Voters condemn the legislature and Governor Fallin’s work, but not for their legislation or general policies as one might assume.
A recent poll created by Sooner Poll, an independent non-partisan Oklahoma political pollster, stated that Oklahoma support of their government is currently at a low point. Of 419 eligible Oklahoma voters, 58 percent have an unfavorable view of Governor Mary Fallin’s work while 57 percent of people have similar objections to the Oklahoma state legislature.
Democratic voters were more likely to distrust the current government but Republican voters weren’t far behind. Republican reported unhappiness with Fallin’s performance at 44 percent, while 46 percent had negative opinions on the legislature’s performance.
So what is the cause of this distrust? Some argue that the distrust in one’s current government is primarily based on the bad economic climate. I argue that the state of Oklahoma education is the primary cause for voter distrust.
In 2018, the Oklahoma state budget is projected to rise from the deficit that has plagued years past. According to the State Board of Equalization, an agency that controls tax administration, general revenue is expected to rise $425 million in 2018. This is primarily due to increased sales and income tax.
It is projected that a tax concerning the sale of alcohol will rise from $63 million to $95 million due to the new sale of alcohol in grocery stores. This overall increase in revenue is a key tool in fixing the current state deficit incurred throughout the years.
While revenue might have increased throughout Oklahoma, state departments are still in desperate need of new funds. The Education Department is a prime example with a current request of over $500 million for an increase in teacher salaries as well as general needs such as instructional materials for a large base of students.
Due to this lack of funding, Oklahoma education has had troubles providing teachers a competitive salary and students a proper education. For example, according to a poll from the University of Oklahoma of 250 former Oklahoma teachers, those who left Oklahoma for other states gained an average salary increase of over $19,000.
In addition to this budget difference, education in Oklahoma in 2017 was ranked 47 out of 51 states, including Washington, D.C., by a publication called “Education Week” that compiles data on statewide education. Through this report, Oklahoma received a D+ with primary losses in education spending and education status.
Oklahoma voters have noticed the problems in their state, and education ranked among the highest issues. According to a poll by the Oklahoma Education Association, seven percent of those polled have a positive view of the legislature’s actions toward education funding. Fallin only did slightly better at 12 percent. Additionally, 50 percent of voters viewed education as the top priority for future funding. This support for funding is also not just a form of weak-willed acceptance. 70 percent of those polled were in favor of a tax that moved the gross production of oil and gas wells up to seven percent. While one may argue that the Oklahoma Education Association has a clear bias towards education spending, it still shows the immense support that Oklahomans have for improving their education system even at personal cost to themselves.
Due to the data provided, it is possible to conclude that the current distrust in Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature stems from the lack of support in funding important areas such as education.