The first two weeks of the legislative session have been incredibly busy – at this point, much of the attention is focused on bills shaping public policy, but as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am continuing to meet throughout the day with Sen. Roger Thompson, chair of Appropriations, and at least once each week with our subcommittee chairs as we develop the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.
While our economy has been and continues to be the envy of much of the country, we have also been very candid in the last two years that history has shown us again and again, economic winds can and do change direction. The state Board of Equalization met on Friday, and confirmed we are feeling the impact of lower oil and natural gas prices.
The board’s initial certification in late December was approximately $13 billion, but that level has now been reduced by about $611 million. We’re also aware that as oil and gas revenues decline, so may collections in other state revenue streams. It means we must continue to fight for a fiscally conservative budget that prioritizes core services, like education, public safety, health and transportation, and consider how we address those needs not only in the next fiscal year, but in the long term. We must meet the needs of the present, while building a stronger, more prosperous future for our entire state.
For the past several years, we’ve seen a very visual example of that, as work has taken place to shore up and restore long-neglected issues with the state Capitol building. Those concerns included electrical wiring that was so out of date it was a fire hazard, plumbing issues and black mold that had become serious health concerns, along with water leaks in ceilings, flooding in the basement, and limestone that was literally falling off of the outside of the building. It was a hard several years for employees, elected officials and visitors, as the entire building was a construction zone. But last year, the project was completed, making the building safe, functional, and also restoring the original architectural vision of the Capitol. It’s truly something everyone in our state can be proud of.
The Oklahoma Arts Council has helped commemorate the completion of the restoration by commissioning a beautiful project from an incredible talent from right here in Senate District 21. Lisa Sorrell, from Guthrie, our first state Capitol, who is an award-winning, nationally recognized artist who creates custom boots using hand tools and vintage machinery. She created a special pair of boots that is now on permanent display in the west hall of the ground floor of the building, and she entitled her work “This Land is Your Land.” The detail work is amazing, with artistic representations of numerous icons of our state, like our Capitol building, our state bird, our flag, oil wells, and even the first measures of music from our official state Gospel song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The boots took Lisa nearly six months to complete.
On Wednesday, I had the honor of introducing Lisa on the floor of the Senate so we could personally thank her and after, we held a reception in her honor. I’m so proud that her art is now part of the permanent collection of the Oklahoma Capitol. These boots are a beautiful representation of our rich heritage and history, and will be admired and enjoyed for generations to come.
If you’ve not been to the Capitol since the renovation was complete, I urge you to come visit. There are art galleries, a museum, and free guided tours are available on weekdays. For more information, go to https://oklahoma.gov/governor/about/oklahoma-state-capitol.html, or email email@example.com.
Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.
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