School has started, 2018 campaigns are kicking off, and interim studies are being conducted - it's a typical fall at the Oklahoma State Capitol. This is the time of year is typically when the thrashing tide of partisan pressure recedes and we begin to see calmer heads prevail as the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle attempt to take on a more collaborative, almost hopeful tone through the winter. But this year is different.
If you've driven by or seen photos of the Oklahoma State Capitol recently, you probably noticed that about half of the building is surrounded by scaffolding and shrouded in white tarps. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go behind the curtain with the project manager, Trait Thompson, to tour the capitol restoration efforts. It was an impressive, down-right fascinating look at how we maintain one of Oklahoma's top tourist destinations. It's a lot of work and a lot of attention to detail. Mike Holmes would be proud.
A guy approached me at the coffee shop this morning, asked my name, said he recognized me from a Let's Fix This event or news story or something, and struck up a conversation. Important to note that we didn't discuss politics; we discussed his thoughts on the state budget situation and what it means for the future of Oklahoma.
A lot of folks, myself included, have commented on the lack of leadership among our state legislature and other statewide elected officials. That deficiency has been highlighted repeatedly this year by the legislature's fledgling attempts to fix the budget. From the Governor's highly unpopular plan to tax services to the recent communication break down among legislative leaders, the people responsible for guiding our state's financial well-being have left the public feeling, well...honestly, pretty scared about the future.
Yesterday we joined more than two dozen nonprofit and professional organizations to announce the Save Our State budget plan. This three-year budget blueprint is far more than just the gimmicky fixes that the legislature often passes - this plan puts Oklahoma on a real, sustainable path to prosperity. It steers us away from more devastating budget cuts and allows us to actually invest in education, public safety, healthcare, and transportation.
Just over 84 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office and delivered his first inaugural address. The speech mostly was about the Depression, which was (and still is) the worst financial crisis in American history. However, if you read it now, you'd think he was talking to us about Oklahoma's present budget situation. We've been saying things are bad, and hearing FDR's words echo across history gives our current situation some much-needed context. The familiar phrase "those who choose to ignore history are doomed to repeat it" has never felt more relevant.
Most of my career has been spent working in the mental health field, which isn't exactly known for being lucrative. (For reference, it's likely that NASA will put a man on Mars before I will pay off my student loans.) But, it's good, honest work and I have always appreciated the opportunity to serve a group of people who have complex, sometimes painfully difficult needs. It is truly a privilege to be bear witness to the depth and darkness of a person's life, to hear their secrets and their fears, and to be a living testament to the struggles and suffering they have endured.
A lot of people started this legislative session feeling fairly optimistic - we believed the new leadership in the Oklahoma House & Senate were going to be thoughtful, reasonable, and empowering to the people of Oklahoma. We were prepared for the news of yet another revenue failure and an $878 million budget shortfall, but with so many people at the Capitol agreeing that the state isn't bringing in enough recenue to cover its expenses, we thought that we'd see multiple revenue measures pass through both chambers relatively quickly.
If you're like me, you spent the past weekend indoors, awaiting the arrival of an ice storm that [thankfully] didn't materialize for most of the state. And, if you're like me, that also means you spent most of your time eating, sleeping, and catching up on your Netflix queue. Or, to put it more succinctly, you were inactive.
A few hours ago I watched President Obama deliver his farewell speech to the nation. It was a good speech - warm, reflective, inspiring. All the things you'd want an outgoing, two-term president's speech to be. After the speech I did some laundry and did some tidying up around the house, but I couldn't stop thinking about one passage of the speech that resonated with me so strongly that it kinda weirded me out.