Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt are competing for the Republican nomination and the opportunity to become Oklahoma's next governor. Stitt answered questions posed by the Muskogee Phoenix in advance of Tuesday's primary runoff election. Cornett did not respond.
1. What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Oklahoma's next governor? Please explain why this issue should be important to voters.
Kevin Stitt: The greatest challenge to tackle is bringing about accountability and transparency to government. Currently, we have a system that functions with a mindset of waste and red tape, not efficiency and accountability. Last year, Oklahoma had multiple state agencies under investigation for mismanaging our taxpayer dollars. For example, the Health Department lost $30 million. Later, the department found that $30 million in an account that no one knew existed. I have a vision to make Oklahoma a Top Ten state in education, economic growth, and infrastructure, but we cannot make effective change in Oklahoma without first reforming the system.
2. How would you go about overcoming that challenge should you be elected governor?
Stitt: My priority will be to deliver reform that makes our state government accountable and transparent to Oklahomans. I will ask the Legislature to give the governor authority to fire underperforming agency heads. Right now, many boards and agencies are untouchable and they are unaccountable to elected officials. This has to change. I will also work with new agency leaders to provide performance metrics so that Oklahomans can see how agencies are delivering core services and to drive efficiency. Finally, a Stitt Administration will put Oklahoma's checkbook online to ensure agencies are transparent and accountable for how they spend taxpayers' dollars.
3. As governor, what steps would you take to ensure the mandates of State Question 788 are efficiently and effectively implemented?
Stitt: Recently, the Health Board exceeded its authority by trying to thwart the will of the people with administrative rules, which caused confusion and a lack of efficiency around the implementation of SQ 788. This is a clear example of why we need to create accountability within our government. In order to implement SQ 788 in a proper and efficient manner, I will work with the agency to go back to the drawing board and analyze what changes and rules are needed. We will then work with legislative leaders to make the necessary corrections to the statutes in February.
4. What do you believe the state government needs to do in order to improve access to affordable health care in rural Oklahoma?
Stitt: We must cut government red tape, give health care professionals more flexibility, and recruit doctors and nurses to these areas. As governor, I will audit our Medicaid program to reduce wasteful spending and ensure that resources are supporting Oklahomans who need it the most. I will protect the current level of state Medicaid spending so that Oklahoma receives the scheduled increase in federal funds that will provide roughly $181 million in additional support to Oklahoma's rural hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care entities. I will also use policy to drive money and support toward our rural communities.
5. What do you believe needs to be done to stabilize the state's finances and lessen the effect of economic swings in the oil and gas industry?
Stitt: In order to create a more stable future for our state, we must diversify our economy and increase our Rainy Day account. We need to take advantage of our nation's current economic momentum and increase our recruitment efforts. President Trump’s tax cuts give Oklahoma the perfect opportunity to attract new industries. As the only job creator with proven business experience, I will know how to capitalize on this opportunity and successfully attract new business to our state. We also need $2 billion in savings to weather our cyclical economy, yet we only have about $450 million currently in the account.