Kevin Stitt became governor of Oklahoma this week at a highly promising time for our state.
“With rising employment and positive outlooks across most industries, the outlook for Oklahoma’s economy heading into 2019 appears positive,” wrote the head of the Oklahoma City office of the Federal Reserve Bank in a mid-December report. The unemployment rate has fallen to near record lows and workers are finally seeing real hourly wage growth. Due to the strong economy and bold actions taken by recent Legislatures, state finances are in their best shape in a decade, with revenues projected to grow over 8 percent next year.
Even with all the good news, however, the state struggles with serious long-standing problems.
Right now, Oklahoma is a bottom 10 state in far too many indicators of hardship and gloom. The numbers have a dreary familiarity but bear repeating. Oklahoma is 47th in overall health status, according to the latest report from the United Health Foundation, and ranks among the highest states for obesity, physical inactivity, cardiovascular deaths, and infant mortality. Poor mental health is especially prevalent, with Oklahoma sixth highest for adults experiencing frequent mental distress and highest in the nation for children with multiple adverse childhood experiences. We remain number one in both male and female incarceration. We are among the bottom 10 states for workers in low-wage jobs and have the highest use of high-cost payday loans in the nation.
None of these problems will solve themselves, even if the state’s economy remains on an upswing. We like to believe a rising tide lifts all boats. In reality, too many boats are leaky and in disrepair. Many are stuck on the shore.
To read the full article written by David Blatt, click: HERE