The State of the State Address by newly elected Governor Kevin Stitt started by reiterating his commitment to “make Oklahoma a top ten state.” He gave a three-pronged approach to achieve this lofty goal. The first being to bring talent from across the state to serve in leadership positions. He seemed to be hinting at increasing diversity, although he stopped short at diversity in experience, making no mention of gender, race, or socioeconomic inclusion.

His next points were to simply set measurable goals then to be held accountable to them.

He then proceeded to sing a chorus of reimagining government. Starting with bestowing the office of the governor with the power to assign agency heads rather than have them elected by a board.

He then requested the legislature approve a $20 million grant that would be used for the purpose of bringing agencies digitally up to date. He mentioned the need to get Oklahoma’s licenses REAL ID compliant.

For education he wanted the state to “reimagine” education funding. Stating he wanted to “remove the handcuffs” from communities when it came to funding their schools. He did not expound on what he meant by this, but it did harken back to one of the state questions from last November (SQ 801) which would have expanded the use of ad valorem taxes to allow schools to use them for operations rather than on structural needs of the school buildings themselves.

He further spoke on wanting to bring teacher pay to the top in the region, raising teacher salary another $1,200 and to implement a bonus system in order to keep certified teachers in Oklahoma. He then said he wanted to “reimagine school districting” but didn’t expand much on that statement.

Governor Stitt jumped on board for criminal justice reform saying he wanted to look at sentencing regarding non-violent crimes and re-entry programs. He specifically requested $1.1 million for treatment for women in recovery.

Stitt ended on a low note seeming to flat out reject Medicaid expansion. His reasoning for this was that although the money is there now, the Federal government could potentially pull back the money and Oklahoma would be left footing the bill. Stating, “They’ve [the federal government] done it before and they will do it again.”

Which was quickly rebuffed by OK Policy’s Gene Perry stating, “In the program’s more than 50 year history, the federal government has not once reduced state matching support for Medicaid.”

Senate Pro Tempore, Greg Treat, released a statement saying he is optimistic about working under a Stitt administration.

“Governor Stitt gave a great speech where he laid out a clear vision to provide accountability, transparency, and results. Senate Republicans are focusing on these issues too through our agenda that includes budget transparency, government accountability, education investment and reform, and furthering criminal justice reform. There is a renewed sense of optimism and excitement at the Capitol and I think the governor’s speech today is reflective of that. I expect much more cooperation this year between the Senate, the House and the governor which is good for Oklahoma. Senate Republicans are excited about the 2019 session and look forward to working with Governor Stitt, and the House to put Oklahoma on the path to top 10,” Treat said.

To view the State of the State address in its entirety click here State of the State Address