Gov. Brad Henry said Monday in his State of the State speech to the Oklahoma legislature that hard times facing the state could have a silver lining.
"In this demanding economic environment, we must make difficult decisions. But, just as the Chinese character for 'crisis' also denotes 'opportunity,' so, too, do the challenges we face present an opportunity to improve government," Henry said.
Henry presaged the estimated $600 million in cuts to the state budget as "somber" but said his budget had "surgical cuts" that spared important programs, such as health and transportation.
"Today, I have placed before you a balanced budget that makes precise, surgical cuts while protecting vital state functions such as education, healthcare, transportation and public safety. Through efficiencies and savings that range from purchasing reforms to consolidated information technologies, we can help ensure a government of greater effectiveness and excellence," Henry said.
Henry decried party-favored political legislation, appealing for bipartisanship before the Republican controlled legislature.
"We can push polarizing legislation that grabs the attention of bloggers and talk radio, or we can pursue legislation that propels Oklahoma firmly into the 21st century," Henry said. "We can cater to party lines and special interests, or we can work, together, in the best interests of the people and the state we love."
Henry also called for healthcare coverage for autism, saying that insurance company bans on coverage be outlawed.
"None of us would think of denying health coverage to a child suffering from diabetes or battling against cancer," Henry said. "Why deny that same coverage to an autistic child? I call on this Legislature to ensure that all insurance companies follow the lead of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and include autism coverage in their policies so families can get the help they need and deserve."