Below are four ideas and suggestions for legislators and leaders heading into the 2009 session:
Leapfrog the competition. With a Republican House and Senate and a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion, Oklahomans want elected officials to resist partisan politics, please. People are tired of attacks and finger-pointing. Rally around a leader – any leader – who can show courage and forecast a vision of moving Oklahoma forward while other states face much bigger challenges than ours. Now is the time to brand our state and pass laws that make our state more attractive for knowledge workers who see the bigger markets as too risky in this bad economy. This is a classic buy low, sell high mentality we need to embrace.
No new mandates/Grow the private sector. It will be difficult, but legislators need to resist mandates and instead focus on spending the money we have wisely on the most pressing issues. Create incentives for the private sector which is looking for motivation to take risks. Government sponsored incentives encourage positive growth in the private sector. While others are passing regulations which strangle private sector growth, Oklahoma can become even more business friendly.
Spend more money on infrastructure than education. One of government’s core functions is to provide infrastructure. Research confirms Oklahoma has not done a good job of investing in our roads and bridges, although recent years’ allocations have been the strongest in 50 years. The Obama stimulus is coming, so let’s use it for promoting more commerce through our crossroads state.
Education is important – vitally important – but measures like Senate bill 1111* need to be passed before we throw more dollars at public education. Year after year, voters are told we need to invest more in public education only to be disappointed with mixed results.
Speak up. Finally, I hope that Governor Henry and House and Senate leaders can work together and take some tips from our Speak Up campaign. Now is the time to reach out to current employers and ask them what incentives they need to do more business here. The Oklahoma standard says we help each other in tough times. Encouraging people to give back in our communities during the recession will help social services and cultural agencies grow. If there is bad news, then disclose it. Mostly, we ask for our elected officials to present a great attitude. Smile. A positive outlook goes a long way. Doom and gloom only confirms people’s greatest fears.
Oklahoma is positioned better than any surrounding state. Let’s take advantage.