Patrick B. McGuigan, Special to The Southwest Ledger
The first woman to hold the title of Majority Floor Leader in the Oklahoma Senate shared a range of candid reflections in a recent interview, and in an article about the ups and downs of the spring 2021 session of the Legislature.
Asked to explain why she first ran for public office, Senator Kim R. David remembered: “I was asked if I’d run for office. The Senate leadership was looking for women who are also small business owners and I fit that description.
“My husband and I sat and talked about it. The question in our minds was whether I could make a difference. We looked at everything through that viewpoint. I thought I could make a difference. He agreed. I wanted to make life better for my kids.”
After 11 years at the Capitol, she responded to a request to name her greatest success: “I’ve seen a lot of legislation come and go. I hope everybody who looks at my time in the Legislature understands that I want to be remembered as a person who was willing to make a difference. The old definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over, and expect to somehow get a different result.
“I worked on many issues, and always asked myself if the step under consideration was the right thing to do. As I look back, I believe the work on encouraging better prospects for women who are incarcerated was important. I believe we made great strides in that area.
“A lot of the DHS [Department of Human Services] picture has improved, and for those facing mental health challenges. We enacted major reforms.
“Related to that, I am happy we devoted a lot more attention to first responders, and getting them assistance for mental health – processing what they’ve seen and experienced and dealing with it.”
On the flip side, outlining her greatest disappointment, the Republican from Porter said, “I have learned that change is slow. I believe we have moved the needle quite a bit. However, I’ve seen a lot of knowledge walk out the door at the Legislature. I’m not sure 12 years is enough time to do what needs to be done on important questions.
“I’d like to move the needle forward, including discussion of that loss of experience and understanding as capable people leave the Legislature. After they’re gone, we start all over again, it seems.”
In a recent article “from the majority floor leader’s desk” Sen. David looked back at the 2021 legislative session with satisfaction.
Her reflections in that essay provide more detail to comments she made reported by The Southwest Ledger (June 10).
A change in the flexible benefits “our dedicated 33,000 state employees by modernizing the annual … employee flexible benefit allowance to better address ever-increasing healthcare costs.”
As for the hefty state budget approved late in May, she wrote, “It’s hard to believe we’ve come so far from the $1.3 billion revenue shortfall we were facing last year from low energy prices and the pandemic.”
Sen. David wrote the spending framework will “protect our core state services like education, public safety, and health and human services, among the many others. It restores last session’s cuts and increases most of the nearly 70 state agency budgets.
“Our public schools are always a priority and received a revenue boost of nearly $172 million, resulting in a historic $3.2 billion budget, which accounts for over one-third of the total state budget. Overall, including higher education and other education-related agencies, Oklahoma education will receive nearly $4.17 billion, which is nearly half of the total state budget.”
The Legislature passed and the governor signed “a $42 million investment … to expand broadband services statewide, especially in rural areas. Oklahoma ranks 47th nationally in broadband connectivity, hurting not only those trying to work and learn, but deterring businesses from locating here. This provider tax rebate will help more communities get the high-speed internet service they need to function in our digital age.”
At the same time, she pointed out, “All Oklahomans will receive tax relief through the reduction of the personal income tax to 4.75 percent, and low-income families will also receive additional relief through the restoration of the state earned income tax credit refundability. Our business community will see relief through the corporate income tax being reduced to 4 percent.”
On an issue of note, Sen. David wrote: “The budget includes $164 million to fund the voter-approved Medicaid expansion. OU Health’s historic sales tax credit was also restored to allow significantly more nurses and doctors to be trained, addressing our state’s dangerous shortage of medical professionals, especially in rural areas like ours.
“Further helping rural Oklahoma, an additional $15 million will be provided for Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grants for critical infrastructure projects in communities of 7,000 or less. These grants cover transportation, water and other major infrastructure needs.”
In our interview, I asked about her hopes for Oklahoma. She replied succinctly: “I hope others will take up the legacy of the work we’ve done in 12 years. We need to continue to grow jobs and grow the economy. We can never be a ‘Top 10 state’ without a stronger and stronger economy. I don’t want to leave us at 47th or 48th in any good things.”
NOTE: This profile first appeared in The Southwest Ledger. Southwest Ledger, 7602 US Highway 277, Elgin, OK 73538, (580) 350-1111. It is reposted here with permission.