DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! This week, my “base of operations” begins to move back north to the State Capitol as the Oklahoma Legislature begins with a one-day organizational meeting.
The meeting is limited to only five hours on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January to organize for the session, which begins in earnest on Feb. 2. Our charge on this first meeting is to elect the president pro tempore of the Senate, confirm committee assignments, adopt rules of procedure, and receive results of the November General Election.
Although the Legislature will not be in session during the month of January, there will be dozens of meetings held to prepare for session. That will mean more time at my Capitol office visiting with staff, agency officials, and concerned citizens as we get bills ready. We must have them complete by Jan. 15 if they are to be introduced for consideration in 2009.
The first revenue snapshot for next year’s budget indicates there will be about $300 million less than last year with which to meet the needs of Oklahoma’s citizens. While that sounds bleak, it pales in comparison to the budget woes of other states.
For example, California is dealing with a $42 billion budget shortfall. On $42 billion, you could run the entire state of Oklahoma for six years at current budget levels; California has to cut that much for just this upcoming year.
There will be resources available for many of Oklahoma’s needs. However, another of the realities of state budgets is that there always will be more requests than there are dollars. Having $300 million less will make the budget – already the most important and difficult job legislators face – even more challenging.
It will be a job in which I will be deeply involved. I will serve on both the full Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget, and the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which focuses on funding our state’s schools.
Education is the largest expenditure we make every year, and this is how it should be. Nothing we do is more important than preparing the next generation for the challenges it will face. America is the only superpower because we educate every child; and public education gives every child a chance to become everything God intends for them to be.
This year’s budget will be a delicate balance. As bad as it may appear, we in Oklahoma are blessed. It falls to the Legislature to ensure every Oklahoma family shares in those blessings with a budget that reflects our values and lays a foundation for a brighter future.
As always, feel free to contact me with your comments, questions or concerns about Oklahoma. You can reach my Capitol office at (580) 924-2221 or (405) 521-5586. You also can reach me through my website at www.gumm.us or by email at email@example.com.
Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.