Governor Mary Fallin urged lawmakers to find compromise and steer clear of budgetary and legislative chaos in her final State of the State address at the Oklahoma capitol on Monday. The speech laid out a number of Fallin's priorities for the legislative session.
Fallin said Oklahoma is sliding backwards and asked lawmakers to fix ongoing problems created by partisan political gridlock. She called on lawmakers to better fund education, give public school teachers a pay raise and make criminal justice reforms.
She asked legislators to consider the "Step Up Oklahoma" plan of tax increases and government reforms written by state business leaders.
"Enough is enough. We can do better. We deserve better. Our children deserve better."
The applause at the end of Fallin's speech was interrupted by yelling from visitor's gallery. Protesters unfurled a banner calling Oklahoma a "state of despair" and shouted at Fallin. The Governor booed in response.
Meanwhile, House Democrats say the Governor's budget proposal falls short of what’s needed to fix Oklahoma’s recurring problems.
House Democratic Leader Steve Kouplen says the plan won’t fix four-day school weeks, crumbling prisons or many of the state’s ongoing funding issues.
"A drowning man will grab any lifeline, whether it’s a good one or not. One has been thrown to us. We think it needs to be tweaked, and we think some true compromise needs to take place to change it."
The Step Up Oklahoma plan, which was written by Oklahoma business leaders, lays out a set of government reforms and tax increases. It calls for raising oil and gas taxes to four percent and increasing income taxes, among other things.
House Democrats want to see oil and gas taxes at five percent. And they want top earners in the state to pay more income tax.