2007 might be the ideal time to create a "MAPS for Oklahoma" program that painlessly generates the revenue we need to make our state a leader. Let's resolve to replace the income tax with alternative taxes that attract manufacturing jobs and corporate headquarters, and make Oklahoma an economic growth state. If a fraction of a cent can change Oklahoma City, imagine what that same fraction could do for the entire state, especially if we couple it with other changes.
Let's resolve to use the state's oil and gas prosperity to foster stronger economic, educational and social growth. Let's resolve to consolidate the smallest school districts so they can deploy their financial assets toward better teacher pay and stronger and more diverse curriculums offering more math, science, foreign language and advanced technology.
Oklahoma has long ranked near the top in the number of people in prison. Let's resolve to address the direct correlation between being at the bottom on public school funding and near the top of prison growth, and realize what we haven't spent on schools is being spent on prisons.
Improving our educational system will improve our state's horrible graduation and dropout rates, the poor health of our citizens, sky-high divorce rates, abuse and blind faith. If God helps those who help themselves, it's time to do our part. Let's resolve to take a personal responsibility for our actions and stop blaming fast food restaurants for obesity, Wal-Mart for everything, the rich for being "¦ rich, and society for not doing more for us. Education and hard work are still the keys to the American dream. If we need proof, drive around Oklahoma City's Asian district to see the success Vietnamese-Americans have achieved in the face of language and cultural barriers.
Let's resolve to consolidate the state's public colleges and universities under the flags of Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. This would save millions of dollars in administrative costs and help each school reformulate its offerings to reduce curriculum duplication and reinvest those dollars in excellence. In addition to keeping our best and brightest here, let's resolve to recruit America's best and brightest to study in Oklahoma by developing consortiums of public and private colleges that bring together the best of our state.
Oklahoma's Indian community and the state should resolve to work together to better the lives and economic futures of all our citizens. Our collective efforts could make Oklahoma an American resort and convention mecca, making our growing casino industry home to great restaurants, hotels, golf courses, retail and entertainment. If it can work in Branson, Mo., and the desert in Nevada, it can work in Oklahoma.
This new year, let's resolve to be innovative, progressive and forward-looking. A spirit of political cooperation could make our state a leader rather than a follower. Given the changes in leadership at the Capitol, if we create a "MAPS for Oklahoma" program that mirrors the success of the Oklahoma City MAPS programs which jump-start our economic and educational development, the people of Oklahoma will be the beneficiaries, and the rest of the nation will use Oklahoma as a role model for economic and social growth. - Vince Orza
Orza, chairman and CEO of Eateries Inc., is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.