The governor’s executive budget proposal is a good starting point to the discussion, but rarely aligns perfectly with the end result of negotiations. For example, she is calling for a $25 million increase to education and a $15 million increase to Oklahoma's prisons. Some state lawmakers would like to see a greater increase, especially instead of a $20 million increase she would give to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Other lawmakers are calling for a more scrutinizing overview of our appropriations process in a conservative effort.
In education, the governor said she would like to see 75 percent of fourth-grade students scoring proficiently on the state reading test by 2018. She also advocated for a greater use of mental health, drug and veterans courts to steer non-violent offenders into treatment programs. I wholeheartedly agree with initiatives to reduce over-criminalization in our state for non-violent crimes. With prison overcrowding and our corrections budget in dire need of proper funding, we must take a look into serious reform.
Gov. Fallin also stated her support for prescription drug monitoring, a texting while driving ban, and “smoke free” public schools. Prescription drug monitoring bills were rejected in past years because many felt there would be too much work laid at the feet of doctor’s offices. The texting while driving ban has not made it through the process in past years because many legislators consider it a step to far in government's continued push towards a “nanny state.” We must protect the freedoms of every individual while looking at the needs facing our state.
I feel cautiously optimistic after the governor’s speech. I appreciate the overall vision she cast. I appreciate her seriousness in budget matters, even if I might push harder for certain areas of funding. We have proven in past years that we are able to serve as a check and override the governor when necessary, but there is a general feeling that she is on our same page for the most part. As we begin this legislative session, your voice becomes even more important. Please don’t hesitate to make your thoughts and opinions heard. Your feedback is invaluable to me and my office.
It is an honor to serve you. It matter not if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; I am here to serve you. Please visit my policy blog at www.RepJoshCockroft.blogspot.com. Communication is important to me. I want to know how to I can better serve and lead for our district and our state. I am always a phone call away at: (405) 557-7349. You can also email me at: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov.