Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on Governor Stitt’s State of the State address and proposed budget:
Governor Stitt has proposed some positive steps to pull Oklahoma up from a decade of budget cuts and lost services. We applaud the governor’s endorsement of another teacher raise and funding for sensible criminal justice reforms and rehabilitation programs.
At the same time, Oklahomans have other serious needs that should not be forgotten. School support staff, like teaching aides, custodians, and food and transportation workers, also need raises to reflect the important jobs they are doing to make our schools a safe place to learn. Schools need more investment in the state funding formula, not only to give teachers a raise, but also to bring down class sizes and restore arts, music, and other important opportunities for our kids. Our economy needs a reinvestment in higher education, which has been cut most in the nation since 2012, with rising tuition and lost programs as a result. Working families need a restored Earned Income Tax Credit to make it easier to pay the bills. Our mental health providers need a stronger boost to bring Oklahoma out of the bottom in per capita mental health funding.
Oklahoma will also never escape the bottom ten states for health, much less make it to the top ten, as long as we continue to refuse the opportunity to bring health coverage to more than 100,000 Oklahomans and save our rural hospitals and community health centers. The enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expansion has been adopted in all but 14 states, and it has survived numerous court challenges and attempts at repeal. It is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this opportunity is here to stay, and it is time for Governor Stitt and the Legislature to put politics aside and bring these much needed funds home to Oklahoma.