Febuary 2, 2015 NEWSON6.COM AP OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is calling for an initiative to lower incarceration costs in the state.
In her "State of the State" address to the Legislature Monday, Fallin said personal and community safety remain top priorities, and violent criminals will continue to be incarcerated. But one in 11 Oklahomans serve time in prison at some point in their lives and many inmates are first time, non-violent offenders with drug abuse and alcohol problems.
Fallin says Oklahoma must ramp up its "smart on crime" policies, including the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, to offer alternatives to low-risk, non-violent offenders such as drug courts, veteran's courts and mental health courts.
It costs the state around $19,000 a year to house an inmate, but $5,000 a year to send an addict through drug court and on to treatment.
Fallin began her annual speech with a moment of silence for Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch. Dees was killed and Burch injured when they were struck by a vehicle while at the scene of a traffic accident during the weekend.
The governor then addressed a number of topics including public safety, education, the state's budget process and the health of the state's residents.
Fallin said Oklahoma's workforce is not meeting the education levels needed to sustain job growth.
The governor said in five years, studies predict only 23 percent of Oklahoma jobs will be available to those who have a high school degree or less. Today, Fallin says, 46 percent of the working population fits that description.
Fallin says lawmakers should help strengthen partnerships between businesses and local schools where students can dual track their education and work skills.
Fallin also asked lawmakers to revamp the state's budgeting process. She told lawmakers the primary source of discretionary spending by the Legislature — the general revenue fund — is growing smaller. It is shrinking, both in dollars and as a percentage of overall collections, because of the increasing cost of mandatory off-the-top apportionments.
Fallin says the state's budgeting system diverts billions of dollars away from the general revenue fund before the budgeting process begins to support government programs, pay for tax credits or to fill unused revolving funds maintained by some state agencies.
Fallin says she wants to work with lawmakers to take a fresh look at the budgeting process, and to rethink how taxpayer dollars are allocated.
And Mary Fallin stressed improving the health of the state's citizens should be a priority for the 2015 Legislature. She said Oklahoma ranks at the top of the nation for prescription drug abuse, fourth in the nation in unintentional drug poisoning deaths, seventh-worst for obesity and the sixth-worst for smoking rates.
Fallin says there are thousands of unnecessary deaths in the state each year and billions of public and private dollars spent to treat preventable illnesses.
She says every Oklahoman can better take personal responsibility for their health. But lawmakers can pass a prescription drug monitoring bill that cracks down on the practice of "doctor shopping" and ensures that narcotics are not being prescribed to addicts.