With the 2008 election cycle finally ended, attention at the State Capitol now turns to preparing for the 2009 legislative session. Tuesday, November 18, will mark the first official ceremony to begin that process, when all newly-elected and reelected members of the State Senate will take their oath of office. Family members, friends and supporters from local communities will gather in the gallery to watch as the State Supreme Court Justice administers the oath, and the members swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of our state.
After that, the freshmen members will attend a series of orientation meetings to help them gain a better understanding of the structure of the Senate, the relationship with other agencies, and day-to-day operations. They’ll have their homework cut out for them as they work to transition from political candidate to state senator.
I remember when I was first elected to the State Senate ago in 2004. Much of the nation had been in the grips of a terrible economic downturn that hit hard and fast after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Oklahoma ’s economy and state revenues had initially been protected from that first wave of financial problems, largely due to high prices in our energy sector. But when the 2003 session began, oil and gas prices had fallen, and Oklahoma was looking at the largest budget shortfall in the history of our state. When I began my first session, the economy had improved, but it was still a challenging time.
Even in the best of years, it seems there are always more needs than there is funding. Still, we met our constitutional mandate to pass a balanced budget, and we did so without a tax increase. We did it by working together in a bipartisan manner that put the needs of the people ahead of politics.
I see some parallels between the financial situation of a few years ago and today. Certainly Oklahoma is still much better off than most other states, but we are not immune to overwhelming national and financial economic tides. We must be vigilant in our efforts to be judicious with the resources available to fund government services, such as education, transportation, public safety and health, and much more. I also believe whatever challenges that lie ahead can be successfully met, but only if all of us work together in a truly bipartisan manner, putting the needs of our citizens first and foremost. This is not a time for party politics—this is a time for all of us to come together to create a better future for all Oklahomans.
As always, I welcome your comments on state government. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 530, Oklahoma City , OK , 73105 ; call me at (405) 521-5561.