Governor Mary Fallin today delivered the annual State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature. In it, Fallin focused on the urgent need to improve the state’s budgeting process to ensure that legislators can adequately fund priority goals related to education, public safety, health and more. A copy of her State of the State Address is attached to this email. The proposed Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016) can be found by clicking here.
Fixing Oklahoma’s Unsustainable Budget Trends
Governor Fallin showed legislators two graphs during the State of the State: the first chart tracks total tax receipts, which continue to grow; the second shows the shrinking level of dollars that legislators are actually able to appropriate (see attached graphic). This year, legislators will only appropriate 47 percent of total Oklahoma tax receipts, down from 55 percent in 2007. That means legislators will have fewer total dollars to appropriate than in some years past, despite the state collecting more total dollars.
“Slowly but surely, elected representatives are losing the ability to guide state priorities and the flexibility they need to respond to changing circumstances. My challenge to all of us is to reverse that trend and use this session to really unpack the way the state is spending its money. … As a state, we spend a lot of money now on programs we hope are working. We need to identify and support programs we know are working.” – Governor Mary Fallin
To balance the budget, ensure the general revenue fund is not eroded further, and improve the overall budgeting process, Governor Fallin proposed:
- Adopting “performance informed budgeting” that links spending to measurable goals and outcomes (Governor Fallin today launched OKStateStat.Ok.Gov which includes over 160 of these measurements)
- Passing legislation requiring every tax credit and economic incentive to be evaluated through an objective process established by the Pew Charitable Trusts
- Redirecting $300 million of the $1.7 billion in agency revolving funds to the General Revenue Fund in FY 2016 while pursuing long-term policy changes regarding the need for large cash balances kept by some agencies (note: over $900 million in agency revolving funds is currently unencumbered, meaning it has not been obligated for a specific use)
- Considering non-budgetary policy issues every other year, to ensure that one of every two years is a budget-only session with increased scrutiny and participation
- Addressing State Priorities and Areas that Impede Oklahoma’s Growth and Quality of Life
In her State of the State address, Governor Fallin said that growing the economy, improving quality of life, and making government more efficient and effective continue to be her overarching goals in office. To pursue those goals, Fallin said the state needs to overcome hurdles in three specific areas.
“We must encourage more Oklahomans to continue their education beyond high school. Currently, Oklahoma’s workforce is not meeting the education levels needed to sustain potential job growth. For Oklahoma businesses to meet labor demands and Oklahoma citizens to find good jobs and careers, we need to address the emerging ‘skills gap.’” – Governor Mary Fallin
To ensure more Oklahomans are receiving the skills and education they need to succeed in the workplace, Governor Fallin announced the launch of “Oklahoma Works,” a new program that develops partnerships between K-12 schools, career tech, higher education and local businesses to help promote work skills, increase degree/certificate completion, and help steer students towards available careers (more information is available at OklahomaWorks.gov)
“Personal and community safety remain top priorities, and violent criminals will continue to be incarcerated. But the fact is, one in eleven Oklahomans serve time in prison at some point in their lives. Many of our current inmates are first time, non-violent offenders with drug abuse and alcohol problems. Many also have mental health issues they need treatment for. For some of these offenders, long sentences in state penitentiaries increase their likelihood of escalated criminal behavior.
“Oklahoma must ramp up its ‘smart on crime’ policies, including the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, designed to intervene for low-risk, non-violent offenders and more readily offer alternatives such as drug-courts, veterans courts and mental health courts,” Governor Fallin said.
To reduce the incarceration rate among non-violent offenders and ensure they are getting treatment and supervision, Gov. Fallin:
- Proposed $25 million of increased funding for the Department of Education
- Proposed greater levels of funding for agencies that help implement “smart on crime” policies, including a $5 million increase for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and a $15 million increase for the Department of Corrections
- Announced a steering committee of state leaders to ensure “smart on crime” policies are being implemented
- Advocated for greater use of mental health, drug and veterans courts that steer non-violent offenders away from the justice system and towards programs providing supervision and treatment
“Oklahoma ranks at the top of the nation for prescription drug abuse; fourth in the nation in unintentional drug poisoning deaths; seventh worst for obesity; sixth worst for smoking rates. … It’s time to stand up and fight for better health. Every Oklahoman can do better in taking personal responsibility for their own health. But there are things we can do here at the capitol, starting by passing a prescription drug monitoring bill that cracks down on the practice of “doctor shopping” and ensures we aren’t prescribing narcotics to addicts.
“We can pursue commonsense solutions: like going smoke-free at all K-12 schools, and banning practices like texting while driving that kill Oklahomans – many of them teenagers – every year.” – Governor Mary Fallin
To help improve health outcomes for Oklahoma, Gov. Fallin has advocated:
- A $20 million increase for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority
- Passage of a prescription drug monitoring bill to keep dangerous prescription narcotics out of the hands of addicts
- Passing legislation to ban texting while driving
- Going “smoke-free” at all K-12 public schools
- A statewide goal of decreasing heart disease deaths by 25% by 2025, which would save over 2,400 lives every year.