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Plan sought to move state forward by 2030

First the bad news. 

Unfortunately, there's plenty of it.

That was obvious last week as the governor and Legislature continued to wrestle  so far unsuccessfully  to deal with a $215 million budget shortfall. State agencies announced they're prepared to slash services if something isn't done soon.

The economy, hammered by rapid declines in energy prices, remains at best anemic in many parts of the state. And an array of statistics show that Oklahomans are, on the whole, more unhealthy and less educated than most of the country and that more of them are likely to be in jail or prison than elsewhere.

Surely there is some good news. Right?

Waiting. Waiting. Crickets chirping.

Yes, that's overdramatic. The Dust Bowl hasn't reappeared, the Great Depression hasn't resurfaced, and 400,000 Oklahomans haven't turned Tom Joad and fled the state over the past dozen years.

That things aren't as bad as they could be isn't good enough for business people being brought together by the State Chamber Research Foundation to help draft a plan to move Oklahoma up in the rankings: in prosperity, quality of life and education.

Business people, local officials and economic development experts from the southwest part of the state met in Lawton last week to talk about what should be done to drastically move Oklahoma up in the rankings by the year 2030 and how they accomplish that goal.

OK2030 is nearing the home stretch in formulating a strategy. The last regional meetings in Lawton and Enid were last week, and the data is being assembled for presentation on Dec. 12.

Brent Copeland, who recently retired as manager of the Goodyear tire plant here, was featured speaker at the Lawton session. 

Among the problems holding Oklahoma back, he said, are an "inefficient state government with too many leaders rowing in different directions," an outdated taxation system that is "ill-equipped to meet fiscal obligations during natural downturns in the economy," and an education system that must be better funded and stress science, technology, engineering and math education to provide the skills that the state needs in a high-tech world.

If folks needed a reminder of the bad news, he had plenty of it.

Oklahoma has the sixth-highest combined state and average local sales tax in the United States.

Only 21 percent of Oklahoma students earned "college-ready" scores on all four sections of the 2016 ACT exam, 36th in the nation.

Only 24.1 percent of the adult population has a bachelor's degree or higher, 43rd in the country.

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