Gov. Kevin Stitt touted his job creation skills and criticized public schools during his fourth State of the State speech Monday. He also reaffirmed his opposition to the McGirt U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which he said “jeopardizes justice.” Stitt had hard numbers to back up many of his remarks, but we found a few spots where the facts got blurry. The Frontier used public records, and checked with state agencies and other sources to verify some of the governor’s claims.
Claim: Stitt praised the electric vehicle manufacturer Canoo as an example of the success of his business-friendly policies. Canoo announced in 2021 that it would open a factory in Pryor and create 2,000 new jobs with the help of state incentives valued at $300 million. “Since Canoo’s initial announcement, it’s added a technology hub, software development, customer support and financing centers to Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “That’s at least 700 more high-paying jobs for our state.”
Fact: Check: True but misleading
It’s true that Canoo has announced plans for thousands of tech and manufacturing jobs in northeast Oklahoma and has already begun hiring some workers, but how many jobs the company will ultimately create in the state remains unclear.
Canoo is still a startup that has yet to generate a profit and its EV vehicles are still in development. The company is burning through cash, has seen an exodus of top talent and isn’t on track to reach production goals this year, Insider reported in January.
Oklahoma has offered Canoo an initial package of incentives valued at $300 million, but none of the deals have been finalized yet, state officials and the company confirmed.
Canoo is already hiring engineers and other positions for a Tulsa hub, but some of the jobs can also be done remotely. The company has a goal to hire 40% of the workforce from local Native Americans and veterans, a Canoo spokeswoman said.
Claim: “In fact, 40,000 more Oklahomans have jobs today compared to when I took office.”
Fact check: True
There were 1,778,982 people employed in Oklahoma when Stitt took office in January 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s unemployment rate was at 3.2 percent at the time.
In Dec. 2021, there were 1,819,134 people employed, which was an increase of 40,152 people. The unemployment rate was 2.3 percent that month.
Claim: “Just 15% of Oklahoma high school graduates are ready for college in English, math, reading and science — less than one out of five.”
Fact-check: Mostly True
In 2019, 15% of Oklahoma high school graduates met the four college readiness benchmarks set by the ACT, according to ACT information provided by the governor’s office. However, updated numbers from 2021 show that 18 percent of students were meeting all four benchmarks, according to information provided by the State Department of Education. And 25 percent of juniors that participated in college and career readiness assessments last year were considered on track.
Claim: “Oklahoma is one of just 13 states that taxes groceries, and ours is one of the highest.”
Fact check: True
Oklahoma is one of 13 states that taxes groceries, and one of only seven states that doesn’t tax groceries at a reduced rate, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Claim: “In 2013, a 12-year-old boy named Billy Lord was riding his bike in Wagoner. Richard Roth was driving drunk and hit Billy and killed him. The state convicted Roth for Billy’s death and sentenced him to prison. But Mr. Roth is white, and since Billy was Cherokee, the guilty verdict was overturned. The case can’t be retried in federal court, and Roth could go free from punishment without even so much as a traffic ticket on his record.”
Fact check: Mostly True
Roth was convicted of first degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident in Wagoner County in 2014 and sentenced to 19 years in prison. Following the McGirt ruling, Roth appealed the conviction based on the fact that Lord was a Cherokee tribal citizen and the crash occurred in the Muscogee Nation. In October 2021, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Roth’s sentence but issued a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether the state has concurrent jurisdiction against non-tribal citizens who commit crimes against tribal citizens. Because the federal statute of limitations for manslaughter is five years, it is unlikely that Roth could be prosecuted for the crime in federal court.
Rating system: 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