This week kicks off the second session of the 55th Legislature, and with a $900 million projected shortfall in the budget, this year will present many challenges for lawmakers. As the old adage goes, the difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is all in how you use them. It’s difficult to dispute that we’re facing several significant stumbling blocks this year. With a significant shortfall and most agencies facing cuts in funding, it paints a tough situation for our state to overcome. While this will present a unique set of budgetary circumstances this year, I choose to think of it as an opportunity to find and identify those stepping stones that can lead to meaningful change in Oklahoma.
As Oklahomans will remember, the 80’s brought the worst oil crisis our nation has faced. The economic reality was heartbreaking, with many families facing poverty and other hardships for years while waiting for the economy to recover. My family was one of thousands who struggled in the face of the oil crisis and I remember wondering when or if recovery would ever happen. Even though I was young at the time, I decided I would do whatever I could to help make a difference in whatever way I could, at whatever point in my life those opportunities presented themselves. Over the years, that same determination has helped to fuel my commitment to the people of my district and the state.
On Monday during her state of the state address, we heard Gov. Fallin’s goals for this year’s legislature, with the budget at the top of the priority list. In order to fix the shortfall, we must remain focused on the core government functions and ensure those are properly funded, including education and infrastructure. Children are the future of Oklahoma, and as sacrificial givers to the future of Oklahoma, teachers are one of our most valuable resources in ensuring tomorrow’s young leaders are provided with a quality education today. Oklahoma teachers deserve to teach in adequately funded districts and earn a salary that is competitive with other states. This will remain one of our highest priorities this year.
Our work is cut out for us and I encourage you to follow the process by visiting the official State Senate website at www.oksenate.gov where live audio and video streaming from the Senate Chamber, as well as from all committee rooms are available.
I am looking forward to kicking off the new legislative session. There’s a lot to be done and I’m ready to get to work. As we approach this tenuous time in the state’s history, it is important to remember we are all stakeholders in Oklahoma’s future and I’m committed to making sure your voice is heard in state government. I always welcome your ideas and input and encourage you to contact me with any concerns.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Dan Newberry, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 234, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Newberry@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5600.