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Governor’s State of the State borrows heavily from 2012

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
February 4, 2013

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On February 6th 2012, Governor Fallin took to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to give her second State of the State address. The state’s economy was showing signs of emerging from the recession, and there was a lot on the wish list. She walked on to the House floor Monday facing perhaps fewer pressing problems, but the speech largely followed the same script…

Last year, it was the economy.

“In 2011, the state of Oklahoma had a net increase of 41,600 jobs.”

And this year, well, it was the economy, at the top.

“Since January of 2011, we’ve created over 62,400 new net jobs.”

In 2012, we heard about how Washington is no good.

“Washington is leading this country off a fiscal cliff. It’s reckless, it’s wrong, and it’s destroying jobs.”

On Monday, things weren’t much different…

“What would take us backwards as a state? Well, pretty simple answer. Just look at Washington.”

So what was new? Well, a solution for repairs to the state Capitol building. The building is in disrepair, and if anything, things have only gotten worse since last year. The Governor touted a fix in a tour with reporters a couple weeks ago, pointing out worn out electrical wires and extensive plumbing issues. Some proposed a 160 million dollar bond issue to settle it last year, and Fallin was on board.

“We must pass a bond issue for Capitol repairs. The people of Oklahoma elected us to make responsible decisions, let’s do our job.”

Not this year though. Governor Fallin dialed back her high hopes…

“And that is why I’m proposing 10 million dollars to be allocated this year immediately to begin addressing the repair and also chart a course forward towards total renovation of the Capitol.”

And then there’s the income tax rate. The way she drew it up a year ago, we would be under a simpler system today, with three tax brackets and lower overall rates. But to pay for it, tax credits and incentives would have largely disappeared, leaving some with a higher tax bill, actually. House and Senate Republicans couldn’t reach agreement last May. So instead of trying to jump through hoops, she wants to give it another go, this time without such wholesale change.

“I’m asking you to lower the top income tax rate, which kicks in at the first 8,700 dollars, of income made by every Oklahoman, to lower it from 5.25% to 5%.”

Governor Fallin spoke for a little more than 50 minutes, last year, she hit 49 minutes, and she covered just about everything expected. But as drought conditions have continued to wear on the state’s farmers and ranchers, just a single mention.

“Responsible government is a government that will also plan ahead for the worst. Our office of Emergency and Management Director Albert Ashwood is leading a diverse coalition to review and rewrite our drought management program to help our farmers and our ranchers, our cities and our communities in the event of another hot and long dry summer.”

Nothing about the state’s pending case in front of the US Supreme Court on water rights. Nothing on water conservation, despite mentioning energy efficiency for at least the second straight year.

There was a new idea in the speech though, a pledge Governor Fallin says has never been made.

“And for the first time ever, I’m proposing in my budget, that we allocate new funds for suicide prevention.”

All of the promises add up though. By my rough estimate, everything Governor Fallin pledged in her State of the State reaches a cost of 252 million dollars. That includes the immediate loss in revenue because of a cut in the income tax rate, 50 million for DHS, 40 million for the Health Care Authority, among other increases.

It’s expected legislators will have about another 170 million to use as they see fit. Things don’t add up for a state required to balance its budget. In the next four months, legislators will have to move past the promises and figure out what the state can afford.

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