OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislators from across Oklahoma headed to the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday to begin this year’s session.
On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt held his fourth ‘State of the State’ address to begin the 2022 legislative session.
During the speech, Stitt addressed the coronavirus pandemic, schools, and the budget. He also spoke about his ongoing fight regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling.
“From the beginning, I’ve sounded the alarm on the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. Because I knew then, and I know now, that even a narrow Supreme Court ruling can fundamentally change a state. Oklahoma has been robbed of the authority to prosecute crimes. Put simply, McGirt jeopardizes justice,” Stitt said.
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that McGirt is not retroactive.
“This isn’t about winning and losing. This isn’t personal. It’s not Kevin Stitt versus the tribes. Instead, it’s about certainty. It’s about law and order. It’s about fairness, equal protection under the law, and one set of rules. We’re all Oklahomans. Let’s work together to solve this,” he added.
Stitt said he also wants to make Oklahoma the ‘most business friendly state in the country.’
He says hundreds of jobs are being created across Oklahoma, but some businesses are struggling to find the employees they need.
Over the next five years, Stitt says Tinker Air Force Base is expected to add 6,000 to 10,000 new jobs.
“Our state’s workforce needs to grow at the same pace as our businesses. That means we have to be bold. Our entire education system must be aligned and motivated to meet this challenge head on. Let’s tear down the silos between K-12, Career Techs and Higher Ed to train the next generation. Every student needs to be college ready or career ready,” he said.
Stitt says he wants to increase apprenticeships in high school and pathways to jobs that don’t require a college degree.
While business is growing, he says a lot needs to change when it comes to education in the state.
“We provided record funding for all public schools, including charter and rural schools. These initial investments were good first steps for Oklahoma’s education turnaround, but there’s much more to do. Just 15% of Oklahoma high school graduates are ready for college in English, math, reading and science — less than one out of five. We can do better than 47th in the nation when it comes to our kids. We’ve tiptoed around the edges for far too long. It’s clear the status quo isn’t working,” he said.
Stitt says many teachers decided to leave the classroom to make more money elsewhere.
“Oklahoma students can’t be the best without the best teachers. That’s why I’m proposing matching funds so that our best teachers can make six figure salaries and stay in the classroom,” he said.
He also talked about proposed changes to the medical marijuana industry.
“This is causing major problems in our communities, and we must get it under control. When Oklahomans voted for Medical Marijuana, they were sold a bill of goods. The state question was misleading, and it has tied our hands as we regulate the industry. Because of that state question, Oklahoma charges just $2500 for a commercial license. Even California charges up to $181,000 – 72 times more! As a result, we have 7 times the growers than California with just 10% of the people. Next door in Arkansas, they have 8 growers. We have 8,300,” he said.
Stitt says he has directed law enforcement to crack down on marijuana in the black market.
He says he supports eliminating the grocery tax, saying Oklahoma is one of only 13 states that tax groceries.
“Many Oklahomans are already struggling under the weight of record inflation. Let’s give them more help this year. Because, after all, we need more taxpayers, not more taxes. States across the country are continuing to cut taxes on their citizens. Nine states don’t charge a personal income tax. Many others are racing to join them, and we can’t be left behind,” he said.
Stitt says his vision is to cut taxes based on how the state’s economy is growing.
“As our economy grows, Oklahomans share in our success by keeping more of their hard-earned money,” he said.
To read his full speech, click here.
House and Senate Democrats response to the State of the State:
“We are disappointed that the governor did not mention COVID-19 in his speech or offer any plans to get the pandemic under control. Our caucus believes our state’s top priority is defeating the pandemic so we can focus on recovery and our state’s most urgent challenges.
We are also opposed to new proposals to expand school vouchers. Senate Democrats believe we must invest in our public schools, not drain scarce resources to fund private school vouchers. Public dollars should be invested in public schools.
The governor chose to give a partisan and highly divisive speech that was more about politics than solutions. This is the wrong approach. We should be working together on behalf of all Oklahomans.”Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, OKC statement on behalf of Senate Democratic Caucus