Governor Kevin Stitt unveiled his plans for Oklahoma during his third State of the State Address. In the speech, Stitt praised his administration’s actions to confront the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and he discussed his plans to solve issues relating to public schools, unemployment and the state budget.
The Governor said his goal is to have the most productive session in the history of the state.
In his speech to the joint session of the Oklahoma legislature, Stitt said the state took the “smart route” in relation to the state’s COVID-19 response. The statement came as cases and hospitalizations are going down throughout the state. Most of the population, 3.1 million, have been tested and 5.1 percent of the population, 325,000, have been vaccinated.
“We are 7th in the nation; top 10—in vaccines administered per capita,” Stitt said. “My vision is to get our summer back…and to continue to lead our nation in vaccinations.”
The Governor restated his commitment to all schools returning to in-person instruction. He said teacher vaccinations will help in that goal, but districts should give parents the option to send their children back to school.
“Keeping students from a classroom could set them back for years,” Stitt said.
The governor highlighted Tulsa Public Schools as a district that has been out of the classroom for nearly a year. He pointed to surrounding districts that are offering some form of in-person instruction.
The governor touted the state’s economy in light of the pandemic. He argued the decision to allow businesses to reopen has helped save jobs. In June, the state’s unemployment rate was the 5th lowest in the nation and 40% lower than the national average.
In addition to the state economy rebounding, the Governor said companies from outside Oklahoma are looking to relocate in the state.
Calling his plans for the next legislative session, “the people’s agenda,” Governor Stitt said lawmakers should invest in programs that reward the people that live in Oklahoma by putting more money into health care.
“We’re one of the worst in the country in obesity and diabetes rates. We have the third most deaths from heart disease…with Medicaid Expansion now in our Constitution, this is the perfect opportunity to reimagine health care delivery in Oklahoma,” Stitt said.
House Democrats, who lost seats in the last election, called the speech a revision of history and said the governor’s policies have failed Oklahomans.
“We heard a rosy picture painted by the Governor today, but the reality is that his actions, or more often, his failure to act, have cost Oklahomans financially, emotionally, and physically,” House Minority Leader Representative Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said. “At times during the past year, instead of focusing on our state’s pandemic response and at times our surging COVID case numbers and hospitalizations, Gov. Stitt has been distracted by national politics and political patronage.”
House Republicans offered their support to the governor’s plans. The Republican party’s control over the House has never been as strong in the history of the state following November’s elections.
The governor closed his speech calling for unity. Representative Virgin said it was the least unifying speech she has heard during her time in the House, but Republican leaders said they support many of the governor’s proposals.
“Together, we must create the certainty, fairness and the unity we’ve enjoyed since 1907 as one Oklahoma, we will become a top 10 state,” Stitt said. “I’m calling on every elected official to continue serving with self-sacrifice, always putting the needs of 4 million Oklahomans ahead of the few and the powerful; the turnaround Oklahomans demanded is well underway.”
*Photos provided by the Legislative Service Bureau Photography