Frank Keating: Nothing should be off the table as Oklahoma moves forward

I am a frustrated Oklahoman. We have suffered two revenue failures. We have done little to reduce the size of government and have done less to reform the bloat that we have. We want to give teachers a raise but we’ve given away the revenue base to the able-bodied on Medicaid, the wind industry and a cash-sucking public school and higher education bureaucracy that argues with straight faces that 500 school districts, scores of colleges and universities and off-campus campuses are spending our money prudently and educating our students well, despite the fact that our math, science and reading scores and graduation rates show us to be high on failure and low on achievement.

What to do?

It should come as an embarrassment to our political leaders but the business community has stepped up to say that enough is enough. They propose an assortment of reforms and taxes to avoid further state embarrassment. They are right to demand a bipartisan agreement. They have brought us to the table. We can no longer clear our throats and look out the window. Step Up Oklahoma should not be a package. It ought to be a process. Democrats want a $5,000 pay raise for teachers. Conservatives want Medicaid cuts, educational savings accounts, merger of career tech and community colleges, dramatic reduction of school districts and a cap on administrative overhead. To avoid shortfalls, the business leaders ask for sin taxes and restoration of a portion of the gross production tax. An increase of the income tax causes pain to working people so why not cover this piece with an end to the wind giveaways? Everything ought to be on the table. Nothing should be off the table. Both parties must give. It is summer 1787. Philadelphia. It is time to fix this place or it will fix us.

Frank Keating, Oklahoma City

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