OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her final State of the State address Monday afternoon before a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
The governor didn’t go into specifics of her budget proposal for Oklahoma, saying legislators had her budget package and encouraging them to review it. She did endorse the Step Up Oklahoma plan that provides reforms and new revenue for state government.
It also includes a $5,000 raise for Oklahoma teachers.
Fallin focused in on the budget challenges the state faces, calling on legislators to take action to resolve structural issues in the budget and find recurring revenue to plug budget holes that have caused crisis after crisis over the past few years.
“Now, it is our solemn duty to raise the torch and show again that the Oklahoma Standard lives,” Fallin said. “And when the people say we can’t do it, and we can’t solve our budget crisis and give our teachers pay raise or we can’t bring better accountability – let’s show them we can.”
The governor also repeated her endorsement of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, a proposal created by state business and community leaders. The creators of the plan claim it will raise enough new revenue through a combination of new taxes and reform to existing tax credits, exemptions and loopholes to stabilize Oklahoma’s state budget and provide for a $5,000 teacher pay raise.
“We know there are no perfect solutions or plans,” Fallin said. “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. Just as compromise formed the foundation of America, I believe compromise can fortify the foundation of Oklahoma.”
Fallin said the time to act to stabilize Oklahoma’s budget is now, and the state cannot afford to put it off.
“Our state is at a crossroads. The actions we take will be a game-changer,” she said. “It is time to decide which future we want our families and children to have.One path would be to continue year after year with an air of uncertainty that consumes our thoughts, drains our hopes – like the old saying of robbing Peter to pay Paul – then Paul runs out of cash. If we are to effect change, we can’t keep doing the same old thing and expect a different result.”
Fallin concluded her remarks challenging lawmakers to remember the teachers who have not had a pay raise, college students who are unsure of the future and Oklahoma residents who are needing treatment for mental health.
“Ronald Reagan once reminded us America is too great for small dreams,” Fallin said. “Friends, Oklahomans also deserve more than small dreams. They need solutions to allow their big dreams to come true. Before us is a rare opportunity to bring forth an enduring reality for a promising future. Oklahomans deserve nothing less.”
She closed by saying it’s time to summon courage, invest in Oklahoma and do the people’s work.
“Let’s make Oklahoma a special place where we and our children and their children choose to live.”