Monday, October 02, 2006

Incumbent governor deserves re-election
Gov. Brad Henry has served superbly during a tumultuous time in Oklahoma politics.

By Tulsa World's Editorial Writers

Henry took office in 2003 facing one of the most severe budget problems in state history as a result of Oklahoma's economic downturn. His experience as a legislator helped him cope with heavy reductions in state government at the same time he dealt with a Legislature that became increasingly rancorous as the political parties fought for control.

Through thick and thin, he has been unfailingly cheerful and optimistic, his pride in Oklahoma expressed in every public appearance. He is proud to be the governor of Oklahoma. That attitude has been a big factor in raising Oklahomans' spirits.

He quickly recognized the importance of dealing with the Tar Creek environmental disaster caused by decades of lead mining centered under Picher in northeastern Oklahoma. Despite the budget crunch, he directed state money toward relocation of families with children exposed to lead poisoning there. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma's senior U.S. senator, has focused federal efforts on the Superfund site, and it appears that Henry's and Inhofe's efforts will ultimately remove all Picher area residents from harm's way. Tar Creek had been
largely ignored by elected officials for more than 20 years even as the Environmental Protection Agency poured $120 million or more into Band-Aid programs there.

Henry dealt with a divided Legislature in a nonpartisan manner and justifiably claims many accomplishments. His work on compacts with Oklahoma Indian tribes has resulted in millions of dollars in additional money for education and health insurance.

He successfully sought more money for higher education and pushed through significant raises for teachers. He brokered a legislative agreement on tax reductions. He pledges to continue to work to improve education, corrections, and health services.

When Henry took office, the Constitutional Reserve Fund, known as the "rainy day fund," was depleted. Henry led a successful effort to make it more difficult for governors and Legislatures to use the fund except for budget shortfalls and true emergencies. He wants to put more money in savings to protect against the budget crunch he faced in 2003. That, and other governmental reforms are among his goals for his second term.

He is opposed for re-election by former U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, who has simply not made a convincing case to voters why he should be elected governor.

Henry has served admirably. We think that one good term deserves another.

Oklahomans should not hesitate to return him to office for another four years.

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