Gov. Fallin's Final State Of The State Address Focuses On Budget Fix
OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Mary Fallin presented her 8th and final state of the state address Monday. It comes at a time when lawmakers have two massive budget holes to fill.
The legislature will be working to fill a $235-million hole left in this year’s fiscal budget, while at the same time working to fill an expected $648-million hole in next year’s budget. So, the governor, again, called for long term solutions.
“It is my honor to present the second regular session of the 56th legislature, my state of the state address and the final one of my administration,” Governor Fallin said to little applause.
Not much excitement or optimism going into this year’s legislative session. A group unfurled a “Oklahoma state of despair” banner during the governor’s speech and a heckler shouted “liar” at the end.
During her annual state of the state speech, Governor Fallin backed a plan by business and civic leaders, calling themselves “Step up OK”, to raise taxes and make changes to the structure of state government.
“It’s designed to put our state on a fiscally stable path, bring about much-needed reform, give our teachers a $5,000 pay raise, and frankly to break the gridlock,” the governor said.
Many of the ideas presented in the plan have been pitched before. They’re being met with mixed reviews.
“The ‘Step Up’ plan is a good starting spot. Frankly, we voted in favor of some of the measures. And many of the measures we haven’t,” said Senator John Sparks (D) House Minority Leader.
Senator Mike Schulz (R) President Pro Tempore said, “I think it is a good revenue package that does put us on a much better path looking forward as a state.”
Representative Cory Wiliams (D) Stillwater said, “This ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ plan that you see before you is nothing more than a ploy by the oil and gas industry to avoid a ballot issue in November where Oklahomans overwhelmingly will adopt a restoration of the gross production tax to a seven percent which is a reasonable tax rate.”
The industry agreed to a rate hike from two to four percent. The governor says the key here is compromise.
“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” Fallin said, “Now it is time for us to step up, be courageous, do our jobs, and pass this plan!”
The governor also addressed the need for meaningful criminal justice reform.
Legislators could begin unveiling “Step Up Oklahoma” bills this week.