e state then had only about $70 million in the Rainy Day Fund, and legislators spent all but $100,000 of it.
The nation’s recession, which appears to be tightening its grip on Oklahoma, shouldn’t overwhelm legislators, the governor said.
“We should also remember that the sun will shine again,” he said. “This session must be about more than simply seeing our state through a troubled today; we must also plan ahead to ensure prosperity and promise for tomorrow.”
He proposed legislators find a permanent funding source for the state’s research endowment fund, which can help produce high-paying jobs.
“Each year we fail to act put us at a greater competitive disadvantage,” Henry said. “Biotech, aerospace, renewable energies, knowledge-based industries – these are the gateways to a thriving economy in the global age.”
Henry also brought up the topic of insurance coverage for autistic children, a divisive, emotional issue last year fueled by a House committee twice refusing to let parents of autistic children speak.
He complimented the House for its proposal to increase the number of autism service providers in Oklahoma, but called on legislators to ensure all insurance companies follow the lead of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and include autism coverage in its policies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield has said it would add benefits for autism to its coverage beginning next year.
“Too many of our families face the daunting task of raising autistic children with little or no help,” he said.
Henry, who has preached nonpartisanship throughout his administration, urged lawmakers “to shrug off the perceived slights that sometimes tarnish the business of this building.”
Gandhi noted an “‘eye for an eye’ makes the whole world blind,” the governor said. “The challenges of 2009 and beyond will require clear vision.”