At this year's Oklahoma Governmental Affairs Conference, 130 attendees and guests gathered at the Credit Union House of Oklahoma, Feb. 11–12.
"We welcomed a record number of credit union leaders at this year's Oklahoma GAC," said Oklahoma Credit Union Association Executive Director Nate Webb. "The high turnout demonstrates that more and more people recognize the critical value of advocacy and engagement, as well as the impact we can make on legislators when we are all speaking from the same playbook in one loud voice."
Gov. Kevin Stitt joined the Oklahoma Credit Union Association's Governmental Affairs Conference. Left to right: Cornerstone Credit Union League Chairman James Tuggle; Oklahoma Credit Union Association Executive Director Nate Webb; Gov. Stitt; Cornerstone President/CEO Caroline Willard; and OCUPAC Vice Chairman Jason Boesch, CEO of Energize Credit Union.
New Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who spoke during the lunch portion of the day, arrived at the dais with a standing ovation and, after his talk, departed with the same show of appreciation from the credit union leaders in attendance.
After his first year as governor, Stitt has made many friends among Oklahoma business leaders and residents alike in his effort to make Oklahoma a "Top 10" state. And on a personal note, he remarked that the most surprising thing about his job is how much fun he's having. "I'm having a blast," Stitt said.
Stitt said he was pleased with credit unions and the way they provide access to capital to Oklahoma citizens. His very first account was with Tinker Federal Credit Union when he was a boy. He wants to continue expanding growth opportunities for all Oklahomans, including those with low incomes.
"Oklahoma is open for business," Stitt said. "I plan to bring the world to Oklahoma and Oklahoma to the world."
Gov. Kevin Stitt
The overarching priorities of his tenure so far have been gaining the authority to oversee certain agencies directly, consolidating agencies to reduce redundancies and to increase transparency and efficiency, and getting the budget under control. He replaced 18 agency heads and brought in private-sector people.
To that end, he has "put Oklahoma's checkbook online" for everyone to see so that agency accountability is evident across all sectors of government. His initiative, Break the Tape, is designed to reduce government bureaucracy and red tape by 25% while helping Oklahoma grow. Under Stitt, Oklahoma has already gone from 47th in the nation to 7th in transparency.
He hired a new head for the Department of Human Services, which employs about 6,500 people and gave 3,700 employees pay raises, which Stitt said can give people hope and change Oklahoman lives.
Last year, Stitt said, the state had a budget surplus, but he wanted to save more. He noted that the fiscal 2021 budget was coming in flat, and that's why saving is important. Oklahoma now has more than $1 billion in savings, even as the state spends $19 billion per year.
Another priority for Stitt is prison and sentencing reform. He was told that his goal of commutating sentences and releasing certain offenders was impossible, so he fired the person who gave him that news. Then in November of 2019, he signed the largest number of commutations for low-level offenders—about 400. These sentences were for simple possession, and the law had changed on sentencing requirements since those felons were imprisoned. Stitt has saved the state millions because of not only the releases, but also connecting those offenders with treatment and housing services.
"It was great to see so many Oklahoma credit union leaders come together at the Oklahoma GAC," said Cornerstone Credit Union League Chief Government Relations Officer Jim Phelps. "I want to thank our attendees for making advocacy a priority, and we thank our expert guest speakers for sharing their wisdom and insights on the issues of the day, as well as those we can anticipate in the near future."
In addition to Phelps, additional guests and speakers included CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan, Oklahoma Department of Commerce Director Brent Kisling, Oklahoma Banking Department General Counsel Matt Mowdy, and Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce VP Political Affairs Cordon DeKock.