[Oklahoma City, OK, February 1, 2016] In today’s State of the State address from Governor Fallin, many were befuddled as to what direction she believes we should see the state go this year, other than the perpetual slide down the mountain. This year’s address was little more than more Republican rhetoric and talking points – spread far enough apart that when one statement contradicted an earlier one it was harder to spot.
Governor Fallin finally recognized that Oklahoma has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, but without admitting that the Republican legislature and her leadership are to blame. We are shocked that the Governor is proposing $900 million in new taxes in order to recuperate the losses incurred through her administration’s failed tax experiment. She is continuing to try to shift the tax burden from the people and corporations that are already receiving huge tax breaks and place it on the backs of hardworking Oklahoma families that need relief the most.
Today the Governor once again showed her lack of genuine support for public education in Oklahoma.A major part of her “green means go” budget proposal is a $3,000 per year pay increase for teachers. Our response: “Where is the money?!?!?” Oklahoma is in one of the biggest budget crises since the 1980s, with the possibility of yet another revenue failure in the coming months. Even if the legislature manages to pass this nominal pay raise, with Fallin’s massive sales tax increase, most teachers won’t see any of that money stay in their pocket.
Furthermore, rural schools and rural Oklahomans were placed on the chopping block with the suggestion of forced school consolidation and the Governor’s endorsement of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which only help a few in urban areas of the state. Rural Oklahoma’s educational options are not as broad as the private and charter school selection we see in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and the surrounding metropolitan areas however, the Governor and most Republican legislators support this model which has proven time and again to be black holes of financial ruin and a lack of accountability. The most important thing we can do is educate the children of our state, but Fallin’s failed leadership continues to demonize teachers and school administrators while punishing students and parents for the failed policies of this Republican administration.
Governor Fallin completely failed to address the numerous concerns around earthquakes and wastewater disposal wells – an issue that many Oklahomans from across the state have come out to protest the lack of action from the legislature and the Governor. Nothing was mentioned about a plan to embolden the Corporation Commission to take further action and there was no discussion on the recent $1.4 million transfer to conduct more research on the earthquakes.
Finally, there was no mention of any plan to expand Medicaid despite wide support from Oklahomans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike. Medicaid expansion would mean increased revenue for Oklahoma, the ability to save rural hospitals and care facilities, and provide nearly 100,000 Oklahomans with affordable healthcare coverage.
There were, however, a few points where, for a moment, there seemed to be a light switch flipped on far down the hallway. “She is proposing a ballot initiative to address issues affecting non-violent criminal sentencing policies such as those affecting drug possession and the minimum value threshold for grand larceny,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party. “She also proposed modernizing Oklahoma’s sales tax not by increasing the rate but by ‘broadening the tax base’ by imposing new or additional taxes on more goods and services.
“This State of the State address was an example in the Governor’s lack of concern for the issues facing the poor and middle class, children and families, and teachers. It was, however, another example of her unwavering support for failed economic policies, political rhetoric, and talking points that given enough distance in a speech can contradict themselves.”