Credit where credit's due

Af­ter tax hike, Moody's im­proves Ok­la­homa's rat­ing

Tulsa World - - Opinion -

Ok­la­homa is get­ting credit.

Last year, Moody's In­vestor Ser­vices low­ered the state's rat­ing out­look to neg­a­tive. Other bond rat­ing ser­vices also down­graded Ok­la­homa's credit, cit­ing the state's re­peated bud­get fail­ures and the in­abil­ity of law­mak­ers to take nec­es­sary fis­cal steps.

But last week, Moody's re­vised that rat­ing back to sta­ble. Wall Street's best minds think the state is a bet­ter risk.

We agree with Gov. Mary Fallin that the Moody's re­port is ter­rific news for Ok­la­homa. Fallin cred­ited the state's grow­ing econ­omy, low debt bur­den and unem­ploy­ment and the tax in­crease she signed into law ear­lier this year to fund a teacher pay in­creases.

The grow­ing state econ­omy has al­lowed a $370 mil­lion de­posit in the con­sti­tu­tional Rainy Day Fund in re­cent months. When Fallin was sworn into of­fice, the fund had $2.03.

Those who re­peat the flawed the­ory that state gov­ern­ment should be run like a busi­ness should take note. The busi­ness world says the way to run this state's busi­ness is to raise rev­enue and in­vest in the fu­ture.

The modest tax in­creases will fund a teacher pay raise av­er­ag­ing $6,100 a year, but do not solve the state's ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing prob­lem. It doesn't address class sizes or the state's in­creas­ing re­liance on un­cer­ti­fied teach­ers. The pay hike might help slow the state's loss of qual­i­fied teach­ers to other states, but state fund­ing of pub­lic schools re­mains in­ad­e­quate.

The Moody's re­port says the state's econ­omy con­tin­ues to rely on the oil and gas sec­tor, an ex­trac­tion in­dus­try with mar­ket-driven booms and busts. The road to a more di­ver­si­fied econ­omy starts with a bet­ter ed­u­cated pub­lic — peo­ple with math and lan­guage skills that al­low them to in­no­vate and pros­per re­gard­less of petroleum prices.

The Moody's re­port is si­mul­ta­ne­ously good news for the state, well de­served credit for hard work at the state Capi­tol and a re­minder that the job is not done. The next crit­i­cal turn­ing point in that road is set for Nov. 6.

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