Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry warns lawmakers to be precise with budget cuts

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - Capitol Bureau Modified: February 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm •  Published: February 1, 2010
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"Slashing government spending can make for catchy campaign rhetoric, but rhetoric has ramifications — human ramifications — that demand to be considered," the governor said.

Henry asked lawmakers to find money to pay for the increasing costs of the state's Insure Oklahoma program, which provides subsidized health insurance premiums for eligible small businesses and individuals. He also asked them to find a revenue source for a fund that provides money for research projects.

The governor also asked lawmakers for money to continue and increase drug courts and mental health courts, intended for low-risk offenders.

"These programs are having dramatic results," Henry said. "We can save lives today and taxpayer dollars tomorrow."

Henry encouraged lawmakers to continue progress in education and teacher pay.

"I will not tolerate any effort to cut teacher pay or siphon resources from our classrooms, our students or our future," the governor said.

He complimented state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett and his education adviser, former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, for applying for federal funds that would pay for reforms such as performance pay for teachers and a data system to track the success of students. Republican lawmakers have supported similar ideas.

Henry also said lawmakers should continue early childhood education efforts.

"We cannot undermine those efforts and jeopardize the future of our youngest Oklahomans," he said.

Because it was his last State of the State address, Henry also reminisced about accomplishments during his administration. They included working with legislators to move families with young children out of the Tar Creek Superfund site, reducing tobacco use among teens, replacing junk food in public schools, attacking the use of methamphetamines and building diabetes and cancer research centers to give Oklahomans better access to quality health care.

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