The Oklahoman reports on Senator David Holt’s remarks to the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber here.
Senator David Holt is one of seven Oklahoma Senators to sign a letter to the Oklahoma Congressional delegation in support of a federal balanced budget amendment. Coverage in The Edmond Sun can be read here.
For the second year in a row, we marched in the Bethany 4th of July Parade, one of the largest in state state. Rachel, George and I had a great time.
Thanks especially to Jack Wells and his family, Kathy Rangel and her kids, and Michael and Jane Haskins!
Click on the pics for larger versions…
The Oklahoma City Friday Paper invited Senator Holt to contribute a guest column for its annual July 4th “Celebrate Oklahoma” edition. The text as published this week is below:
State Reform Not Over, More Due
by Senator David Holt
Oklahoma City Friday
July 1, 2o11
There are at least two difficult aspects to a revolution. The second one is the revolution. The first is figuring out what it is that we’re revolting against. This first challenge is a recurring one.
In many ways, Oklahoma is in the midst of a revolution. Unlike other cultures, it is a calm and well-reasoned one, because this is America, and what others call revolution, we call democracy. Still, the basic challenges are the same.
For the first time in our state’s history, Oklahomans have asked members of the Republican Party to govern. New faces are creating our state budget, thereby setting the collective priorities of our 3.7 million people. New thinkers are molding the regulatory environment in which we live, through criminal law, business regulation, and tax policy.
As a Republican member of the Senate, I embrace the challenge of governing in this new paradigm. I believe all Oklahomans have reason to be proud of the initial results. The reforms enacted this legislative session were occasionally historic, and that which was once unthinkable became mundane.
In this first year, figuring out what it was that we were revolting against was relatively easy. For two decades, revolutionaries created a to-do list that ultimately became the 2011 joint agenda of the Governor, the Senate and the House. A great deal of it had become low-hanging fruit. Defenders of the status quo were increasingly hard to find when it came to our legal system, workers comp system and education bureaucracy. It would be exaggeration to say that this to-do list was exhausted this year, but we certainly made a healthy dent in it.
The changes instigated in year one by Oklahoma’s first Republican government were generally met with approval. But now, the real challenge looms. The reimagining of our state government is hardly complete, so what’s next?
This is the question that all revolutions face. The time for refreshing the basket of ideas inevitably arrives. And this task falls to all of us, from the Governor to the voter, and the legislators and think tanks in between. We all own this revolution now. Here are a few pieces of fruit I see, hanging just a little higher than the last:
Tax reform – Even with a small 2006 cut to be implemented on January 1st, our state’s income tax rate (soon-to-be 5.25 percent) is still higher than almost half the states. This continues to threaten our ability to compete for economic growth. No action was taken this Legislative session in regards to the tax rate, but this issue is not going away. Expect to see fundamental reforms proposed in 2012.
Taxpayer control – We depend on cities for most of the government services we use daily, including police and fire protection, water, sewer and trash service, roads, bridges, and parks. We routinely elect councilpersons with the expectation that they are allowed to set the budget, just as state and county officials do. But this misguided belief hides a looming crisis that will continue to threaten all local services. Starting in 1994, our state has forced cities to accept the budget decisions made for them by an out-of-state attorney, whenever government unions say so. A system the state would never impose on itself has been imposed on the level of government we depend on the most. As a result, in Oklahoma City, almost 2,000 union employees each average just under $100,000 in total compensation, and that accounts for two-thirds of the City’s budget. This is clearly not sustainable. The Legislature is only now beginning to understand this problem, but ultimately we will have no choice but to undo the state’s meddling in local affairs and return the power to the taxpayers.
K-12 education – Much progress was made in 2011. But more than any other policy area, work remains. Oklahoma should settle for nothing less than providing the best educational system in America. And in Janet Barresi, we have the leader with the fortitude to do so. We should encourage her to continue to explain her vision, and as a Legislature, we should help her implement it. To fund reform, expect to see a push for bolder efficiencies.
Government consolidation and efficiency – We scratched the surface in 2011, but this is a complex issue that only veteran warriors in the trenches of bureaucracy can easily approach. It will take time to create a vision. In so doing, we should always ask, “Is this how it would look if we were creating it today?” Expect pressure to preserve the recent budget cuts. This will force agencies to consolidate, create efficiencies, re-focus their vision, and roll back years of “mission creep.”
Business environment – Being one of America’s favorite places to do business is a moving target, and with 2011’s legislative successes, Oklahoma is just catching up to where it should have arrived a decade ago. Expect to see more reforms proposed in 2012.
Pension reform – Led by Fridayland Representative Randy McDaniel, much progress was made to address Oklahoma’s pension crisis. But billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities still remain. Expect to see more tough choices made, or government employees will have no pensions left at all.
Constitutional reform – Through the decades, great minds, from Robert Henry to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, have explored the unusual document that is our state’s Constitution. And yet, it still remains largely untouched. Expect to see renewed efforts to reform our unwieldy governing document.
All of these challenges are just as pressing as those we tackled in 2011. And there are surely other peaks to be conquered. Sorting out the priorities is why this second phase of the revolution may be harder than the first. But Oklahomans, like most Americans, seem ready to support bold thinking, wherever it leads.
At the state level, like Oklahoma City 20 years ago, we are at the genesis of something potentially very special. But there are no guarantees the story here will be as happy as it has been for Oklahoma City. To meet that high standard, we must continue to push a bold vision, remember and refresh what we are revolting against, and then remain resolute and courageous through the implementation. Only then can we attain for all of Oklahoma the renaissance Oklahoma City now enjoys.
I am honored to be a part of this chapter in Oklahoma’s history, and thank you for the opportunity.