October 19, 2014
DURING her 2010 campaign for governor, Mary Fallin stressed a desire to try to improve Oklahoma’s economy and make the state a more attractive place for businesses large and small. She’s done that, which is a major reason Fallin merits re-election on Nov. 4.
As Election Day approaches, Oklahoma has the nation’s fourth-fastest growing gross domestic product. The state’s unemployment rate, at 7 percent when Fallin took office, is now 4.7 percent, among the lowest in the nation.
Small businesses are working with a different, less costly workers’ compensation system as a result of changes that went into effect on Fallin’s watch. Instead of a court-based system, which drove up costs for businesses even as the number of workers’ comp claims fell, Oklahoma now uses an administrative system. This change was long overdue, and Fallin’s push for workers’ comp reform goes back many years.
Large companies are finding much to like in Oklahoma. Boeing Corp. has announced two expansions during Fallin’s four years in office, the latest carrying the potential for 900 jobs to come here from Washington state. General Electric is building a global research center in Oklahoma — one of eight worldwide. Macy’s is building a distribution plant in Owasso that could employ 1,500. Overall, 103,000 jobs were created during her first term.
Fallin has worked to provide a solid, homegrown workforce, through such initiatives as Complete College America. It seeks to have the state’s college and career tech centers increase the number of degrees and certificates earned by 1,700 per year through 2023. In 2012, the state exceeded its goal by more than double.
Fallin’s opponent, Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman, has criticized the governor’s efforts regarding common education, including her support of testing for third-grade students and a move to A-F grading for public schools. As part of an overly negative campaign that runs counter to Dorman’s pleasant personality, he has sought to tie Fallin to state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, who lost her re-election bid in the Republican primary.
Yet Fallin has generally been a forceful advocate for improving Oklahoma schools, defending common-sense policies such as third-grade testing, which prevents functionally illiterate children from being socially promoted. Fallin has distanced herself in recent months from education policies she once championed, but she at least has acknowledged that Oklahoma schools fail too many of our kids. The governor has added $150 million to common education in the past two years.
Too often, Dorman’s campaign strategy has descended into class warfare, which is a key part of the Barack Obama playbook. This is unfortunate because Dorman is a good man who advanced many good ideas during his 12 years as a legislator.
One of the clear differences between the candidates can be seen on the issue of school storm shelters. Dorman pushed for a $500 million bond issue to help provide schools with funds to build shelters. Fallin backed a proposal that would give districts the option to increase their bonding capacity one time in order to pay for shelters. Dorman says Fallin was promoting a property tax increase; in fact, she was endorsing local control.
Fallin also has shown a commitment to addressing the state’s many health and mental health concerns. She directed additional monies to the state’s mental health agency, to provide for more crisis centers, and has backed a push to allow municipalities to set their own tobacco restrictions. We’re encouraged, also, that the governor has shown a renewed willingness to look at smart-on-crime ideas that her administration let languish during her first term.
As the state’s CEO the past four years, Mary Fallin has stressed the importance of education and worked to make it easier for businesses to operate. She has helped attract new business, expanded the workforce and stressed the importance of a healthier populace. She is the candidate offering hope and progress, reform and prosperity. Her emphasis is on Oklahoma values and Oklahoma choices.
Fallin has earned another four years in office.