As my term ends, thankful for the opportunity to serve and optimistic about Oklahoma’s future

As my term ends, thankful for the opportunity to serve and optimistic about Oklahoma’s future

By Governor Mary Fallin

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In just a matter of days, Oklahoma will have a new governor and I will once again – after 28 years – be a private citizen.

I’ve enjoyed my decades of service as a public servant, as a state
legislator, lieutenant governor and a member of Congress, especially the past
eight years serving as your governor. The best part certainly is meeting the
many wonderful Oklahomans across our state and listening to their concerns. The
challenging and rewarding part comes with finding solutions to their concerns
and issues.

Despite two economic downturns during my time as governor – one
underway when I took office and the global energy downturn early in my second
term – Oklahoma’s business climate is healthy. We’ve diversified our economy.
We’re training and educating our citizens to learn skills sets necessary for
jobs today and in the future.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is the lowest in 17 years and with
the new jobs and people moving to Oklahoma, our state’s population has grown to
just under 4 million people!

Oklahoma offers an incredibly low cost of doing business. For the
second year in a row, the Anderson Economic Group’s 2018 State Business Tax
Burden Rankings ranks Oklahoma with the lowest tax burden in the country.

Oklahoma has one of the lowest costs of living in the U.S., plus
the state has the second-lowest electric power costs in the country, and at the
same time offers a great quality of life.

During my administration, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce has
secured 526 new and expanding business announcements representing more than
$14.6 billion of investments. When you look at job numbers tallied by cities
and other local entities, the estimate is close to 200,000 new jobs.

We’ve made great progress in diversifying our economy. Oil and gas
will still be a dominant part of our economy. However, the aerospace and
defense sector of our economy has seen a huge growth in jobs and investment. In
fact, for the first time in decades Oklahoma will have two aerospace
manufacturing facilities that will produce high-performance, jet-powered
unmanned aerial tactical and target drone systems. Other expanding industries
include paper goods as well as steel milling; digital information services like
Google; and large fulfillment centers like Amazon.

Pro-business policies that I supported and signed into law helped
spur our economy and lower the state’s unemployment rate. They include:

  • Transitioning
    Oklahoma to an administrative workers’ compensation system committed to
    taking care of injured workers yet reducing the state’s average workers’
    comp loss costs rates nearly 64 percent lower than they were in January
    2011.
  • Making
    Oklahoma more business friendly by enacting tort reform
    measures: Oklahoma has moved from 42nd to 31st in
    reducing frivolous lawsuits.
  • Cutting
    Oklahoma’s unfunded pension liability of $16 billion nearly in half to
    about $8.4 billion.

In the area of education, we’re also making progress. New revenue
sources approved in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions established a much
more stable financial position for the state, and allowed Oklahoma last year to
give a raise to public school teachers, which I had proposed and pushed for
each of the last three years.

Teachers will see an average pay raise of $6,100, or a 16 percent
pay increase – the highest pay increase in state history. Oklahoma’s teacher
pay went from 49th to 29th in the nation, and to No. 12
when the cost of living is factored. In Oklahoma’s seven-state region, teacher
pay went from last to No. 2.

We’re making progress with smart-on-crime policies and on how we
deal with nonviolent offenders who need substance abuse treatment and
rehabilitation, which will help ease prison overcrowding. I signed 17 criminal
justice reforms during my time in office, including seven last year that will
reduce the flow of nonviolent offenders into prison; establish a more efficient
and streamlined parole process; and facilitate successful reentry that reduces
recidivism.

I truly believe the future of our state is bright, with a low
unemployment rate of 3.3 percent and $451 million in the Rainy Day Fund. Based
on current trends and if our state does not experience an economic downturn,
our state could see another significant Rainy Day Fund deposit later this year,
which could bring our Rainy Day Fund close to $850 million.

The next administration and Legislature will have the resources to
address many of the state’s priorities and to ensure core services are
adequately funded. I’ll be watching from the sidelines cheering them on to take
our state to the next level.

It’s been a great honor to service the people and our state in
office, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

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