Each and every year for many years Oklahoma Governors have gone before members of the Oklahoma State Senate and House of Representatives to give a 'State of the State' address as a symbolic gesture to kick off the current legislative session. This year, as most would surely expect, the address will more than likely be slightly more muted than recent years, when it has been steeped in self-congratulatory tones. Oklahoma is in trouble in many ways and we have many concerned citizens wanting to know where we are going from here and what we are going to do to get ourselves straightened out and back on a common sense path to overall prosperity.
I am personally hoping for feasible solutions to our current budgetary crisis and for proposed solutions to the future physical and mental health of our citizenry. I am hoping that hoping is not all that I do. We do not need to hear more about how oil is the main culprit or how 'off the top' money is killing our budgetary process. We do not need to hear how another tax cut will revive our struggling economy or how education has 'more money than ever'. And we do not need to hear how education would be just fine if they would simply be more more efficient and stop hiring so many 'high-paid' bureaucrats.
I am a parent, an educator, and one of those above mentioned concerned citizens, and I am hoping for real and detailed plans that will balance the needs of our citizens and our businesses, not elevate one over the other. I want to hear vision, not listen to blame. We need to hear from our Governor and our current leadership not about how cutting programs or people would solve our issues, but how we are going to raise our overall investment in many of our suffering programs. Taking $5 from my right hand and giving it to my left hand does not equal an increased investment. We need solutions and real calls to action, not rhetoric about how much we do for this and that, and how we are really better than what you think or are led to believe by the 'education establishment'.
Governor Fallin has indicated clearly that she will be putting forth a proposal to raise teachers salaries without raising taxes. Will the Governor speak to proposals on cutting Pre-K in our state? Will she speak on cutting teachers health insurance and rolling that funding into salaries? What about consolidating administrative services throughout our state or returning to the county superintendent model? Or how about consolidating school districts that fall under an arbitrary number of students? Or could she make mention of 'revolutionizing' our public education system by allowing vouchers to enter Oklahoma? These are all current proposals out there to somehow improve upon what we have continually cut (we lead the nation in that area since 2008) in our state. This session has plenty of bills trying to divide up what we already invest in hopes of somehow making that more.
I do not want to tune in on Monday afternoon and hear blame, I want to tune in and hear responsibility and an overall tone of leadership. We need bold action and that action cannot be placed on blaming someone else for the job simply not getting done. We patted ourselves on the back during the good times, now it's time to be real with our citizens during the bad times. Leadership can and should shoulder the weight of our crisis, as it wasn't created overnight and was not created because of oil dropping again to cyclical lows. Leadership can and should prepare for times they know will again approach our state, and leadership should build our future state in preparations to soften the blow of poor economic times. Real leadership puts aside ridiculous rhetoric and doesn't drink the kool-aid of divisive partisan politics. Oklahoma needs to be led based on factual information and a cooperative spirit, not finding a way to be half-right simply out of stubbornness and spite.
If I hear feasible plans and responsibility for our current crisis, I will be somewhat encouraged moving forward, albeit cautious. However, if I hear the status-quo party line of cutting our way to prosperity then I will be further disheartened as we move forward into an uncertain future for the great State of Oklahoma. I truly hope and pray for true leadership to surface as I know that my children's prosperity, and my own, depend on its presence.