Friday, May 20, 2011

Taking On Texas

It is fitting that our upstart Oklahoma City Thunder is taking on a seasoned, veteran opponent in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals.
Like the Thunder, Oklahoma is on the rise. And like the Dallas Mavericks, Texas is an established commodity.
But Texas now has serious Oklahoma competition nipping at its heels, both on and off the basketball court. The public policies put forth by the Oklahoma Legislature this year are designed to make Oklahoma competitive with the nation’s best.
Years ago, Texas reformed how it handles lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims. The state placed limits on damages awarded through civil actions and made workers’ compensation system changes that provided increased savings to employers and put injured workers back on the job faster. Doing so helped Texas lure new companies and produce additional jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas led the nation in job creation last year.
However, the Oklahoma Legislature recently produced similar lawsuit and workers’ compensation reforms designed to bring the same results to our state. People are taking notice. A recent survey of 500 CEOs by ranked Oklahoma the eleventh best state for business, an increase of eight spots from last year.
On corrections policy, Texas, years ago, started putting low-risk, nonviolent offenders in community sentencing rather than in prisons, which alleviated the fiscal and social strains of overcrowded prisons.
Oklahoma took a similar step toward corrections reform this year through House Bill 2131.
Even with the progress Texas has made, it does trail Oklahoma in some areas.
First, we have Kevin Durant. We thank the University of Texas for grooming him. He is an Oklahoman now, and we’re just as proud to have him as he is proud to be here.
Second, and on a more serious note, Oklahoma has managed its plentiful water resources extremely well. The latest version of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan will help the Legislature identify the best strategy to effectively utilize this valuable natural resource.
Texas does not have that luxury. Without enough water to sustain growth, some Texas water districts have sued Oklahoma in hopes of winning access to our water.
Transportation is another area where Oklahoma is beating Texas. Oklahoma has made major investments of public dollars in its transportation infrastructure to ensure roads and highways meet our needs and remain under public control.
Texas, meanwhile, has started relying on private, international companies to build highways in urban areas and across the state. These companies charge for road use and are not accountable to the public. Texas drivers are paying increasing costs just to commute through cities and across the state.
On fiscal matters, Texas this year faced a state budget shortfall of $27 billion, or 15 percent of its last budget. Oklahoma’s state budget shortfall this year was $500 million, or 7 percent of last year’s state budget.
Hopefully soon, Texans will be watching the Thunder dribble past them to the Finals and Oklahoma move past them on the national stage.

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