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Fallin Addresses Ten Commandments, Budget, Social Issues During Tulsa Chamber Speech

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her State of the State address to the Tulsa Regional Chamber on July 8, 2015.
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Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her State of the State address to the Tulsa Regional Chamber Wednesday.

Gov. Mary Fallin reiterated her belief Wednesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court made the wrong decision last month when it ruled the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds violates Oklahoma's constitution.

Fallin delivered her State of the State address to the Tulsa Regional Chamber Wednesday, and told business leaders she wants to see lawmakers introduce an amendment to fix "ambiguity" in Oklahoma's constitution.

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, you have the legislative branch, and then you have the people. The people and their ability to vote,” Fallin said. “And so I'm hoping we'll be able to address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide."

The governor said case law not mentioned in the Oklahoma high court's 7-2 ruling, and other court decisions in the past, indicate the move was "not the right call."

She also addressed the contentious, yet secretive, budgeting process during this year’s legislative session. Fallin said revenue grew over the past decade, but so-called off-the-top allocations meant lawmakers could only appropriate 44 cents on the dollar of available funds.

"One of my measurement tools this year in looking at the budget and where we had to make cuts because of the shortfall was to ask the question, 'Is anyone going to die if we cut certain services because of the shortfall?',” Fallin said.

The governor said she was proud of the state's low unemployment rate and several tax cuts lawmakers passed in recent years, despite the $611 million dollar gap this year. Fallin also called for more transparency and what she described as "truth in spending."

Fallin also addressed the state’s high incarceration rates, saying Oklahoma can reduce its corrections spending by improving education and the skill of workers. She tied the number of people in prison to social problems like prescription drug abuse and more Department of Human Services custody cases. Fallin also said 40 percent of Oklahoma's unemployed aren't even trying to find a job.

“I’m not talking about those that are disabled or can’t work because they have some medical condition,” Fallin said. “But the 40 percent that don’t work – guess who picks up the tab? Those of us that work, or the taxpayers.”

Fallin did say lawmakers passed bills this session that could help get more Oklahomans back into the workforce, like measures dealing with substance abuse, mental health programs, and more judicial leeway in sentencing.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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