Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Challenges Will Make for an Interesting Session

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! In only a few days, the 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature will begin its work.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires us to return to the Capitol at noon on the first Monday in February to begin the people’s business. After gathering in the Senate Chamber, we will travel across the Rotunda to the House of Representatives to hear Governor Henry’s “State of the State” address.

In the five years I have been your senator, we have had both incredibly difficult budget years and those in which state coffers were full to overflowing. This is a year that will be somewhere in between the devastating budget cuts of 2003 and the large tax cuts of 2005 and 2006.

These “middle years” are sometimes the most difficult budget years. During tight years, everyone understands budgets have to be cut; in flush years, everyone wants – and almost everyone gets – a bigger piece of the budget pie.

With only a small amount of additional money available, just about every state agency is putting in its bid for those resources. The money is nowhere near sufficient to meet all the requests from state agencies, many of which are positive proposals that – in a perfect world – would be funded.

The first step in writing a budget and setting Oklahoma’s course will come from the governor in his “State of the State” address. These speeches are the most important a chief executive gives, as the governor will review our progress and lay out one vision of where Oklahoma should go.

This very well could be the most important “State of the State” address Governor Henry has given. This set of challenges is so different when compared to any we have faced since I became your senator. The governor has an incredible opportunity to blaze a new trail for our state. We all will be listening carefully to his address.

Another shift in the political landscape occurred this week when House Speaker Lance Cargill resigned as Speaker amid a variety of ethical and legal charges; there will be a new leader in the House of Representatives. We also have the potential for impeachment proceedings against State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan following his federal indictment.

These challenges – along with the looming 2008 General Election – will make for an interesting session that will test our ability to find common ground. The road ahead is uncertain, but I am sure of one thing: You have placed in me your trust and given me the responsibility to fight for those things that matter most to you.

Regardless of the politics under the Capitol dome, that responsibility always guides me. With the wisdom you share with me, and the prayers you lift up for my family and me, we will create the brighter future that is the birthright of every Oklahoman.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week and may God bless you all.

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