrate. In the last three years, Higher Education, CareerTech and our public schools have had their funding reduced by more than $300 million. We’re already hearing what the fallout from this budget will be from the chair of the State Board of Regents. You think college tuition is too expensive now? Well, get ready, because we’re already hearing that those costs will be going up.

Enrollments have increased. Other costs our colleges and universities cannot control have increased as well.  A flat budget after more than $89 million in cuts has left them drastically underfunded. While the governor called in her State of the State for increasing the number of college graduates in our state by more than twenty thousand, not a penny was provided to make that happen. This was a missed opportunity.

Much of the session was focused on passage of an ill-conceived income tax cut. In the end, the wheels fell off and the plan came to a standstill. I think that’s a good thing, considering the number of low and middle income Oklahomans who would have seen their income taxes actually increase under the plan. I am sorry that the Legislature was unable to summon the courage needed to eliminate sweetheart tax breaks for businesses that do not result in job creation for our state—if we’d eliminated those breaks, we could have pumped millions more into all areas of education and other services as well.  This was another opportunity missed this session.

We failed to address the crumbling exterior, or dangerously dated electrical wiring and plumbing problems in our State Capitol building, and because of that, those problems will only get worse, and the cost to fix them will continue to climb. Likewise, our commitment begun under Gov. Frank Keating to bring the full vision of the American Indian Cultural Center to life is another tremendous opportunity missed.

It is disheartening to think that the most positive thing you can say about all this was that it could have been much worse.

I believe we have an obligation to make sure Oklahoma’s children have the opportunity for the best education possible, and that the dream of a college degree is not priced out of reach. We need to make sure we are not ranked near the bottom of all fifty states when it comes to issues like health and mental health. When we address these issues responsibly, then I believe we will create an environment that will attract more businesses, better jobs, and more people to our state. We can start when we get our priorities straight.

Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at:  Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 529-B State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.

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