Oklahoma House Democrats Respond to Stitt's State of the State

Feb 4, 2019

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Oklahoma House Democrats see increased optimism at the capitol but are ready to hear more about policy from Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Minority Leader Emily Virgin said Stitt is leaving money on the table with his plan to use an expected increase in revenue to bolster the Rainy Day Fund.

"While we think that saving during good times is important, we think that you have to pay your bills before you can start saving, and we have a lot of bills to pay. We have education needs, we have mental health needs, we have corrections needs," Virgin said.

Virgin said a teacher raise is nice, but classroom funding is what’s really needed, adding teachers would probably skip another raise for that.

"We put $50 million into common education last session, but we would like to see that number in the $100 million range at least. And we see that as a continuing conversation for the future," Virgin said.

She also said Stitt’s proposal to "take the handcuffs off" cities and counties when it comes to school funding could hurt poor and rural areas of Oklahoma if most local increases come from property taxes.

Democrats did have some praise for Stitt. They are encouraged by his interest in continuing criminal justice reform, including endorsing their proposal to help former inmates get occupational licenses. Virgin said, however, there’s not a lot more to go on right now.

"The governor didn’t seem to endorse any other specific policies other than allocating $1.5 million to a specific, very good program in Tulsa," Virgin said.

That program is Women In Recovery, which helps women overcome addiction. Stitt also wants $10 million for a county-level safety fund approved by voters.