Moving Oklahoma Forward
Ponca City Now - January 17, 2019 3:55 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
This year brings many changes to our great state as we have one of the largest classes of new statewide elected officials, as well as state House and Senate members. Monday was the inauguration of statewide elected officials, including Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Gov. Stitt gave an inspiring inauguration speech filled with determination and hope. I’m even more anxious for the legislative session to start and hear his State of the State address and executive budget proposal. I certainly respect his can-do attitude and energy.
As a fellow businessman, he is extremely passionate about being efficient with state tax dollars, but he’s also focused on growth. In the business world, success is measured by growth. If you’re not growing, your business is probably dying.
Stitt runs a successful business, has created jobs and knows how to balance a budget. He wants Oklahoma to be a Top 10 state in all major categories – education, health, and many others. That’s a lofty goal and one that many would be afraid to make, but he’s determined and has surrounded himself with experts who will help him in that effort over the next eight years.
Oklahoma is second in wind energy production and third in oil production, but in health care, education, and other areas, we’re lacking and regularly rank near the bottom in studies. The Legislature has been working hard in recent years to improve certain areas, but it requires substantial funding. After facing billion-dollar revenue shortfalls caused by the national recession and the collapse of the energy sector, it’s been near impossible for the Legislature to invest additional funds in many areas.
This session will be the first time in six years that the Legislature will have a revenue surplus and may possibly begin to consider increasing funding to certain agencies. However, there are still past obligations that must be addressed first.
I especially loved Gov. Stitt saying that Oklahoma is open for business. Oklahoma has so much potential for business growth, given its central location, highways and the Port of Catoosa. We’re a state of hard workers and our citizens grab every job opportunity available. We have fantastic community colleges, universities and career techs to help Oklahomans obtain the training and tools they need to pursue whatever field or job they choose.
Having said that, however, we do need more high paying jobs to help our citizens be able to support their families without living paycheck to paycheck. A large percentage of Oklahomans are living below the poverty line and that needs to change. More opportunities must be made available and whatever obstacles are holding them back must be addressed to help these citizens better their lives.
Gov. Stitt spoke about working together as Oklahomans and not as Democrats and Republicans. This is so true and has been a problem at the Capitol for so long. That culture must change, and I think it will with all of the new people this year.
We saw a glimpse of this in the Senate when our leader, Sen. Greg Treat, was elected unanimously as Pro Tem with Democratic Leader Kay Floyd seconding Treat’s nomination. That was true bipartisanship and gave me great optimism that the Senate can work together to move Oklahoma forward.
As a fellow businessman, I look forward to working with Gov. Stitt and my legislative colleagues on making Oklahoma stronger and work more efficiently for our customers, the citizens of Oklahoma.
In closing, I want to let everyone know that I have rented an apartment in Oklahoma City so I can be at the Capitol daily and focus on legislative business during the week. I’ll be traveling around the district on the weekends for Chamber meetings and other community gatherings.
You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at [email protected]