January 2018 Editorial Winner

Some Resolutions
Brian Blansett, Stroud American

New Year’s is always the time for setting personal goals and aspirations, and it seems like a good time to do some for our great state, as well.
So, in the spirit making a better Oklahoma, we offer these New Year’s Resolutions, most of which involve state government:
1. Fix Oklahoma’s short-term revenue problems in the next Legislative session.
There are those who argue, and to a good point, that Oklahoma has a spending problem instead of a revenue problem, but the fact remains that there isn’t enough money at the moment.
The most recent estimate we have seen is that the state is looking at a $900 million shortfall for the next budget. That’s a lot of money for a state the size of Oklahoma.
Until we can develop a reasoned approach to spending cuts that are necessary, we need to restore tax cuts that helped create the shortfall.
The first would be the income tax cuts that have been enacted in recent years. No one dislikes taxes any more than we do, but we think it is the right thing to do - at least temporarily - to rescind some of the cuts. State Auditor Gary Jones recently said that reducing the income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent has reduced state revenue by $1.28 billion.
As a result, the Legislature has cut its appropriations, leaving agency heads and school officials to make emergency cuts in their budgets. Their decisions are based on what is expedient instead of what’s best for the long-term good.
That’s hardly a way to lead to our state prosperity.
2. Rescind term limits.
There was strong support for term limits a number of years ago because, proponents argued, it would lead to better government.
It hasn’t worked out that way and there are two main reasons why.
For all their short-comings, the old-time legislators who spent 20 or 30 years prowling the hallways of the Capitol knew how government worked.
They knew how to get legislation from Point A to Point B and they spent years cultivating the personal relationships that allowed them to do it.
Now, with 12-and-done term limits, legislators have to clean out their desks just about the time they are becoming truly effective leaders.
One of the arguments for term limit was that getting rid of career elected officials would allow us to fill the Legislature with citizen-legislators who would govern for the overall good of the state instead of the overall good of their careers.
Sadly, that has not been the case. While many of the term-limited officials have indeed been replaced by good people working for the greater good, it has not been universal.
As we saw in the last legislative session and in the special session, there are enough single-interest legislators to hold the state hostage, and that’s not good.
We’ve had term limits all along, if we wanted to use them. Every two or four years, everyone in the Legislature comes up for election.
If you don’t like yours, vote them out.
But let’s not force out the good ones along with the bad just when they are becoming their most effective.
3. Go to non-partisan elections for as many races as possible.
For better or worse - and we think it worse - American politics has become about labels.
Conservative, liberal. Republican, Democrat. Moderate. Right-wing, left-wing.
Call yourself one thing and your opponent another and you immediately built yourself a core group of supporters who will vote based on those labels.
School and municipal elections are nonpartisan and have worked well. There is no reason county or even state elections should be different.
Get the labels out of the way and let elections be decided on merit.

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