This is part two of our most recent conversation with Gov. Stitt. He shares his thoughts on Medicaid expansion and the investigations into the state's largest virtual charter school.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, and this is part two of our interview with Gov. Kevin Stitt. Governor, good to have you with us.
Gov. Stitt: Thank you so much.
Pryor: You came to office as a political newcomer, an outsider. What's been your biggest surprise so far?
Stitt: You know, a couple of things: Number one, I'm just having a blast, and I think... I tell Oklahomans that it is such an honor to be the governor, and you're not, you're not sure exactly what to expect, but I'm really enjoying the job. It fits with my skill set way better than campaigning, all right? If you can get through the campaign it turns into a lot of fun. It's no different than necessarily running a business, when it comes to the people part of it, and so I don't think a lot administrations really focus on the management of state government. They are all focused on policy and and what laws need to be changed, but I tell people the real work is getting inside the agencies and managing the folks, putting the processes, the procedures in place, and we are moving the needle all across state government to deliver better services for our citizens... Education, and health care, and infrastructure, and everything.
Shawn Ashley: Health care is one of those issues that lawmakers are looking to address with a new working group that part of your staff will be involved in. What do you see as the key aspects of an Oklahoma plan to address health care?
Stitt: We'll be rolling out my health care plan to Oklahomans before next session, but it's about... It's a front porch service. It's redesigning how we have a spoke and...system of how we deliver health care services, how we take advantage of federal assets. So we're working with the Trump administration to to find out what other things we can do in Oklahoma to better serve our population. I tell my team all the time that are that are my policy folks, there's 49 other examples to look at, and I want you to take those top 10 states and I want you to figure out how our health outcomes what we need to do to match up to deliver better services. And so that's kind of the the top level that we're looking at, and I'll share that with Oklahomans later on this fall as I perfect the actual plan.
Pryor: Will Medicaid expansion be part of that?
Stitt: You know, at at this point, no. Medicaid expansion, as it sits without some kind of waiver, is not the right thing for Oklahoma. Medicaid expansion is talking about a group of people that are able-bodied, working adults, and so I think there's a better way to take care of them, incentivize them. So I understand the argument, and I want every federal dollar I can get in my state, whether it's roads and bridges or health care, but I also am not...I'm also protective of what it costs the taxpayers. And is it good long term to put able-bodied, working adults on a system that doesn't incentivize them to keep working and keep striving and keep moving forward? So that's the that's the rub but I'll continue to share with Oklahomans as I roll this out in the fall.
Pryor: You have asked for an audit of Epic Charter Schools, which is facing allegations that it improperly received money from the state of Oklahoma for what is called "ghost students." What direction do you see this going? You're a supporter of virtual schools.
Stitt: Sure. You know, we're going to hold every single school accountable. There's this funding formula. They calculate how much money they receive based on how many students they have, and whether it's a regular, traditional school or charter school, we're going to hold them accountable. So I'm going to get that audited. In the same sense, I tell people, listen, you're innocent until proven guilty. These are allegations. Let's not...Let's just relax for a minute, and let's find out the facts on what happened and let's punish if there's anybody that's done anything wrong. But virtual schools have a place. Picking on a school that has had 20,000 students....I hear it from from constituents. People call me all the time. Governor, my kids graduated. We loved charter school. It was great for us. My child was bullied, and this was a great option. My child was involved in motocross, so we traveled a lot. This was the perfect school for us. And so I think there's an absolute place for virtual or charter schools. So for us to pick on a school that has 20,000 students just because they have 20,000 students does not mean they're doing something wrong. However, we are going to get to the bottom of it, and I'll let Oklahomans know as soon as I find out.
Pryor: When do you expect that audit to be finished?
Stitt: You know, I haven't checked with with Cindy Byrd, the state auditor on that, but within the next couple of weeks.
Pryor: Gov. Kevin Stitt, it's good to visit with you. Thank you.
Stitt: Thank you so much.
Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and eCapitol.net, on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.