Governor Fallin today proposed key first steps to address Oklahoma’s most critical needs as our state faces a $900 million shortfall and enters what will likely be one of the most challenging legislative sessions in recent memory.
The Tulsa Regional Chamber and its OneVoice partners stand beside Governor Fallin in making education a top priority and working to invest in Oklahoma’s teachers, maximize efficiencies, and deliver the quality education demanded by 21st century jobs. And while not always popular, criminal justice reform is a critical need for our state and we applaud Governor Fallin for her bold vision on this issue. These reforms are needed to help non-violent offenders become productive members of our workforce and reduce Oklahoma’s bloated prison population – all while lowering costs and making our state safer. Improving Oklahoma’s mental health and substance abuse services is also a key component of criminal justice reform, promising to further ease the burdens on our justice system, and we hope it remains a central piece of this conversation.
We must keep our foot on the gas by investing in those areas that generate a financial and strategic return for our state. Preserving proven, revenue-generating economic incentives like the Quality Jobs program is critical to job growth and retention. Improving the health of our workers by broadening health insurance coverage through the public-private partnership of Insure Oklahoma would save our state $48.2 million annually and foster a stronger economy and healthier state.
Tackling the challenges our state faces requires us to have a serious conversation as a state about the resources we have, the investments we need to make, and how we close that gap. This budget shortfall, while painful, is an opportunity to make bold decisions that will position Oklahoma for greater economic prosperity. We look forward to working with Governor Fallin and our state’s legislative leaders to seize that opportunity.