NORMAN — We found much to like in Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State speech Monday.
We agree with Fallin’s assessment that the state of the state is strong. Fallin’s leadership deserves due credit.
When she came to office, the state had a $500 million budget hole and $2.03 in its “rainy day” fund. Today, the state’s budget is balanced and the emergency fund has $530 million in it. Unemployment and tax rates are down.
In her plans for the coming year, we are particularly pleased with her attitude toward the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
Fallin signed the Oklahoma version of the initiative into law in 2011 but allowed it to wither without funding. Fallin has added money for the initiative and said she is looking forward to improving “smart on crime” efforts.
We support Fallin’s proposal to move new state employees into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan instead of the state pension fund. This wouldn’t affect most state pension plans, including the one covering teachers, but it would put one of the state’s biggest debt-troubled retirement plans on a path toward a sustainable future.
Fallin wants to adjust state compensation to emphasize higher pay and lower benefits. That would give state employees more freedom to make decisions about how to spend their earnings.
We also support Fallin’s call for a state bond issue and for targeting that effort toward state Capitol repairs.
We continue to call for scrutiny of the bond plans to make sure the Capitol costs are prudent.
Fallin’s budget proposal needs close consideration.
She proposed a $50 million increase in funding for public schools and a 5 percent cut in funding to many agencies.
Both parts of that idea will be controversial. The school funding won’t be enough for many people and the cuts in agency funding will be much too much for others.
We remain skeptical of plans to continue cutting the state income tax. Fallin proposes cutting the tax by 0.25 percent, which is a big hit to state funding. We urge Fallin and legislators to trigger any income tax reduction to increased state revenue and to reconsider tax reform aimed at eliminating giveaways that do not spur economic growth, especially tax breaks for horizontal drilling.
— Tulsa World
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