Cornett, Stitt flesh out agendas day after debate
A day after sketching mostly vague plans for their first months in office, Republican gubernatorial candidates Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett provided a few more details on Wednesday, with Stitt calling for a teacher recruitment bonus and Cornett saying he would like to restore education funding.
In an interview, Stitt said he would set aside up to $10 million in his first budget for $5,000 bonuses to recruit teachers from other states or new graduates to the profession.
Stitt said he would also direct money to hire more certified teachers and reduce the number of emergency certifications. A vote by the state Board of Education in late July brought the total number of emergency teacher certifications to 1,238 just two months into the 2018-19 school calendar.
“We've got to raise the professionalism," Stitt said.
Stitt and Cornett participated in a debate on Tuesday televised by KOTV in Tulsa and KWTV in Oklahoma City.
The two were asked what priorities they would pursue in their first 90 days in office. Both offered only generalities. Stitt on Wednesday noted the time limit for answering.
“You have 60 seconds,” he said. “You can barely get started.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Cornett said the incoming governor won't get budget briefings from the administration until December. In the absence of specific numbers, he has focused on priorities rather than concrete proposals, he said.
“I would like to be able to increase the amount of money going into education,” Cornett said. “I know higher education has been cut a lot.”
He said he hoped to restore all the funding that has been cut from education in the past few years.
Cornett, 60, the former mayor of Oklahoma City, and Stitt, 45, the chairman of Gateway Mortgage Group, meet in a runoff primary on Aug. 28 to decide the Republican nominee.
Drew Edmondson, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, has been citing specific proposals he would make on revenue, health and education.
Edmondson, 71, the former Oklahoma attorney general, said Wednesday, “In my first 90 days, I'll accept Oklahoma's share of federal Medicaid (expansion) funding, work with the Legislature to introduce a bill to restore the 7 percent gross production tax rate so we can fund education, and open an Office of Open Government to facilitate transparency.
“It will be my constitutional duty to submit a balanced budget and to discuss the State of the State with the Legislature and the Oklahoma people. I will do both. Voters deserve to hear specific plans from their leaders. That's what I'll provide.”
Agreement on issues
During the debate, Cornett and Stitt agreed on most of the issues presented. Each claimed his resume was better suited for steering state government.
“We have to grow and diversify the economy, like we have in Oklahoma City,” Cornett said.
“I have a lot of experience in growing and expanding an economy. And I'd like to take a lot of those attributes statewide. There's no reason this state can't grow and expand its economy the same way Oklahoma City has.”
Stitt said, “The state is broken. There's no accountability.
“I think we need an outsider. We need a business person. We need someone from the private sector to come in and change the accountability.”
Cornett and Stitt both said they would sign legislation to allow people 21 and over to carry a firearm without a license; they said they support the death penalty; they agreed that medical marijuana laws need to be implemented in accordance with the voters' wishes; they both opposed recreational marijuana; they expressed support for President Donald Trump; and they agreed that teachers need to be better paid.
Both also said they would work to reduce the state's high incarceration rate and help those with criminal records get back into the workforce.
And they said they support a state question on the ballot in November that would allow school districts to spend local property tax revenue on classroom instruction, rather than just capital projects. The two said local school districts should have more control over their finances.
Tulsa versus Oklahoma City
Cornett, who grew up in Oklahoma City and made a career in local television before joining city government, and Stitt, who lives in the Tulsa area, where his company is based, said they have family connections all over the state and wouldn't favor their current hometowns.
Cornett called Tulsa "an incredible city" and said that, since dating his wife there, it had become a big part of his life.
"We want to grow the state's economy and that's going to take rural Oklahoma, it's going to take Tulsa, it's going to take Oklahoma City," Cornett said. "But we're all going to have to work better than we have before. We've got to get more people pulling on the same rope. This Oklahoma City versus Tulsa nonsense has got to end."
Stitt said, "I like to remind everybody that I grew up in Norman ... I love Norman. I love Oklahoma City. And as I've traveled, I've been to all 77 counties. It's been so fun for me traveling around and meeting everybody.
"I'm going to be the governor for all four million Oklahomans. That's rural Oklahoma, that's urban Oklahoma."