News - Political
Fallin Pledges To Make Oklahoma Schools, Prisons And Health Top Priorities
Monday, January 12th 2015, 12:28 PM CST
Fallin was surrounded by her husband and children as she acknowledged being Oklahoma's first female governor - now sworn in for a second term.
The governor first listed what she thought were the accomplishments of her administration and the state over the past four years. She then pledged to devote her second term to improving education, lowering incarceration rates and helping Oklahomans take responsibility for their personal health.
Fallin On Her First Term
"I believe the story of the last four years will be the story of an economy lifted out of one of the deepest recessions our state and our nation has ever faced," she said.
The governor told the assembled audience that when she took officer four years ago, there was only $2.03 left in the state savings account. She said the Rainy Day Savings Account now has over $530 million.
Other accomplishments of her first term in office include an unemployment rate that dropped from over 7 percent to 4.4 percent; 103,000 new jobs created and a per capita income rising by 15 percent.
"As Oklahomans, let's be proud of what we accomplished," Fallin said.
She listed Oklahoma City's building boom including a new 50-story building and that the capital city was named one of the top 20 travel destinations in the world by National Geographic.
"Let's also be proud of the strong and sustainable growth in downtown Tulsa and the ongoing transformation of the city by projects like The Gathering Place," she said.
"In fact, the New York Times just listed Tulsa as one of the Top 50 places in the world to visit, listed right between Rome and Shanghai."
Fallin made reference to the state's response to devastating tornadoes in May, 2013.
"The world was inspired by the bravery, compassion and generosity of our people as they worked to help families who, in some cases, had just lost everything.
"The nation and the world saw our strength and spirit, and we became known as 'Oklahoma Strong,'" she said.
"I have seen the sheer determination of the people of Oklahoma; and I know they can rise to meet any challenge."
Mary Fallin: Three Priorities For Her Upcoming Term
Fallin said her next four years will be dedicated to improving the state in three areas: education, over-incarceration and health.
Long-term prosperity in Oklahoma will best be served by increasing high school graduation rates, technical and college degrees.
"Increasing educational attainment is about creating more and better Oklahoma jobs. It's also about providing a way out of poverty," she said.
"Education beyond high school is absolutely 'the new minimum' for success in the workforce. If we can increase our educational attainment as a state, we will benefit from everything from higher earnings to less crime, less teen pregnancy, and less reliance on government aid, saving taxpayers money."
Crime and incarceration hold back the state year after year, she said, and break apart families, leaving them in poverty.
"Here's the sad truth: many of our inmates are non-violent offenders with drug abuse and alcohol problems," she said.
"They don't need to spend long stints at the state penitentiary, where they can join gangs and acquire criminal networks."
Fallin pledged to work with legislators to find other ways to help those who are addicted to drugs while pursuing prison for violent offenders.
In her third priority of improving the health of Oklahoma residents, Fallin said the state needs to do a better job of educating people about what they can do to get healthier.
"We are too good of a people to allow ourselves to continue to be the worst state in the nation for prescription drug abuse, or for one-in-10 Oklahomans to have diabetes, or for the state to be ranked seventh-worst in the nation for obesity and sixth-worst in smoking rates," she said.
Others sworn in were Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett, Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Treasurer Ken Miller, schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, Insurance Commissioner John Doak and Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb.