ED CANNADY: Outstanding recognition of veterans

As a veteran (25th Infantry, 1959-62), I am proud of District 15 for its recognition of veterans at this time and the dedication to such efforts. I appreciated joining Sen. Larry Boggs in having legislation passed to name the new bridge on Oklahoma Highway 9 entering Stigler from the west honoring veterans who gave their lives in defense of this country. To represent their sacrifices, the bridge was named “The Cost of Freedom Memorial Bridge.” Ed Tatman and the Stigler VFW Post and the Stigler Class of 1963 took the lead in raising the money and providing an appropriate setting for this signage and event. Secondly, I was honored to be asked to speak at Veterans Day events in downtown Checotah and Keota Public School. I feel honored to be able to participate in these events in that they are designed to honor both current and past veterans for their service and sacrifice for this nation. Our state has had a reputation for being both politically and fiscally conservative, irrespective of political party affiliation. In my seven years as a member of the state House of Representative, I have supported some aspects of this tradition and opposed others. The part I struggle with the most is when we say one thing but do another. This hypocrisy provides the primary setting for the context for this Journal. First, we in government pride ourselves in being fiscally cautious and vigilant on spending that may be seen as frivolous. The recent report in The Oklahoman presents us with disturbing news of extreme pay raises going to state agency administrators while rank and file state employees are told they may be considered only after a thorough study is completed. This seems to ignore the study that was done on this issue last interim. Some of the annual administrative pay raises include the following: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, $47,000; Department of Mental Health, $40,000; Tourism executive director, $40,000; banking commissioner, $10,000; and secretary of state, $50,000. Other agency administrators’ salary increases have not been published, since the agencies do not have to report them to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services until August. Some of the contradictions these present are the fact that many of our state parks under the Tourism Department have been closed or services minimized, and our state troopers are understaffed by at least 30 percent and salaries are ranked 17th to 20th compared to other law enforcement personnel in various cities and counties in the state. Combine this with the fact our state public employees have gone at least 8 years without being considered for raises. This produces the basis for evidence of hypocrisy. This leads me to my next topic of hypocrisy which was evident in an interim study in the House States Rights Committee, which had as its themes “Is the federal government taking over our state agencies?” and “How to protect state sovereignty in uncertain times.” The average cost to conduct an interim study is approximately $40,000 for travel and other expenses. While the chairman of this committee, Rep. Moore, R-Edmond, was very fair in allowing questions of the presenters, who primarily consisted of state agency heads or their spokespersons, the theme was that the federal government has been intrusive in their operations. However, each of these agencies receives a large amount of federal money for their operation and many admitted they could not function without this money from the federal coffers. It was estimated in this hearing we receive back from the U.S. government $2 billion more than we send in from our state. As one agency head admitted, without this, his agency’s operation would be marginalized. I guess what bothers me most is the above extreme and grotesque pay raises came as a result of their agencies being nursed by the very institution (U.S. government) for which they often express contempt. On a more positive note concerning that interim study, several agency heads testified that they did not have a problem working with the federal government relative to the stipulations on the budget. While this was not the desired message for the committee leaders, when several of us asked questions concerning the Health Care Authority, Department of Public Safety, Conservation Commission, Homeland Security, Department of Human Services about their working relationship with the federal government agencies, they almost uniformly expressed recognition the federal government was a workable partner in their fulfilling their mission for the citizens of the state. My next Journal will provide examples of federal and state cooperative efforts when it comes to school safety — both structural and operational. Ed Cannaday represents District 15, which includes part of LeFlore County, in the Oklahoma House. Write him at P.O. Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, e-mail him at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, call him at (405) 557-7375 or go to his website at www.edcannaday.com.