Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his State of the State address Monday, reflecting on the past year, Oklahoma’s response to the pandemic and how the state is on track to become what he calls a “Top Ten” state.
"Oklahomans are no stranger to hardship. We've lived through dust bowls, tornados, floods, a bombing, and now a pandemic. But we're going to make it through, just like we have time and time again,” Stitt said.
Governor Stitt opened the new session of the legislature with a speech praising the state's work with COVID-19, criticizing Tulsa Public Schools for keeping kids out of buildings, and asking lawmakers to keep taxes low and continue cutting regulations.
Lawmakers frequently interrupted the Governor with applause as he took credit for managing the pandemic, with the state coming out ahead of most other states in economic terms.
“We've managed to keep a lot of our businesses open, not all of them, 100%, but much better than other states and we seem to be coming out of it better than they are,” said Broken Arrow Republican Representative Stan May. “We're by no means finished with this fight against COVID, but when we are, we hope to be in a good place financially and in a position to attract businesses to the State of Oklahoma.”
But Democrats heard an underlying critical tone for public education.
“It was the impression I got, that public schools would get less funding, I don't agree with that,” said Democratic Senator Kevin Matthew from Tulsa.
Tulsa Representative John Waldron, who is also a democrat, rejected the Governor's criticism of Tulsa Public Schools for keeping students at home in distance learning, while other districts went back.
“The governor has a lot to say about Tulsa Public Schools and I guess I'd appreciate is if he took a different look at the facts,” Waldron said. “What he's asking for right now is freedom without responsibility, freedom to open the schools but not the responsibility of a mask mandate, which he could have in a second, either in the schools or statewide, if he would change this thinking.”
Republican Senator Natham Dahm from Broken Arrow liked what he heard, especially about keeping taxes low.
“I've been up here for eight years. Every year we have a different budget situation. We've had bigger deficits than we have right now, we've had surpluses. We always find a way to make sure to get through that,” Dahm said.
House minority leader Emily Virgin said, in part, "the version of the last year that the governor sold to Oklahomans today was nothing more than revisionist history. As COVID-19 rages in Oklahoma, January was our worst month, yet. No state wishes they would have responded to this pandemic as Oklahoma has."