Oklahoma Senate Update

Every legislative session has its own challenges and opportunities, and the 2009 session is certainly no different.  The greatest challenge we face this year is the fact that the national and international recession has now impacted Oklahoma.  Our economy is still much stronger than many other states, but we are not immune to what is happening. 

However, unlike the federal government, in Oklahoma our constitution requires us to write and pass a balanced budget.  Unlike Washington D.C., we must live and operate within our means. 

The reality is that we are faced with state revenue decreases and anticipated reductions in federal dollars to the tune of about $600 million.  This is a significant challenge, but not insurmountable. 
In 2003, we were facing an even larger shortfall, yet we worked together to identify specific areas where we could make reductions and still make keep essential state services like education, public safety and critical infrastructure needs funded.  We also worked to lay the groundwork for economic growth, and those efforts paid off—in fact those efforts and Oklahoma’s vibrant energy industry are why we remain in better economic shape than in other parts of the nation.

Senate Republicans have also fought to enact policies that can help us to identify waste, eliminate outdated and unproductive programs, and enact reforms that will ultimately make state government more efficient and our economy more productive.   The unique opportunity we have been entrusted with in the 2009 session is that for the first time in Oklahoma’s history, we hold the majority in the Senate and in the House. 

{mosimage}Initiatives and reforms that were stonewalled and buried in the past now can be fully vetted and debated.  We can stop the loss of medical professionals and assure greater access to healthcare by finally passing meaningful lawsuit reform.  By enacting legislation to ensure reliable, objective information on student achievement and graduation rates, we can do a better job of preparing Oklahoma students for success throughout their lives. 

We’ve already been able to achieve major successes in securing critically needed resources in our transportation infrastructure.  We’ve also worked to ensure Oklahomans can keep more of their hard-earned dollars.  Our members will continue to develop reforms and innovations that will enable us to build on those successes when the economy does begin to improve.  I want to assure you that we do not take for granted the faith Oklahomans have placed in us, and are devoted to making our state stronger and more prosperous for all our citizens in the years to come.