By Governor Mary Fallin
On the first day of the legislative session the governor has the privilege of delivering the "State of the State" address to a joint session of the Oklahoma legislature. This gives the governor a unique opportunity to report on the overall health of the state and to introduce a forward-thinking agenda. The following are excerpts from my State of the State address, in which I outline a plan help create more and better jobs, eliminate government waste, improve our schools and the quality of our workforce, and focus on innovative solutions to several problems facing the state.
A bold plan for income tax reduction
"The Oklahoma Tax Reduction and Simplification Act will immediately cut income taxes for Oklahomans in all tax brackets, simplify the tax code, and chart a course towards the gradual elimination of the income tax.
"Our plan is a game-changer for Oklahoma. It's a job-creator. And it provides broad based tax relief to the middle class without starving government or hurting the working poor."
Increasing government efficiency and eliminating waste:
"Beginning in 2012, we are initiating a statewide performance evaluation initiative to apply to every state agency.
"Under current law, state agencies are required to submit a strategic plan that includes goals and proposals for increased efficiency and improved services. Unfortunately, these plans have not, historically, been carefully scrutinized.
"My office and the Office of State Finance will begin evaluating each and every one of these plans and will use new software and technologies that measure performance and efficiency and align expenditures with outcomes. That analysis will help us to right-size government and ensure that each agency is operating as effectively as possible."
Improving our schools and boosting our workforce:
"We know that a majority of the jobs created in the next decade will require either a college education or a career certificate from one of our Career Technology centers.
"That's why we have set a goal to increase the number of college graduates from 30,500 degrees and certificates awarded annually to 50,900."
Saving taxpayer dollars through energy efficiency
" Oklahoma is currently ranked as one of the least energy efficient states in the country, which translates to hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money.
"To address that waste and dramatically improve our ranking, I'm asking our lawmakers to send me a bill requiring every state agency and higher education institution to reduce energy consumption by 12 percent by the year 2020."
Improving Oklahoma's roads and bridges
"Unfortunately, [Oklahoma has] some of the worst bridges in the nation.
"That's why last year I proposed a plan that will fix all 706 of Oklahoma's structurally deficient state highway bridges by 2019 moving Oklahoma from the list of worst-bridges in the country to the best.
" To fund that plan, I have proposed in my budget an additional investment in the form of a $15 million increase to ODOT paid for by using road money for roads, rather than diverting it to general revenue, as has been the practice in the past."
Creating a healthier Oklahoma
"It's time to address [Oklahoma's health problems]
"To do that, I have first signed an executive order to prohibit tobacco use on all state property.
"We are also going to close the smoking room at the State Capitol and transform it into a small fitness center. To fund this transformation, the state has already applied for a grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which the Oklahoma Hospital Association has generously agreed to match it."