Gov. Kevin Stitt got a lot right in his first State of the State speech ... but not everything

We saw much to be encouraged about in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first State of the State speech on Monday.

He outlined a strong program of reform, transparency and appropriate funding of critical areas of state government.

Beyond any particular policy, we found clear evidence in the speech that Stitt is a quick study of government issues. From very little political background, he has quickly grown to understand the detail and nuance of state government.

Here’s one key example: Stitt said he wants to “move the needle” on education outcomes during his time in office, but says in the very next sentence that, “we must first continue our investment in the teacher.”

Amen. What do we all want? More effective educations for the children in public schools. But how can we get that if we don’t first fund schools, and teachers in particular, appropriately? Stitt understands that we cannot. The funding comes first, then we can accomplish many great things.

Overall, we found that we agreed with Stitt on many issues but not his comments about state acceptance of available federal funding to increase health care coverage broadly in the state and buoy the finances of struggling rural hospitals. Stitt has remained open to the idea recently, but in Monday’s speech he urged caution about the plan.

Using a red herring argument concerning federal funding of medical residencies at Oklahoma hospitals, Stitt said federally promised Medicaid funding may not be reliable. We think Stitt is drawing the wrong conclusion from the medical residency experience, and we pray that he remains open to further evidence on the potential for federal funding to transform the nature of Oklahoma health care.

We found hope for that earlier in Stitt’s speech, when he reached out to lawmakers with these words: “I want to make it clear: as elected officials, we will not always agree on the specifics of every policy – and that’s OK. We are each elected for different reasons and because of specific issues.

“But you will always find my office willing to work with you and to be open minded on policy differences, because what unites us in this room is that we are committed to reimagining how we can do state government better and deliver a brighter future for Oklahomans.”

That is the sort of open-minded, evidence-based, outcomes-oriented decision-making Oklahomans believed they were getting when they voted for Stitt, and, in many ways, it was the most important thing we heard on Monday.