Gov. Kevin Stitt outlined plans to cut taxes, promote school choice and push a conservative legislative agenda during his fourth State of the State address last week.
Stitt, entering a re-election year, used his annual speech to paint a divide between Oklahoma and “blue states” and the federal government.
During his 43-minute speech, Stitt criticized COVID-19 lockdowns — while making no other mention of the pandemic that has killed more than 13,500 Oklahomans — the federal government’s “spending spree” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.
You can read Stitt’s full speech — along with more than two dozen annotations from myself and the rest of the Oklahoma Watch staff — or listen to our latest podcast (or read our handy transcript of the talk) where Paul Monies, Jennifer Palmer and myself break down the speech.
But with the first week of the session now in the books, here’s a look at where some of his proposals stand.
One of the governor’s signature proposals is already on the verge of failing.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, saying there is not enough support in his chamber, announced on Thursday that he has no plans for the House to hear the so-called “backpack funding” bill that Stitt endorsed.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1647, would create universal vouchers by giving any parent a state-funded account for their child’s education.
Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who is sponsoring the bill, said he still has hopes that his Republican House colleagues will reconsider their opposition.
Another Stitt proposal is off to a better start.
The governor is calling for several tax-cutting moves including, eliminating the state’s sales tax on groceries.
One of the proposals that would do that, House Bill 3621, passed with no opposition from the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation on Thursday.
The bill, authored by Minority Floor Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, would phase out the tax over three years. If passed, it would cost the state $95 million in 2023, $203 million in 2024 and $325 million in 2025.
Saving and Spending
The governor is proposing a flat budget including $283 million in one-time expenses, $35 million for business incentives, $20 million to clear the development disability waiver waiting list and $10 million for a McGirt legal fund.
He proposes increasing the state’s rainy-day and related saving accounts from $1.8 billion to $2.3 billion.
State and legislative leaders will have to wait to learn how much they have to spend or save. A Board of Equalization meeting on Feb. 22 will provide the latest spending and revenue estimates.
Since voters approved a state question in 2018 to legalize medical marijuana sales, it hasn’t taken long for the industry to grow.
As Quorum Call’s Tyler Talley reports, lawmaker were told there has now been more approved discrepancy business license than the combined total of Braum’s, Starbucks, McDonalds, Sonics and Wal-Marts in the state.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and some lawmakers have signaled that want more regulations on the booming industry.
What I’m Reading This Week
- A key school choice bill that would pay for students to attend private schools or homeschool could be dead, despite open support from the governor. [The Oklahoman]
- Oklahoma should temporarily halt the issuance of new medical marijuana licenses until the state has a better handle on regulating the sector, a legislative report issued Thursday recommends. [Tulsa World]
- The state auditor released an investigation into questionable spending after the attorney general said he would keep it confidential. [The Frontier]
- Oklahoma hit a milestone Wednesday that months ago might have been difficult to comprehend: 1 million recorded COVID-19 cases. [The Oklahoman]
- A bill to eliminate state grocery sales tax advances through House committee. [Tulsa World]
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