Looking ahead 

Speaking before a joint session of the Legislature, Fallin touched on both accomplishments over the past few years as well as some of the initiatives and measures she hopes to implement over the coming year.

Among the issues she hopes to see movement on this legislative session are:
• a cut of the top state income tax rate, from its current level of 5.25 percent to 5 percent;
• a $13.5 million increase to education funding;
• the continued conversion of state vehicles from gasoline-burning to compressed natural gas;
• the performance evaluation and possible sale of some state buildings; and
• $10 million to fund repairs to the Capitol building.

“The Capitol is the symbol of our state, a place of business, a living museum dedicated to preserving Oklahoma’s history, its literature and its artwork,” Fallin said, “and it’s not right for our visitors to come to the Capitol and see construction cones and barriers outside, to have crumbling facades from the top, and to have a faulty sewer system that stinks.”

After that call was met with applause, Fallin said, “I’m glad somebody else doesn’t like that smell in the basement, because I don’t like it.”

She then turned to Sen. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, who was not clapping, and said, “Richard, you must like it,” a line that prompted peals of laughter.

Health issues
Fallin also called for $50 million in additional funds for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and called for a reform of the state’s health care system without expanding the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.

She said such an expansion would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, and that Oklahoma’s health care reform should instead focus on preventing tobacco use and substance abuse, and encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Calling the national health care system a “sick-care system,” Fallin said that while getting more people insured is a good thing, preventing sickness is not addressed in the federal law.

“Rather than encouraging healthy lifestyle and wellness, it waits to provide extensive treatment to people who are already sick and are driving up our health care costs,” she said.

Lt. Gov, Todd Lamb, House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Fallin
Credit: Shannon Cornman

In addition, Fallin said she is proposing an increase of $40 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide insurance for those currently eligible for Medicaid who may not currently be signed up for it, as well as increased funding for $16 million for mental health care.

Up in smoke?
One other item that Oklahoma City officials have been lobbying for was mentioned by the governor: allowing municipalities to outlaw smoking in public places.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said Fallin’s is an aggressive agenda for conservative policies in Oklahoma, and many of the things in her budget will be met with consensus in the House.

Nevertheless, he said he was skeptical as to whether local control of the smoking issue would work in terms of increasing tobacco cessation numbers.

Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, said he agreed with some portions of Fallin’s speech, but had reservations about others.

“The governor did a good job of delivering a speech that had a few bad ideas in it,” Burrage said, criticizing the plan to cut taxes without quantifying how much it would cost the state.

In addition, he said the proposed increase to education funding is miniscule during a time of shrinking school budgets and resources.

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