Statesmanship a Must in Tough Times

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

In the face of a $1.2 billion shortfall, lawmakers must show statesmanship to create a budget that will help the state weather the downturn. The majority of state lawmakers, be they Democrat of Republican, know how to work together to pass important legislation. Unfortunately, the budget has become a regular point of partisan contention.

It is clear as daylight that no one is going to be 100 percent happy with the state budget when it is finalized. Though there are some inefficiencies in government, many state agencies will be cut beyond what a little belt tightening can solve. Most groups are afraid of the cuts, even if they don’t know the exact amount they will face.

Some individuals have chosen to criticize legislative leaders in the media and threaten to block the budget. These individuals are critical of a budget crafted by a small group in negotiation with the governor and would prefer each and every member of the legislature have a seat at the table.

I contend that the budget process is both fair and efficient. Created when Democrats were in the majority, it essentially cuts the amount of back-and-forth between the governor and two houses of the Legislature by allowing the legislative leaders and the governor to negotiate the sticking points before putting it up for a vote. I would add that any legislator who is straightforward in approaching the leadership can affect the final outcome of that negotiation. If legislative leaders ignored other members of the legislature, the budget would get voted down every year. Instead, a budget is always passed by a majority of lawmakers, many of whom have contributed ideas to it.

Every citizen has a right to campaign for public office. However, when elected and in session, lawmakers should focus on negotiating legislation on behalf of their constituents.

Rural doctors

A recent example of bipartisan legislation is a plan to help increase the state’s physician-to-patient ratio. Oklahoma has a shortage of rural doctors with a stunning 59 of the state’s 77 counties having too few doctors. The Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians has recently called on state lawmakers to support legislation to help mitigate at least one of the factors contributing to this shortage, the high cost of a doctor’s education.

The legislation would create an Oklahoma Medical Repayment Program. House Bill 1048 would empower the Physician Manpower Training Commission to provide student loan repayment assistance for up to six licensed physicians who have recently graduated from medical school and would be willing to move to one of these underserved areas and accept Medicaid patients. With new doctors averaging about $160,000 in debt and the state’s poor ratio, I supported the House passage of this legislation.

I will keep you regularly updated on the activities of the Legislature through this column. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.