“If we are to affect change we can’t keep doing the same old thing and expect a different result.”—Gov. Mary Fallin
Fallin delivers her final State of the State address
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma— Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her final State of the State address to the second regular session of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature Feb. 5.
Fallin broke with tradition and forwent the customary recap of her administrations previous years opting to focus on the future and address the state’s “chronic budget crisis.”
“If we are to affect change we can’t keep doing the same old thing and expect a different result,” she said.
Further emphasizing the theme of ‘revenue and reform’ and the need for a new approach, she described past methods as “Robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and added, “then, frankly, [Peter] runs out of cash.”
The proposal she was supporting, known as Step-Up Oklahoma, is the result of collaboration between civic, community and business leaders from across Oklahoma.
Fallin described the plan as a “lifeline” for the state.
Without the plan she pointed out the alternatives; alternatives that seem to be slowly becoming the status quo.
She cited the continual loss of teachers to other states, schools moving to four-day weeks, program cuts and the “warehousing” of non-violent offenders in jails and prisons rather than treatment.
She then posed the question, “Is this acceptable?”
“Without passage of this plan, there are important policy initiatives that can’t be advanced. Initiatives that each of you care about, such as education, criminal justice reform, health, human services, transportation infrastructure and restructuring inefficient government entities,” she said to the legislators.
The Step-Up plan’s main selling point funds a $5,000-a-year raise for all state teachers.
It also offers options for increasing revenue, such as revisiting the $1.50 cigarette tax, increasing the motor fuel tax by $0.06 and a gross production tax on oil and gas wells from two to four percent for the next 36 months then increasing to seven percent.
On the reform side of the plan, it proposes an increase in legislator term limits, moving away from general appropriations to state agencies to line item budgets and the creation of an independent budget office.
One of the plan’s revisited proposals, which has been a political hot button in the past, is the lowering of the legislature supermajority vote of 75 percent needed for any tax increase.
The proposal would lower the required 75 percent, of both lawmaking chambers, down to 60 percent.
Despite the optimistic tone of the governor’s rhetoric the day did not pass without protest.
At the conclusion of her speech protesters in the gallery hung a banner with a caricature of Fallin that read ‘Oklahoma’s State of Despair’ as one protester began yelling “liar.”