State senators and representatives gathered for their joint session, shortly before Gov. Kevin Stitt was led into the House of Representatives chamber. Along the way, Stitt shook hands and waved as he passed through the legislative gathering.
On Monday, the state legislative session began with the Oklahoma governor delivering his State of the State address.
In his address, Stitt discussed a variety of topics relating to different needs for the State of Oklahoma. Stitt focused on consolidation of state agencies and the introduction of a health care reform measure to replace Medicaid.
“We are moving in the right direction, the direction we want to go, the Top 10 in the nation,” Stitt said during his address.
He said one of the biggest needs for the state is streamlining operations, which comes through consolidation of state agencies.
Oklahoma is ranked ninth out of all 50 states for the number of state agencies, Stitt said.
“Some will cry that consolidation will be disruptive,” Stitt said. “Those will be the bureaucratic insiders.”
He said agencies that serve similar purposes should be streamlined, and new state hires will be hired as unclassified positions.
Stitt said consolidation would be one of the biggest steps toward civil service reform in Oklahoma.
“It’s time to get this done in 2020,” he said.
Another item he spoke about is Medicaid reform. But instead of a straight reform, he proposed replacing it with another program titled Sooner Care 2.0, which he hopes will bridge the gap for the uninsured.
He said a straight Medicaid expansion would keep Oklahoma where it’s been. His hope is Sooner Care 2.0 will bring Oklahoma out of the bottom states.
Currently, Medicaid passes through 10 state agencies, he said, which he said needs to be addressed with health care consolidation.
As he discussed education, he talked about providing more state funding for private and preparatory schools. In fact, the budget’s line item shows more of an increase in funding to private schools than public schools.
Another education topic he talked about was reducing the hoops out of state educators have to jump through to become certified in Oklahoma. He said the only requirement would be a background check.
He said the goal is to bring education in Oklahoma into the Top 10 for the nation. Stitt said that will start with the State of Oklahoma promoting the profession of teaching.
Another item mentioned was the roads of Oklahoma, which Stitt said needs to be addressed with more tax payers, not more taxes.
“Oklahoma is competing,” Stitt said. “Oklahoma is winning. Oklahoma is undergoing the turnaround Oklahomans demanded. God bless you, and God bless the great State of Oklahoma.”