Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.
When he was working in the White House, Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. He went on to explain what he meant was that the crisis provides an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. Emanuel was paraphrasing a similar statement by Winston Churchill who said “never let a good crisis go to waste.” I suspect in this session some legislators will take the advice to heart.
There will be a lot of ideas floated, some good, some not so good. The challenge is that, in a fiscal crisis like Oklahoma is facing, it’s easier to sell a bad idea on the justification that it saves money. It may have little or nothing to do with saving money or being more efficient.
Over the past few years of diminishing revenues, whether because of tax cuts, excessive tax breaks, falling oil prices or a bad economy, much of the money that can be squeezed out of schools and state agencies without harming the citizens it was intended to benefit has been squeezed. No doubt any organization can be more efficient. But most “savings” will be at the margins and some will have negative consequences for real people.
Although the budget will take precedence in the legislative session, there were some 1700 bills filed in the House and Senate by the filing deadline last Thursday. Many are good proposals that will make Oklahoma a better and safer place to live. So, although a lot of the news from the capitol will be unpleasant between now and the end of May, some good things will be happening. I look forward to letting you know about some of them.