Anyone who thought businessman Kevin Stitt might quickly become disillusioned doing the job of Gov. Kevin Stitt would have been disappointed by his remarks to the Rotary Club of Tulsa on Wednesday.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the most surprising thing about being governor?’ ” Stitt said. “I tell them it’s how much fun I’m having. It’s just a lot of fun.”
For better or worse, the Jenks Republican has undeniably cut a wide swath during his first eight months in office. He persuaded the GOP-led Legislature to surrender much of its control over state agencies to him, replaced much of the government’s top leadership and pushed through most of the priorities on his legislative agenda.
Two areas that didn’t make as much progress, health care and criminal justice reform, are on the list for 2020, Stitt said.
A legislative working group co-chaired by two Republican lawmakers who have expressed interest in using Medicaid expansion money to develop some sort of system for delivering services to uninsured Oklahomans met for the first time Wednesday.
Stitt told the Rotarians he has ordered an audit of the state’s Medicaid program, which is administered by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. He recently appointed Kevin Corbett, a retired Ernst & Young accounting firm partner with an extensive financial background but no Medicaid background, to head the agency.
On Wednesday, Stitt reiterated his belief that state government must have experienced business leaders to operate most efficiently. As an example, he said, he ordered the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to kill a pilot program to provide motorists roadside assistance because he deemed it “mission creep.”
“I said if the Legislature wants a motorist assistance program, they need to pass a law creating motorist assistance. But don’t let these agencies create something that competes with AAA and all the other stuff that’s out there,” Stitt said.
Asked about tribal officials’ contention that he is trying to tap more gaming fees to make up for state revenue lost to tax cuts, Stitt said his demand “has nothing to do with revenue.”
He pointed out that the state has a $1 billion cash reserve and increased spending more than 15% over the past two years.
“This is about negotiating a fair exclusivity fee to operate a $1 billion industry,” he said. “What is that monopoly worth?”