Oklahoma state Capitol

Oklahoma state Capitol.

Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session has only just begun, and we’ve already had an underwhelming beginning.

Protesters disrupted Gov. Mary Fallin’s final State of the State address on Monday, unfurling a giant banner that read “Oklahoma State of Despair.” An ominous gesture that symbolized the dysfunction dominating our state Capitol. As members of a wind advocacy group held a press conference the next day, state Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, ripped down OK WindPower signs the group had taped to doors.

“When I saw them taking advantage of the House lounge when we have a broadcast pressroom, it made my blood boil,” McBride said after the meeting. “Who do they think they are that (they) can just go anywhere in the Capitol that they want?”

If you’ve been paying any attention, sowing the seeds of discord at the Capitol hasn’t been getting our state anywhere. For years, lawmakers have been grappling with how to address lingering budget shortfalls that have forced them to drain state savings; cut agencies; and renege on promised raises for teachers and other public employees.

Some of the state’s prominent leaders of business, agriculture, politics and education are joining forces to push Step Up Oklahoma, but we need additional details about the comprehensive tax and reform package. We’re pleased to hear two local lawmakers are looking forward to resolving our state’s budget issues. State Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, and Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, realize the Legislature still has unfinished work to resolve from the last session, and two special sessions.

We agree with Pederson that legislators must pass a budget with renewable revenue that will be originated on a broad basis to fund our state’s core services like education, public safety, transportation and health care.

We know the budget challenges are not new, but this remains Oklahoma’s most pressing issue. We also think Caldwell is right by saying our state government needs to function more efficiently.

“We must be willing to have an honest dialogue for both the need for revenue, and the need for efficiency,” Caldwell said.

With the first week on the books, it’s time to turn over a new leaf. We have too much political gamesmanship and not enough statesmanship. We need levelheaded leadership, and we need true compromise to find common ground to move forward with positive solutions. The blame game is the wrong track.

As Caldwell said, Oklahomans need to cast aside their own desires at some point to pursue what’s best for the state of Oklahoma in the long run. That’s why we elected these state representatives in the first place.

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