Five key policy differences between Hofmeister and Stitt in Oklahoma governor's election
With the election for governor less than a month away, Gov. Kevin Stitt and Joy Hofmeister continue to try and separate themselves, highlighting their differences and what issues are most important to them.
Here are five big issues that could be significantly impacted by next month’s election.
1. Managed care
The issue: The state is in the process of allowing nongovernment entities to manage the state's Medicaid program, which provides health care for nearly 1 million low-income Oklahomans. The move is sometimes referred to as managed care or privatization because it looks to private entities to oversee the program, hoping they can improve outcomes because they have a financial incentive to do so.
Their views: Stitt supports the shift, while Hofmeister opposes it.
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This move to a new Medicaid management model was one of Stitt's biggest policy achievements during his first term. Stitt believes it will improve health outcomes because private managers will be held to higher standards and will compete for state contracts.
Hofmeister opposes the shift, claiming it takes control away from the state and financially benefits private companies who may look to reduce expensive care. "We would not go further," Hofmeister said about the shift towards managed care if she were elected.
2. School vouchers
The issue: Vouchers, also called education savings accounts, allow students to use tax dollars to pay for private school tuition.
Their views: Stitt supports the use of vouchers, while Hofmeister is opposed.
More: Joy Hofmeister, seizing on voucher plan, says Kevin Stitt would ‘kill’ rural schools
Stitt says vouchers are one of the best ways to help a child get out of a low-performing school or one where teachers are pushing “liberal indoctrination.” “Every child and their family should be free to choose where and how their child is educated. We want to give education freedom back to parents, put parents back in charge of their kid’s education,” Stitt said.
Hofmeister said vouchers would take much-needed money away from public schools, hurting the students who remain. She also says it puts public funds in the hands of private organizations, which are not as accountable to taxpayers. “Gov. Stitt’s voucher plan will dismantle the schools that serve 90% of Oklahoma kids. And rural communities will be hit especially hard,” Hofmeister said.
3. Agency boards and directors
The issue: In 2019, the state Legislature gave the governor the power to hire and fire the director of five state agencies: the Health Care Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections, the Office of Juvenile Affairs and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Their views: This is where each candidate can really shape state government.
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Stitt advocated for the change, which gave his office significantly more power when it comes to leading agencies, including their annual budget requests.
Hofmeister has been critical of some of Stitt's appointments and actions they have taken, including on the state Board of Education. It's likely she would make sweeping changes to board members and agency directors.
4. Tribal relations and gaming
The issue: The relationship between many major tribal governments and the state has hardened during Stitt's time in office as he's been critical over issues of tribal sovereignty and gaming.
Their views: Stitt believes the U.S. Supreme Court's McGrit ruling should be overturned and that congress should give power back to the state. Hofmeister has said she would work to repair relationships with tribal government.
More:Oklahoma's largest tribes will endorse Democratic candidate Joy Hofmeister for governor
Stitt began his time in office by battling with tribes over the amount of money they pay to the state for their casinos. He lost a battle to increase that rate and has also fought back on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that granted the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished, expanding the sovereignty for several tribes.
Hofmeister has said she would seek to improve the state's relationship with the tribes. While she hasn't spoken on tribal gaming issues, a change in governor might open the door to tribes seeking expanded gaming opportunities.
5. Abortion access
The issue: Oklahoma lawmakers have banned nearly all abortion procedures in the state, with limited exceptions for the mother's life.
Their views: Stitt, who signed this year's abortion ban laws, has said he would sign more restrictions. Hofmeister said she supports some access to abortion.
More:AG's office, state boards craft guidance for doctors, law enforcement on abortion laws
While the state has enacted some of the nation's strictest bans, it is likely the state Legislature will consider additional measures next year to further restrict access to medication-induced abortion and the role pro-abortion rights groups play in the state. "I am the governor who said he would sign every piece of pro-life litigation that hit my desk," Stitt said.
Hofmeister is in favor of some abortion access and has criticized the recent bans signed by Stitt. While Hofmeister refers to herself as "pro-life," she said abortion decisions should be largely between a woman and her doctor. “Governor Stitt’s law and the laws he has passed are extreme. They take away the freedom of individuals and women to direct their own futures and they need to be reversed. They harm families and women (and) his extreme laws have no exceptions for rape or incest," Hofmeister said.
Oklahoma state government reporting is supported in part by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation. To support work like this, consider purchasing a digital subscription to the Oklahoman today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Hofmeister, Stitt on key issues in Oklahoma governor's election