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Organizations address Gov. Fallin’s ‘State of the State’ speech

OKLAHOMA CITY –Several organizations are responding to Gov. Fallin’s final ‘State of the State’ address.

Fallin addressed the Step Up Oklahoma plan, a budget plan designed by a bipartisan group of citizens and business leaders in the community.

Under the proposal, “Step Up Oklahoma” is advocating a plan that will affect taxes on the following:

  • Tobacco
  • Motor fuels
  • Wind-power generation
  • Personal income tax
  • Refundable income tax credits
  • Gaming activities
  • Gross production tax on energy companies.

“There  are parts of what is proposed that we may want to embrace, and there are parts that we may want to reject. Our goal this session should be to fix our chronic budget crisis and address important policy goals,” Fallin said. “We know there are no perfect solutions or plans. We know there is no perfect legislation. But, we also know that compromise is at the very core of the budget on which you will vote. Just as compromise formed the foundation of America, I believe compromise can fortify the foundation of Oklahoma.”

Moments after the speech ended, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association released its response to Gov. Fallin’s address.

“After being completely excluded from mention in Gov. Fallin’s state of the state address, state employees are committed to providing quality core services despite lack of support from the executive branch,” said Oklahoma Public Employees Association Director Sterling Zearley. “For years, state leaders have asked state employees to do more with less and have given them little support. However, state employees work to serve our state despite shrinking paychecks. Gov. Fallin made no mention of state employees who work in our corrections centers, care for our veterans or help families in crisis in her address. But those employees are the ones who will are to moving our state forward. We will work to ensure any revenue plan also includes a state employee pay raise in 2018 so all core services are available in Oklahoma. State employees and the services they provide can no longer be forgotten as we plan to move Oklahoma forward.  State employees will only support a plan that funds a state employee pay raise.”

“In her address, Gov. Fallin spoke of restoring confidence in state agencies, however we must remember that recent events at some state agencies caused by a few appointed officials at the top not the vast majority of employees. We won’t let state leaders portray all employees as wasteful or inefficient because a few hand-picked agency heads mismanaged their agency,” Zearley said.“Even though they have had to deal with neglectful funding of core services over the past few years, state employees are the main reason services are still available through our agencies and leaders need to remember that.”

House Speaker Charles McCall issued the following statement:

“Governor Fallin outlined our revenue problems and offered several ideas today that many Republicans in the House of Representatives can agree with. I share the governor’s belief that Oklahoma citizens want a solution to our budget issues and expect stability in our core government services. A much-needed teacher pay raise is still the top priority for House Republicans, but we need to identify a revenue stream to fund that commitment. The compromise revenue package crafted by the Step Up Coalition is a solution. The plan will get a hearing in the House of Representatives, and lawmakers will have an opportunity early in the legislative session to deliver for our citizens.

“I understand that House Democrats have some concerns with the package; to be clear, House Republicans certainly don’t like everything in the Coalition’s plan, either – but that is why it is a compromise. The plan offers serious governmental reforms that will both increase accountability and oversight over the administrative agencies and stabilize our budget for future economic downtowns. And it provides revenues that will bring certainty and stability to the services we provide Oklahomans, as well as a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for our state’s public school teachers. I am optimistic that members in the House – both Republican and Democratic – can come together, compromise and solve our budget issues quickly so we can move on to other important policy work that will move our state forward.”

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schultz said, “The Oklahoma Senate appreciates Governor Fallin’s emphasis on solving our budget issues. The Senate has repeatedly passed responsible revenue measures that would help fix the structural problems in our state budget and pay for important things like a teacher pay raise. But we can’t only focus on revenue. We need to implement budgetary reforms and prioritize our spending to ensure the most efficient use and best return on each tax dollar collected. We look forward to working with the governor and our colleagues in the House on solutions to our budget problems so that we can move Oklahoma in the right direction.”

Officials with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs released the following statement:

“Working Oklahomans are clawing out of the economic downturn. The budget gap has dramatically shrunk to less than $200 million. The most important thing for policymakers is to not increase in any form or fashion the personal income tax on Oklahomans. Lawmakers should also be wary of the impact their policy decisions may have on lower-income and middle-income Oklahoma families,” OCPA President Jonathan Small said. “This session provides the Governor and lawmakers the opportunity to fulfill their campaign promises: to right-size state government (which is near all-time highs) and reform government structures. Medicaid enrollment audits, TSET reforms, ending Oklahoma’s Hollywood and film production boondoggle that paid millions to Harvey Weinstein, ending crony capitalism to out-of-state wind energy companies and tribes selling tobacco, and initiation of performance and process improvement audits at every single state agency–all of these are better than simply raising taxes on Oklahomans. Pursuing these reforms will generate the savings and revenue needed to give every classroom teacher a $5,000 a year raise and protect Oklahomans.”

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest released the following statement:

“We appreciate Gov. Fallin’s message to the legislature today in her final State of the State address. She said the legislature can’t continue to do what it’s always done and hope for better results. She advocated for a different path to prosperity by endorsing the Step Up plan. We agree – we’ve been saying the same thing. We can improve Oklahoma’s image and brand if we pass the revenue raising measures of the Step Up plan. It strengthens the state budget through new revenue streams, and it strengthens public education by giving teachers a significant raise, making us more competitive with surrounding states. The hard work starts today. Our legislators have a big job to do, and the members of the Oklahoma Education Association know they are capable to meeting the challenge.”

Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh applauded Fallin’s address:

“The governor’s statements today on criminal justice reform should have a galvanizing effect on our state’s elected officials,” Allbaugh said. “At DOC, we deal with reality, not fantasy. And the reality is the state is failing by continuing to put people in prison with no regard for how they got there in the first place, and little support for reentry programs. This morning, our state prisons were at 113 percent of capacity. The Governor’s dedication to sentencing reform is crucial to ease inmate population growth, reduce spending and prevent individuals from becoming felons in the first place. That helps them lead more productive lives, which makes for better neighbors for us all. Additionally, fewer inmates means more resources for programs to help offenders return to society. We pledge to continue working with legislative leaders and the governor as they make decisions in the best interests of our state and its future.”