commentary from the office of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin
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This year’s legislative session included a number of major policy victories that will save taxpayer dollars, deliver more efficient government services and create an environment more conducive to job creation.
Chief among those victories was a budget that will continue to limit the growth of government while targeting waste and duplication. The budget I signed into law is a fiscally conservative roadmap for state government that largely holds the line on spending.
At the same time, it provides targeted increases for specific needs and areas in which we know the state must improve. These areas include education, child welfare programs, road and bridge repair, access to health care, and public safety. Boosting funding in these core areas will help to improve state government services and make Oklahoma a better place to live and raise a family.
The budget is supported by a number of reforms that save taxpayer dollars and allow state agencies to do more with less. Legislation instructing agencies to reduce energy costs, for example, is expected to produce savings of $300 to $500 million over eight years.
Similarly, consolidation of Information Technology resources is projected to save the state another $180 million over seven years, and has already reduced IT spending by over 20 percent in some areas. Besides eliminating waste and saving taxpayer dollars, these reforms will also help to produce more flexible and responsive state agencies.
In addition to government reform, progress continues to be made towards building a better environment for business growth. To do that, we worked to address areas that affect both the economic bottom line of our businesses and the quality of life of our citizens.
We know that Oklahoma’s poor health indicators, for instance, are resulting in thousands of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars of lost economic output each year. To address that, we established programs this year aimed at reducing infant deaths, encouraging healthy life choices, and offering treatment to those suffering from substance abuse and addiction issues. Healthy living is important, not just because we want Oklahomans to live full and happy lives, but because the effects of unhealthy life choices hurt our economy, drain taxpayer dollars and drive up the cost of health care for everyone.
Improving education outcomes also continues to be a priority, as we know the majority of jobs created in the next decade will go to those with college degrees or career certificates. To ensure our citizens are poised to take advantage of these opportunities, we are pursuing the goal of dramatically increasing the number of degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma.
Additionally, we know businesses and families want to locate in crime-free environments, so we have increased resources and state troopers at the Department of Public Safety. We also passed major legislation rethinking how we prosecute, sentence and parole offenders – helping to ensure the state pursues a path that is “smart on crime” as well as tough on crime.
We also made major strides forward in the area of transportation. Oklahoma needs a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure to grow and flourish, and to that end we developed and funded a plan to repair all 706 of Oklahoma’s structurally deficient highway bridges.
Finally, we have put the state on a path to address and correct what has long been a black eye for Oklahoma – the substandard conditions for children in state custody. Protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us should always be a priority. Reforms being implemented at the Department of Human Services will ensure that Oklahoma improves the care and treatment we are providing to children.
All of these are large steps forward for Oklahoma and its citizens, and each will help to make the state a better place for Oklahoma families and businesses to flourish in. I am proud to declare another legislative session a success, and I look forward to continuing our forward progress next year.