OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The State of the State address from Governor Kevin Stitt covered topics including, tax cuts, investing in education and banning gender affirming care for minors.
In front of a joint House floor, Senators and Representatives listened to the Governor talk about his plans for the 2023 legislative session and his goals for the FY24 budget.
“The time is now, we need to keep the momentum, let’s cut taxes,” said Governor Stitt.
Highlighting the $4 billion in state savings and the $1.8 billion in budget surplus, Stitt wants to put money back in the pockets of Oklahomans.
“We need to return excess revenue to the people, not grow government,” said the governor.
His executive budget asks for over $600 million of returns in the form of tax cuts.
A grocery sales tax elimination has been a goal of the Governor’s since last year. He also wants to see personal income and corporate tax cuts, something the House is willing to do but not the Senate.
“I’m not against tax cuts,” said Roger Thompson, Senate Appropriations Chair, after the speech. “It needs to be well thought out.”
When asked if the state had the money to handle lost revenue to the tune of $600 million, Thompson said no.
“Roger’s answer would be we do not,” said Thompson, speaking in third person, emphasizing that he does not speak for everyone. “We need to be addressing infrastructure. We’ve got health issues. The public health emergency is going away. There’s a lot of federal money leaving the state of Oklahoma.”
Stitt said he wants to give money back to Oklahomans but also invest in education.
His executive budget would allocate $130 million in education savings account, or vouchers, and $100 million in a reading program for PreK-3rd graders.
Stitt reiterated a slogan for vouchers saying Oklahoma “should be funding students not systems.”
“Our greatest asset is not the oil and gas industry, it’s not football teams, it’s not aerospace, it’s our kids,” said the Governor.
Outside the House chamber, a couple hundred trans-activists gathered to peacefully protest several bills aimed at banning gender affirming care.
“Trans lives matter” and “We are Oklahoma” could be heard throughout the entire fourth floor.
In his speech, Governor Stitt told the legislature to get a bill banning gender reassignment surgery to his desk and he will sign it.
“We shouldn’t let a minor get a permanent gender altering surgery in Oklahoma,” argued the Governor.
Democrats responded to the State of the State, disagreeing with many of the governor’s positions.
Mauree Turner, Democrat from OKC, is the only trans-legislator, and goes by the pronouns “they/them.”
Turner said they felt the frustration of the activists in the Capitol.
“I live and I work in a body where I could come to work on a Monday morning and get a death threat just for showing up as black, trans, Muslim and gender diverse in Oklahoma,” said Turner. “That is the reality, right? That’s the reality that so many of the people in the rotunda face.”
On the topic of vouchers, Democratic leader Cyndi Munson said both parties in the House do not support them.
Melissa Provenzano, Democrat from Tulsa, said if you took the Governor’s proposed $130 million appropriations for the vouchers, which he has said would be $5,000, then that would amount to 26,000 students.
“Right now in our private private schools, 35,000 students are already enrolled,” said Provenzano. “These funds would be wholly consumed by those paying full price for private school right now before a new single student is admitted.”