JENKS — Better management, not more taxes, is what Oklahoma needs to become a top 10 state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt said Monday morning at his formal campaign launch.
“Our state finances are in disarray, and the politicians have resorted to tax increases,” Stitt said from a platform set up outside his Jenks-based business, Gateway Mortgage Group. “This is no small thing. … We have to learn to live within our means, and we have to get our state growing again. We must create a state and a state government that can compete with our neighbors.”
Gateway does business in 38 states, and Stitt said that experience influenced his decision to enter politics.
“As I travel the country … I see the momentum other states are getting,” Stitt said. “They’re recruiting and retaining great paying jobs. They have great infrastructure and modernized state government.
“I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t have all the answers. But I do have confidence in my fellow Oklahomans. I know we have the ability to come together and solve our problems, no matter how great they seem.”
Stitt said he would bring new people to state government and told his audience, “If you’ve never considered public service, I’m asking you to consider it now.”
Stitt grew up in Norman and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in accounting.
He said Monday that Gateway Mortgage grew out of arranging his own home loans.
“I’m deeply concerned about our state,” he said Monday. “We need a new approach.”
Stitt said education is fundamental to his ambition to make Oklahoma a “top 10 state” but suggested better use of available revenue, rather than new taxes, is the answer to improvements in that sector.
“Half of our appropriated dollars go to education,” he said, “but not enough of those dollars go to the classroom.
“If we want to recruit great teachers, we have to pay competitive salaries. If we want to attract and retain great jobs, we’ve got to have great schools.”
Stitt said “dysfunctional government that doesn’t work well and spends money on the wrong priorities” is the underlying problem.
“For too long, our state’s critical priorities haven’t been met by the state’s politicians,” he said. “They haven’t been willing to make the tough decisions to get Oklahoma state government into the 21st century.”