Governor Mary Fallin: More prosperous state, more responsible government keys to 2013 agenda

February 03, 2013

The Oklahoman

Opinion Editorial by Governor Mary Fallin

In recent years, Oklahoma's state government has played a vital supporting role to the private sector, helping to promote a business friendly environment that's led to a net gain of more than 62,000 jobs created since 2011. In the 2013 State of the State address Monday, I will outline a vision to continue our remarkable economic growth.

My role as the state's chief executive is to ensure that Oklahoma is well positioned in a national and international economy that's more competitive than ever. To begin, we will need to examine our tax climate. In today's increasingly mobile society, businesses and individuals are leaving states with high taxes and moving to friendlier locations. Oklahoma needs to be at the top of their list. For that reason, I will propose a responsible, measured income tax cut that allows Oklahomans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

We also need to improve our schools, so that Oklahoma produces the kind of highly skilled, highly educated workforce that can attract and retain-high paying jobs. In recent years the Legislature has passed, and I have signed into law, important reform measures designed to raise the bar on academic achievement and encourage greater accountability. My executive budget will propose a measured increase in common education funding specifically to support and implement these reforms.

Supporting job growth also requires eliminating cost drivers to businesses. For decades, out-of-control workers' compensation costs have been a burden on those doing business in Oklahoma. While recent reforms have effectively worked to reduce the total costs of claims, more needs to be done. This year, I will work with the House and Senate to pursue reforms that lower costs for businesses while treating injured workers fairly.

For Oklahoma to be friendlier to business, it will also have to be run more like a business. That means spending taxpayer dollars conservatively and responsibly. To that end, I've worked with agencies to develop a catalog of state assets. I will propose to eventually sell those assets that continue to be unproductive. I will also recommend immediate action be taken to properly restore and maintain assets in disrepair, such as the state Capitol.

I will remind lawmakers that important work remains to address the $11 billion in unfunded liability in our state pension system. This amounts to $11 billion in state debt, a problem that can't go ignored.

Finally, I will call for increasing resources aimed at boosting the physical health of our residents and improving mental health services. Improving health outcomes in Oklahoma is as important to containing health care costs and promoting economic growth as it is to our quality of life. We must redouble our efforts on this issue.

My agenda for 2013 will outline my vision for a more prosperous Oklahoma and a more responsible government. I look forward to working with lawmakers and all Oklahomans to pursue initiatives that continue our state's remarkable forward progress.