October 26, 2014
The Tulsa World
Gov. Mary Fallin promised to restore order to state finances and open Oklahoma for business. And she has delivered. Fallin is the best choice for Oklahoma’s future, and we endorse her for re-election.
There is a distance to travel before we arrive at the Oklahoma that the citizens of the state deserve. We encourage the governor to use the next four years to not only continue the fiscal progress she has made with the budget, but also focus on some of the critical issues where we are suffering. These areas include public education and health care.
When Fallin was elected, the Oklahoma was in trouble. The state faced a $500 million budget hole, and it had $2.03 in its “Rainy Day” fund. Fallin righted the ship financially and got the state moving in a positive direction. Today, after four years of balanced budgets, including initial efforts to rebuild school funding from Great Recessions cuts, the rainy day fund has more $500 million on hand.
She also pushed through an important series of reforms designed to make the state attractive to employers. She restored balance to the state civil litigation system and reordered the needlessly expensive, job-killing workers compensation system. She pushed for more rigorous education standards that ensure that Oklahoma high school graduates would be ready for college or the workforce. She pushed for more effective post-secondary training programs, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
And Oklahoma’s economy has flourished. From an unemployment rate of 7 percent when Fallin was elected, today we have a 4.7 percent jobless rate. While many factors beyond the control of any governor go into unemployment rates, Fallin certainly deserves some of the credit for Oklahoma’s prosperity.
At the same time, Fallin deserves credit for an important course of state government reform. She drove lawmakers to eliminate and consolidate state agencies, boards and commissions, and to take other steps to make state government more responsive to elected officeholders and less controlled by bureaucrats and inertia. Every governor who follows her should bless Fallin’s name for these quiet steps to correct more than 100 years of decentralized malaise in state government.
Fallin also gets credit for taking meaningful steps to improve the health of Oklahomans without relying on “Obamacare.” She banned tobacco use on state property, pushed for important state funding improvements in critical health and mental health areas despite tight budgets, spoke out publicly on lifestyle issues and prodded the Legislature to allow local governments to tighten public smoking regulations. We remain optimistic that she’ll eventually be victorious on that last issue, and salute her for using her political capital in the effort.
We won’t say Fallin’s four years in office have been without disappointments. While much of “Obamacare” is a fiasco, Her refusal to accept Affordable Care Act funding to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of uninsured Oklahomans needlessly gambles with the health of the poor and the finances of hospitals. The state has failed to dig itself out of the underfinancing of public schools that started in Brad Henry’s administration.
As with any governor, There’s room for improvement in Fallin’s second term. We would call on her to consider an agenda of at least adequate school finance and health care. We also call for a program of prison reform aimed at making the public safer and reducing the cost of incarceration.
We see the chances for all these things to happen more likely in a second Fallin administration than in a first Dorman term. Joe Dorman is smart and likable, and he has served the state well as a legislator. But we know enough about the state Capitol to know that his election would start four years of Oklahoma gridlock sure to accentuate the worst elements in the Legislature and result in nothing positive. If you like what has happened in Washington for the past six years, you’ll love what would happen in Oklahoma City if Dorman is elected.
Mary Fallin is a genuine conservative who does a good job representing Oklahoma. She promised a business-friendly state, and she delivered one. She promised reform, and she delivered reform. She promised prosperity, and prosperity we have. We hope and challenge Fallin to look at the areas we have identified, and we look forward to seeing it happen in the next four years.