Put a Bow on It

Put a Bow on It - July 7, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

There are phrases that are used to illustrate that whatever you call something, it doesn’t change what it is. In Shakespeare’s age, it was “A Rose by any other name is still a Rose.” Some areas of the country say, “Put a Bow on It.” In rural Oklahoma, when we recognize that using fancy names and wishing on stars doesn’t change reality. Thus, “Putting Lipstick on a Pig,” doesn’t turn a stinking swine into a princess.

The reality is that Oklahoma’s state government has put us in a bind. Over the past dozen years, reckless cuts to mental health funding and education have placed us in a situation that will take decades to recover.

Allowing the oil and gas industry to destroy our highways, roads and streets and proliferate the occurrences of earthquakes has placed a repair burden on counties and municipalities that they cannot pay.

Barring the ability of local government to protecting their citizens from the devastating effects of oil and gas drilling activities adjacent to their homes has collectively reduced residential property values by millions of dollars.

Refusing to increase the percentage of Oklahomans who have health insurance from 49th (leading only the state of Texas) by accepting federal funds continues to devastate Oklahoma hospitals, ambulance services and ancillary medical services.

The list goes on and on.

Enter Governor Stitt who announced that he plans to make Oklahoma a Top 10 State. That is a laudable goal, but doing so takes more than just providing lip service. As Oklahomans, we are a proud people. It rubs us the wrong way when anyone criticizes our home state.

The first thing that Governor Stitt needs to do is get past the partisan rhetoric and accept federal Medicaid dollars that we are sending to Washington D.C. Currently, all but 14 states are doing so and those 36 states that are doing so are not facing hospital closures and the bankruptcy of ambulance services. Better health outcomes by allowing more Oklahomans access to health care is a prime example of how to put Oklahoma on a path toward becoming a Top 10 State.

Better health outcomes include improved mental health services and substance abuse treatment. Oklahoma ranks 3rd in the nation (22.4% of all Oklahoma citizens) for citizens having some degree of mental illness.  Also, Oklahoma ranks 2nd in the nation (11.9% of all Oklahoma citizens) for citizens having substance abuse disorders. That means that between 700,000 and 950,000 adult Oklahomans need services. Many of those would be eligible for services if Oklahoma accepted those federal dollars.

Another step toward becoming a Top Ten State would be to improve funding to Oklahoma’s public schools, particularly across rural Oklahoma, by curtailing low performing charter schools that advertise for students and have dismal graduation rates. In fact, for the 2016-17 school year, the state’s largest virtual charter school – Epic – had a 36 percent graduation rate. Insight had a 30 percent graduation rate; Connections Academy, 44 percent and the Virtual Charter Academy, 43 percent.

The statewide public school average graduation rate was 83 percent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern which the best bargain is.

Now the Lieutenant Governor wants to improve Oklahoma’s state slogan and to make Oklahomans spend billions of dollars again replacing Governor Fallin’s hideous “scissortail” license plates, tell them that Becoming a Top Ten State will require real change that will affect the quality of life of all Oklahomans and that the answer is not just covering the situation up with a pretty bow.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.