Governor addresses education, budget in State of the State

Governor addresses education, budget in State of the State

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) –Governor Mary Fallin gave the annual State of the State in front of a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature Monday afternoon where she spoke about the state's budget, education, public safety, health and other topics.

Governor Fallin says education is still her biggest priority and is calling for a pay raise for teachers.

"Oklahoma's future sits in the classrooms of today. The education of our students remains my biggest priority in my budget, even in fiscal climates like this. I support and I know my fellow Oklahomans overwhelmingly support giving our teachers a pay raise. This budget appropriates $178 million in new money for a permanent $3,000 teacher pay raise for every teacher in this state. And we can do it without raising the state sales tax rate to the highest level in the nation," Gov. Fallin said.

Other topics included lowering mandatory drug possession sentences and allocating more money for state prisons.

"Oklahoma's drug possession sentences haven't deterred substance abuse and have filled our prisons to overcapacity. These sentences, while well intentioned, tend to send some nonviolent offenders into prison for years and years, where they live alongside violent offenders whose bad influences can make nonviolent offenders worse," Gov. Fallin said.

Governor Fallin plans to allow district attorney's to have the discretion to file any first drug offense as a misdemeanor. She also plans to lower mandatory sentences from two years to life, down to zero to 10 years. Second felony offenses for drug possession would see the same change. Third felony offenses would be dropped to 0-15 years rather than six years to life.

Governor Fallin stated that legislators will only be able appropriate 45 percent, down from 55 percent in 2007. Falling oil prices and old structural budget problems resulted in a nearly $1 billion budget hole.

"This budget takes control of the challenges we face today and puts us on far better footing for the future. It makes necessary cuts that will require continued efficiencies from agencies, prioritizes spending and lessens those reductions in our core service areas wherever possible. It modernizes our tax code to make it more consistent with 21st century commerce. Because this budget proposes using recurring revenue, it uses zero one-time revenue," Gov. Fallin said.

By changing how sales tax is collected, the governor hopes it could bring in an additional $200 million per year.

"The sales tax code in Oklahoma today isn't much different than it was in the 1980s despite huge changes in the way commerce is conducted and the way consumers purchase goods and services. Reading our sales tax code is like watching a VHS tape when you can use Netflix. Modernizing the sales tax code means keeping the same low rates and applying them in ways that better reflect today's commerce and consumer behaviors," Gov. Fallin said.

You can read the submitted Fiscal Year 2017 state budget here.

To read the full text of Governor Fallin's State of the State, click here.

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