A Fork in the Road
On Monday February 7th, Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his fourth ‘state of the state’ address to a joint session of the Oklahoma legislature. The governor said Oklahoma is economically in better shape than the rest of the country. Stitt claims 27,000 people have moved to Oklahoma in the past two years, and that 40,000 more Oklahomans have jobs than when he was inaugurated as governor (2017). He said Oklahoma’s unemployment is down to 2.3%, lowest in state history.
The governor said the Sooner state is at a crossroads, a fork in the road, on public policy. According to Stitt, one path leads toward Oklahoma becoming a Top Ten state, the other fork, the path of a jigsaw puzzle of jurisdiction.
Stitt outlined four checkpoints on the road to Oklahoma becoming a top ten state. Those checkpoints are: (1) Driving hope for all Oklahomans, (2) Protecting Oklahomans and their way of life, (3) Making Oklahoma more business friendly, and (4) Delivering taxpayers more for their money.
Stitt said he supports school vouchers, an investment of $13 billion dollars in state infrastructure in the next decade, a revamp of the state’s initiative petition process, and consolidation of the state’s law enforcement agencies into one unified command structure. During his address, Stitt quoted motivational author Jim Collins and Oklahoma native son Will Rogers, and concluded his remarks by thanking God for being an Oklahoman. Three observations:
First, Oklahoma has a long way to go to become a top ten state. The Sooner state ranks in the bottom third of states in per capita income. It ranks high in prison population, low in mental health services, high in obesity, and low in educational outcomes. It will take decades before the state becomes top ten unless radical major changes to policy are implemented. Oklahoma government hasn’t shown the political willpower to make those radical changes.
Stitt’s idea of parents controlling their tax dollars and being able to enroll their child in a school that might give the child better outcomes is a start, but it appears that is dead on arrival. Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) said on Thursday he has no intention of hearing SB #1647, authored by Senate President Pro Tempe Greg Treat, (R-OKC). McCall calls SB #1647 a public-school killer for rural Oklahoma. Treat has vowed to double down on the proposal. We will see who wins this battle.
Second, hope is a good thing, but it will not make Oklahoma a top ten state. Hope is the anchor of the soul for a Christian. It looks back to what Christ did on the cross and forward to when He will return. Secular hope is positive thinking, good wishes, and a crossing of the fingers. It has no place in public policy. Government should be non-emotional, impassive and logical, not seeking to motivate citizens with feel good philosophy. Instead of training every state employee in the next two years on how to apply the ‘science of hope’ in their agencies, train them on how to fundamentally do their job more efficiently and save taxpayers money. Having happy, well-adjusted, hopeful bureaucrats isn’t the job of the government.
Third, Oklahomans were sold a bill of goods on the medical marijuana state question. Oklahomans approved it based on a lack of information and misinformation. Stitt proposes changing the initiative petition process, but gave no details as to how he wants it changed. Policy makers should remember that changes made to the process affects everyone’s liberty, not just the liberal out of state concerns Stitt mentioned in his address. Improvement in ballot language, and full disclosure in what State Question implementation will cost taxpayers would be a major improvement. More and better information before the vote might prevent passage of proposals that result in ‘unintended consequences.’
Governor Stitt said Oklahoma has come to a fork in the road on public policy. Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road….take it.” Oklahoma government usually does just that.
Steve Fair is Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.