I have found that in many cases individuals who are involved in public policy, from legislators to constituents, can become wrapped up in the policy, discussions, and arguments that we lose sight of our goal and mission. It is easy to be focused on the moment and the challenges it presents and become oblivious to what is happening right around us. We wait for the proverbial dust to settle following legislative sessions to see how far we have come, or to "survey the damage".
However, sometimes it is important to step back and remember the battles won and the challenges conquered even in the midst of them. I don't believe anyone would refute the claim that we are all blessed to live in this wonderful state that we love. We experience freedoms and liberties which other states do not have the privilege to share in. There will always be challenges that face us, but facing those challenges is what has made us who we are today.
In the last several years alone we have moved our state in the right direction. Not long ago Oklahoma's unemployment rate was 7.2%. It is now 5.4%. When our recession hit in 2008 we had $2.03 in our "Rainy Day Fund". Currently there is $530 million. In 2011 the state faced a $500 million budget shortfall. Yet every year we continue to balance the budget. Oklahoma continues to grow our private sector with more small business jobs being added every year. In 2010 Oklahoma had a pension system that had $17 billion in unfunded liability. We made tough choices to get that number down to $10 billion. Oklahoma has protected our businesses through massive workers' compensation and tort reform. Oklahoma continues to reduce the tax burden on the individual and business.
This legislative session we are doing the same. Once again, we find ourselves in a budget shortfall by $188 million. We will responsibly balance it. Our state workers deserve a pay raise and currently have a pension system that has $10 billion in unfunded liability. HB2630 includes needed pension reform and pay raise language. Our schools deserve proper funding and our students need real local control. We have many measures that increase funding to our schools and give our administrators, teachers, and parents more say in how their students are taught. Our DHS system needs reform in many areas. We have champions in the legislature this year looking out for Oklahoma's children in every way possible.
There will always be discussions and arguments on how to best implement these needed changes and reforms. I would humbly submit to you that Oklahoma has faced opposition before, and we will continue to do so. However, the conservative, common sense solutions we have passed are moving us in the right direction. I believe in our state and believe we will continue to be a leader for the nation and world to look up to. We are in the midst of the battle right now. Soon the dust will settle and we will see just how far we have come.
It is an honor to serve you in the legislature. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to contact my office. That is why I am here! My office phone is: 405-557-7349. My email is: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Follow my policy blog at: www.RepJoshCockroft.blogspot.com.