The 2020 legislative session began last week with Gov. Kevin Stitt laying out his requests and goals to a joint meeting of the Legislature during his annual State-of-the-State Address. Just as last session, Republicans in the House of Representatives will find some common ground with Gov. Stitt in the coming months.
One area of agreement continues to be building a robust savings account to better prepare the state for future and inevitable economic downturns. In his address, Gov. Stitt again called for lawmakers to increase state savings by setting aside $100 million this session. Last session, the Legislature saved more than $230 million, bringing the total state savings to just over $1.1 billion. That is the largest savings balance in the history of the state, but the reality is it is not enough. To weather the five-year stretch of budget deficits we faced from 2013 – 2018, we would have needed more than $3 billion in savings to stabilize funding for core services. We have taken significant steps in the right direction, but we have more work to do.
Education will once again be a priority for House Republicans. Efforts to increase funding for K-12 education during each of the last two years have put Oklahoma teachers at the top of the region for average pay. This year, I will be introducing several measures aimed at keeping veteran teachers in the classroom and encouraging retired teachers to return. I will also introduce a measure soon that will provide for licensing reciprocity for teachers from other states. This bill will allow teachers who have obtained a license in another state to be automatically approved to work in Oklahoma. Rural towns along the borders will likely see an immediate benefit under this measure, but I believe it will expand our teacher pool in urban areas as well.
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