"The Capitol is a symbol of our state, a place of business and a living museum dedicated to preserving Oklahoma's history, its literature and its art work," Fallin said. "And it's not right for our visitors to come to the Capitol and see construction cones and barriers outside, to have crumbling facades from the top and a faulty sewer system that stinks."
New House Speaker T.W. Shannon said Fallin "started the conversation" on some of the state's pressing budget needs and that he thinks her request for additional funding this year for education and improvements to the Capitol will be well received by lawmakers.
"I don't think we're going to have much problem there," said Shannon, R-Lawton. "Starting off with a $10 million cash approach, I think is a good step, and I think we need to continue in that direction."
Fallin's executive budget calls for increased funding for education of about $13.5 million and major boosts in spending for the state's Medicaid and child welfare programs. Her proposal includes $40 million in funding next year for an increase in the number of Medicaid-eligible Oklahomans who are expected to enroll in the program and another $40 million to the Department of Human Services for improvements to the state's child welfare system.
"For years the care for these children has been inadequate," Fallin said.
Fallin devoted much of her remarks to issues of health care, criticizing the federal health care plan's expansion of Medicaid, which she called "unaffordable for the country at a time when we are already experiencing a long-term spending crisis."
Fallin gave support to a proposal to allow Oklahoma cities to enact tougher smoking bans in public places. Doing so would address "the state's number one killer: tobacco," Fallin said, and save taxpayer money by lowering health costs and lost productivity.
State law currently bans smoking in many public places and indoor workplaces but prohibits cities from adopting their own smoking bans.