By Scott Meacham
© Copyright 2018 TulsaWorld.com, 315 S. Boulder Ave. Tulsa, OK
The most amazing phenomenon is happening in Oklahoma right now. I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen anything like it — not in our state or anywhere else.
It’s well known that Oklahoma has a debilitating budget problem. It’s not only just a $100 million shortfall. It’s also that after years of continuous cuts core state services such as education, health care, mental health and corrections are at or near the breaking point.
Step Up Oklahoma is an initiative by an unusually broad and diverse group of institutions and individuals from all over Oklahoma that has produced a remarkable private sector response to the budget challenges that our elected state officials have been unable to resolve after months of failed efforts. These leaders have gone public with their generation defining plan, and their message and example cannot be ignored.
The names on the Step Up supporters list (stepupoklahoma.com) read like an Oklahoma Who’s Who. From five former governors to the leadership of banks, chambers of commerce, law firms, manufacturing companies, OMRF and even former i2E client WeGoLook (and other companies too numerous to list), to education and health groups, tribal nations, the state’s major newspapers — the list goes on.
Can you imagine what it took for these individuals and institutions to come together in the first place and then to forge a budget and reform proposal that is this specific, complete and actionable? It’s full of solutions, reform and compromise. The path forward for our state is spelled out simply. It’s easy to understand. Inside this proposal, trade-offs have already been hammered out.
Step Up is a uniquely Oklahoma declaration that Oklahoma’s Legislature is not the only entity with a duty to fix the state.
Listen to what they are telling us: We aren’t armchair quarterbacks content to sit back while paralysis and inaction engulfs our state government. We want to be part of the solution. We are stepping beyond special interests to propose a bipartisan compromise that will better Oklahoma as a whole. We care deeply about this state. Our families, homes and businesses are here. We want to add our voices, our influence. We are willing to pay and to participate directly to make things different, with greater transparency, improved paths of decision-making and improved efficiency.
This proposal is hopeful and powerful.
The problems that our Legislature is working to solve affect us all — any parent with a child in school, any elderly person who needs medical care, any family affected by substance abuse, anyone who plows a field or drives a truck.
Oklahoma is in the crosshairs right now. In this very moment and for the next few days as the legislators we elected to represent us vote on our future. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Our state has not seen such a significant opportunity since the massive education funding and reform package HB 1017 was passed in 1990 and signed into law by Gov. Henry Bellmon.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to someday say I was part of Oklahoma changing the course of our future. That I was one of the people who stood up and said let’s do what needs to be done.
Let’s pay our teachers and fund our core services and reform the structure of our decision-making that reflects who we, as Oklahomans, really are.
Oklahomans of every cut and stripe across the state have said they are ready to Step Up. This is the opportunity for the legislators that we elected to represent us to listen and act according to the collective will of those they govern.
Scott Meacham is president of i2E Inc., which receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact him at i2E_Comments @i2E.org.