Governor Sets Course for Session

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Governor Mary Fallin issued her State of the State address Monday, calling on state lawmakers to approve a bond issue to repair the Oklahoma State Capitol and presenting an initial budget proposal.

The governor began by noting the dramatic turnaround in the Oklahoma economy. She said that the unemployment rate has dropped by almost 2 percent and Oklahoma families have seen their incomes rise by more than 6.3 percent since 2011. Oklahoma’s economy is growing much faster than the national average. These economic steps forward have come about because of tort reform, workers’ compensation reform and a concerted effort to improve Oklahoma’s business climate.

On the budget, Governor Fallin said many agencies may receive a 5 percent budget cut in order to ensure adequate funding for top priorities. She also called for a quarter of a percent reduction to the state income tax. The governor is calling for education to receive a $50 million increase, corrections to receive a $2.4 million increase and the state medical examiner’s office to receive a $2 million increase.

It is critical that we repair the Oklahoma State Capitol building, which is the people’s house. This is a priority for both state lawmakers and the governor.

The governor touched on school safety and security, highlighting a plan to help local school districts pursue safety upgrades that include storm shelters. The plan will allow schools districts to call for special one-time bond elections to pay for the shelters. I think the local level is the right place for these efforts and support her bill.

Governor Fallin called on the Legislature to work with her to address the imbalance between state employee pay and benefits, especially by raising the pay of Oklahoma Highway Patrol and corrections officers. She advocated for new hires under the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System to be moved from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan, or “401k-style benefits.”

The governor also reiterated her opposition to the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare.

With the power of the veto, the governor plays a huge role in the legislative process and I am pleased to see her goals line up closely with those of state lawmakers.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.