The 2018 legislative session is in full swing up at the Capitol, and we sure started off with a bang. Lawmakers voted on a revenue proposal, known as Step Up Oklahoma, on Feb. 12. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it failed to gain the necessary votes for passage.
The bill had good parts – everyone agrees some extra cash would help Oklahoma. The revenue would have provided teachers with a well-deserved and long-overdue raise. It would have stabilized rocky funding levels for health care workers across the state. It would have allowed lawmakers to focus on big-picture things instead of trying to hurriedly scrape together a bare-bones budget.
But the Step Up package also carried with it proposals I did not appreciate. In fact, in my dozens of conversations with colleagues, no one I spoke to loved everything the plan offered. Step Up was, in the truest sense, a compromise bill. That said, its failure should not dictate where we go from here.
Instead of letting yet another revenue bill’s failure sow anger and exhaustion, I’m choosing to lean into hope that lawmakers can work across party lines to better our state. Casting my ‘yes’ vote on Feb. 12 meant I was saying ‘yes’ to securing a future of which Oklahomans can be proud. Watching the vote fail means I’m recommitting myself to building coalitions of Oklahomans on issues we care about.
Here’s what I know: Oklahomans want better education. Our teachers are some of the brightest, hardworking people I have ever met. They deserve a raise, and House Republicans will continue to fight until educators are properly compensated. I’ll also lobby for local control. Teachers know how to teach their students best. We should encourage independent classroom control, and we should empower parents to be more involved in local schools.
Oklahomans also prioritize economic development. As our tax base grows, we should seek to diversify our economy. Any investor worth his or her salt would advise clients against putting all their eggs in one basket. To strengthen Oklahoma’s economic future, we must spread out our portfolio.
Thirdly, Oklahomans recognize the need for infrastructure improvement. Our state currently ranks third worst in the nation for structurally deficient bridges. The pattern of tapping into funding for roads and bridges needs to stop. We must properly fund our transportation department so we can prevent serious infrastructure problems before more bridges collapse.
These changes aren’t things that can happen with a flick of the wrist. They will take work. Lawmakers have fought for years on these issues, and I will continue to carry the torch with my colleagues. My hope is that you will join me in this effort. Future generations should be able to look back at this session as the year when Oklahomans said ‘yes’ to building a better state.
As always, you can reach me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7327. Thanks, and God bless.