Gov. Kevin Stitt marked the beginning of his second term on Monday with an inaugural address from the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol. We fact-checked a few select claims from Stitt’s speech using government data and other sources.
Stitt said: “Spending sprees in the good years left us vulnerable in the down years.”
Fact check: Mixed
It’s true that state appropriations grew steadily during the mid-2000s thanks to an oil and gas boom that generated new revenue. But Stitt’s statement leaves out that tax cuts enacted under both Democratic and Republican governors also contributed to budget deficits in lean years that followed. Tax cuts that began under Democratic Gov. Brad Henry reduced state revenue by more than $1 billion a year by 2016, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Oklahoma Policy Institute.
Oklahoma now has about $3.8 billion in savings and reserve funds thanks in part to higher-than expected tax collections, but there are still signs the economy is slowing down, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said in his January economic report.
In his inauguration speech, Stitt promised a new round of tax cuts, saying “we believe in lower taxes and smaller government.”
Stitt said: “We gave teachers another pay raise, bringing our professional educators to top in the region in pay and benefits.”
Fact check: Mixed
Oklahoma gave teachers two pay raises in recent years — one in 2018 before Stitt took office that raised pay by $6,100, and another increase averaging $1,200 in 2019. The Oklahoma State Board of Education also approved a proposed $5,000 pay increase in 2022, but it still requires legislative approval. Average classroom teacher pay in Oklahoma is $54,762, putting it fourth among seven states in the region and 34th in the nation, according to the most recent data from the National Education Association, which has tracked teacher pay for decades and is considered the gold standard for comparison.
Oklahoma’s average starting teacher salary of $38,074 is also ranked fourth in the region and 39th in the nation. The “top” regional ranking Stitt referenced comes from a 2021 report from the state’s Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, which weighed other data, such as taxes and cost of living for its rankings to determine the “real buying power” of teacher salaries. Adding these variables into the formula put Oklahoma in first place for teacher salary regionally and 21st in the nation. The methodology LOFT used to arrive at those rankings was heavily criticized for attempting to manipulate the data and paint a rosier picture of the state’s situation.
Stitt said: “….new Census data released last week now ranks Oklahoma as top ten in states with highest net migration.”
Fact check: True
Oklahoma was ranked 10th in the nation for both the highest net migration and domestic migration between July 2021 and July 2022, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau released in December.
Nearly 27,000 people migrated to Oklahoma from other states, data showed. In total, 32,500 people migrated to Oklahoma, which followed behind states with higher migration like Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
True: A claim that is backed up by factual evidence
Mostly true: A claim that is mostly true but also contains some inaccurate details
Mixed: A claim that contains a combination of accurate and inaccurate or unproven information
True but misleading: A claim that is factually true but omits critical details or context
Mostly false: A claim that is mostly false but also contains some accurate details
False: A claim that has no basis in fact