Oklahoma Leaders Lobby For More Funding From DC

For every dollar, Oklahomans pay in taxes to Uncle Sam, reports show the state gets a little more than a dollar back in federal funding. It’s a net gain for Oklahoma and the Stitt administration spends significant time in Washington trying to make the most of it.

Monday, March 6th 2023, 5:40 pm



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For every dollar, Oklahomans pay in taxes to Uncle Sam, reports show the state gets a little more than a dollar back in federal funding. It’s a net gain for Oklahoma and the Stitt administration spends significant time in Washington trying to make the most of it.

This is fly-in season, so it’s not at all uncommon to see different groups from Oklahoma on Capitol Hill connecting with members of the congressional delegation. But Governor Stitt’s Cabinet secretaries are in Washington, off and on, the year round.

"Anytime we are in DC, we always like to try to come by and see the delegation," said Tim Gatz, Oklahoma's Secretary of Transportation.

Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz says was in town for the annual Washington meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), but he says visiting with the delegation is helpful for a number of reasons.

"Primarily it’s really to make sure our transportation priorities are aligned," Gatz said in an interview last week, "that we understand what they’re hearing from their constituencies back home."

Gatz says he knows many constituents are eager to see Amtrak extended north to Newtown, Kansas and says that is something he very much is working on. Just as he's working on getting the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the channel and make upgrades to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS)

But as much as anything, Gatz says he comes to Washington looking to secure federal funding for highways projects, like the $85 million National Infrastructure Project Assistance mega grant the state recently was awarded to help rebuild the I-44/SH 75 interchange, which Gatz says pre-dates the interstate system.

"It’s a location that when it was out in the middle of pasture, the old cloverleaf design, worked pretty well," Gatz explained. "But it’s not out in the middle of the pasture anymore."

Human Services Secretary Justin Brown was also in the nation's capital last week.

"I’ve talked to not only tons of people in Congress," Brown said in an interview, "but also our federal agencies and other organizations."

Secretary Brown was in town to help celebrate the 5th anniversary of 2018's bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act, but he says his bigger focus right now is on the 2023 Farm Bill and the reauthorization of one of its most significant programs: SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Brown says 1.2-1.3 million Oklahomans -- nearly a third of the state's population -- utilize SNAP. He's talking with his counterparts and those involved in crafting the Farm Bill about turn the feeding program into more than just a welfare program that's reauthorized every five years.

"Ultimately, the SNAP program, in my opinion, should be the front door to a real trust-filled relationship between government systems and the people," Brown explained, that help build pathways for success for families to exit multi-generational poverty."

Secretary Brown says he’s not sure just how soon this could come to fruition. For now, he says he's just glad that he’s been able to help get a conversation going.

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