Tuesday, February 4, 2014
By World's Editorials Writers
We found much to like in Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State speech Monday.
We agree with Fallin's assessment that the state of the state is strong. While some of that has to do with the luck of commodity prices and geology, Fallin's leadership also deserves due credit.
When she came to office, the state had a $500 million budget hole and $2.03 in its "rainy day" fund. Today the state's budget is balanced and the emergency fund has $530 million in it. Meanwhile, unemployment and tax rates are down.
If Fallin takes some public pride in that turnaround, we say it is deserved.
In her plans for the coming year we are particularly pleased with her evolving attitude toward the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
The initiative is a proven strategy for saving money on prisons while reducing crime. Fallin signed the Oklahoma version of the initiative into law in 2011, but allowed it to wither without funding.
With new leadership at the state Department of Corrections, Fallin has added money for the initiative and says she is looking forward to improving "smart on crime" efforts.
We support Fallin's proposal to move new state employees into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan instead of the state pension fund. This wouldn't affect most state pension plans, including the one covering teachers, but it would put one of the state's biggest debt-troubled retirement plans on a path toward a sustainable future.
Fallin wants to adjust state compensation to emphasize higher pay and lower benefits. That would give state employees more freedom to make decisions about how to spend their earnings. A defined contribution plan will give workers more ownership of retirement fund decisions and make those retirement funds portable if they leave state employment.
It's a reformist move that parallels the direction private enterprise took decades ago.
We also support Fallin's call for a state bond issue and for targeting that effort toward state Capitol repairs.
We continue to call for scrutiny of the bond plans to make sure the Capitol costs are prudent. We want a safe, sanitary Capitol building, not a mink-lined one. That said, the wise way to finance those costs is over time in a bond issue...
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