Stitt Rotary

Gov. Kevin Stitt makes remarks during a rotary club meeting at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Gov. Kevin Stitt says the state needs an office in Washington, D.C., to act as its advocate with federal agencies.

Stitt plans to pay for the Washington office out of his existing budget initially and eventually use funding from the many state agencies that would benefit from the services.

Of course, Oklahoma already has seven representatives working for its interest in Washington: the members of the congressional delegation.

But there’s an important distinction here. Members of Congress are politicians whose job is to speak for their constituents on national policy. The new D.C. office would be an arm of state government, designed to help it respond to and take advantage of that policy on the detail level after it is established. Obviously, our new Washington office will rely heavily on the help of the delegation — we’re all pulling on the same end of the rope — but with a distinct mission and responsibility.

In discussing the plan, a spokesman for the governor pointed to the state’s recent trouble with federal Medicaid bosses, who caught Oklahoma using federal money to fund physician training without proper authorization. It turned into an expensive problem that the congressional delegation tried unsuccessfully to ameliorate after it was a crisis. If we had had someone in Washington who could have helped avoid the crisis in the first place, it would have been an investment that more than paid for itself.

There’s an obvious irony in the fact that the state is turning away a billion dollars a year in federal funding because it won’t accept federal Medicaid funding, a point that Stitt’s political opponents were quick to point out on social media.

We think the state should accept the Medicaid funding for a long list of reasons that we’ve previously published, but, laying that aside, the Washington office is well justified and an idea we endorse.

From the roads we drive on to the schools our children attend, fundamental state services are dependent on federal funding and have to answer to federal oversight. It just makes sense to have someone representing the state in Washington, doing our bidding and giving the state’s top leadership guidance about when they are zigging, but need to zag.

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