Stillwater, Oklahoma — A critical step toward advancing Oklahoma’s economy is ensuring the state has a qualified work force, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.
Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and members of Fallin’s cabinet spoke at a town hall forum at Oklahoma State University’s Wes Watkins Center Wednesday afternoon. During the forum, Fallin and other speakers discussed the role of education in the state’s overall economic health.
Oklahoma’s economy is leaning more and more toward science- and technology-related industry, Fallin said, meaning many of the new jobs being created in the state are tech-related. As such, state leaders must ensure the education system is producing workers who are qualified to fill those jobs.
“We need more college graduates,” she said. “We are living in a knowledge-based economy.”
Earlier this year, Fallin signed a budget deal that included 5 percent cuts to higher education and 4 percent cuts to common education — prekindergarten through 12th-grade — while cutting state income taxes by .25 percent.
State agencies took “targeted cuts” rather than seeing their budgets slashed across the board, Fallin said. Such cuts allowed the state to plug a $500 million budget shortfall while preserving essential services, Fallin said.
Keeping taxes low is also important to the overall health of Oklahoma’s economy, Fallin said, because states with lower income tax tend to see job growth, leading to greater economic stability.
Even as common and higher education saw budget cuts, Fallin said state officials have been working to help those agencies cut costs.
For example, she said, that includes upgrading the state’s purchase card system. Like many state workers, OSU employees use the cards to make business-related purchases, including educational supplies and laboratory equipment. University officials have said the new system is more efficient than the previous one.
Next month, Oklahoma will be participating in Complete College America, a nationwide initiative that is designed to encourage people to seek postsecondary education. That includes college as well as technical and vocational certification programs, she said.