Column by Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the State Chamber, published in the Journal Record on May 11, 2018
Amid the chaos of the last legislative session, many people may have overlooked the meaningful changes and reforms that were accomplished in the last days before the Legislature adjourned. Some of our state’s most pressing issues such as teacher pay, our high incarceration rate, agency accountability and structural budget issues were addressed this year, putting Oklahoma on the path for a better future.
An important voice in the call for reforms was the business community, which engaged like never before. In December, the State Chamber released its OK2030 vision plan outlining 35 key reforms to improve Oklahoma’s national rankings and government performance. In February, a broad coalition of business leaders, under the name Step Up, offered a revenue package accompanied by key governmental reforms included in the OK2030 plan. While this effort was not completely successful, many of the reforms quietly moved forward.
In April, the State Chamber, along with a coalition of business leaders, published an open letter to the Legislature urging them to pass these much-needed reforms.
The letter highlighted 10 of the policy recommendations from our OK2030 strategic vision plan as priorities for 2018. We’re pleased to report that the Legislature has now passed legislation supporting eight of these reforms:
• Establish a budget stabilization fund to protect the budget in economic downturns.
• Reform the criminal justice system to better focus on the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders.
• Restructure teacher certifications to build in separate paths toward advancement within the profession.
• Run the governor and the lieutenant governor on the same ticket to encourage collaboration and unified vision.
• Reform the state’s school funding formula.
• Fund smart, flexible incentives like the Quick Action Closing Fund to give Oklahoma a competitive edge in attracting new businesses.
• Pass line-item budgets for large state agencies to ensure accountability in state spending.
• Grant the governor direct appointment power over many state agency directors.
While this shows our state leaders are listening, much remains to be done. If we want Oklahoma to prosper, we must break from things that aren’t working. The business community will continue to press for more legislative actions to positively transform our state. Although progress has been made, our goal – launch Oklahoma into the top 10 of national rankings – is far from achieved. If you are interested in joining our effort, please visit OK2030.org to provide input and get involved.