It’s time to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room: “Why do we have funding problems in Oklahoma?” We need to stop pointing fingers at others and playing the “blame and shame” game. This type of behavior has led to the toxic political arena we are in today. We need to be honest with each other and find solutions. After almost 6 years in office, I am still puzzled by the lack of understanding of Oklahoma’s fiscal realities and demographics, not to mention the lack of grace and decorum that comes from certain special interest groups all across our country and state. It’s just like Hosea 4:6 says. “My people are destroyed by lack of understanding.”
It couldn’t be more true today.
Sgt. Joe Friday said on the TV series Dragnet, “Just the facts.”
Well, here are the facts. Oklahoma is a rural state (46th state – 1907) – a “land run state”. Since statehood we have been almost totally reliant on the energy and agriculture sectors for its financial health. We are not economically diverse.
Of our 77 counties, 60 are rural. Two-thirds of Oklahoma’s population lives in the urban areas of Tulsa and Oklahoma City now. Young people and families have been leaving rural Oklahoma communities looking for better opportunities and economic anchors for decades. Big box stores have squeezed out smaller merchants in towns all over the state. Yet the detractors seem to not recognize this before they speak in an often unedifying manner.
We at the Legislature are still tasked with supporting all the citizens and communities of our state and their needs. We consider it an honor every day to provide the core functions of government to every Oklahoman. That has to include using the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in a responsible way. Often the people who yell the loudest forget that we have to support over 520 school districts in our state, maintain almost 250,000 miles of roads and bridges, try to find enough money for over 25 percent of our citizens who live in some form of poverty, and appropriate funds for the almost one-third of our population that has some form of health care subsidy.
That’s only a small part of the job.
When the two factors that drive our economy are struggling so much (oil and gas is at a 13-year low and feed cattle and crops are at historical lows), it’s time to do more than complain but start working together to get through this crisis.
Our families and businesses have to tighten their belts and so should our government and those that rely on taxpayer dollars. There are only two choices on the shelf…”raise taxes or cut spending.”
When our hard-working Oklahoma families are struggling so much, we need to think of them. I continue to ask that Philippians 2:3 will guide my behavior; I pray the same for all of us as we face difficult economic times.
Just a thought…