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.
You know how most city council meetings have an item on the agenda for "public comment?" That's the time when they allow residents to get up and share their opinion/perspective on a given issue. Pretty cool, right? Our city government actually setting aside time to hear from the public on matters that will affect them. Well, our state government doesn't really do that. Currently there isn't a provision in the state legislature's operating procedures that allow for public comment during committee hearings.