Recently named to the Reapportionment Committee to redraw the boundaries of the state’s districts, Oklahoma Senator John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, is honored to be part of the decenary process. Under U.S. Constitutional law, redistricting takes place every 10 years, following data received by the U.S. Census.
“I’m definitely excited to be engaged in that,” said the native Lawtonian. “It’s vital that we look at all the issues that come with redistricting. The Senate had a town hall meeting in Chickasha, and the House is having one in Lawton, which allows people to be more involved.”
As an upper classman at Eisenhower High, Montgomery was involved in student government as well as Young Republicans. During his senior year he was elected student body vice president. Taking a personal finance class in high school, the stock market piqued his interest which later led to a career in investments.
“At that time we were in a recession,” said Montgomery of his time in school. “The stock market grabbed a lot of attention and, at one point, there were all time highs with amazing records. And then all of a sudden, everything just changed.”
Montgomery attended Cameron University before transferring to the University of Oklahoma, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in International Affairs in 2014. Montgomery received his Master of Global Affairs degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2019. During his senior year as an undergrad, he ran for District 62 in the state House. He was re-elected in 2016.
While in college, Montgomery accepted a summer internship with Northwest Mutual, where he got a “crash course in insurance” and was licensed, he laughed. He later worked for New York Life, and is now the president and CCO of his own firm, Invictus Investment Advisors. Invictus tailors clients’ portfolios ultimately to assist them in achieving their financial goals, he said.
Going back to his political career, “Around February or March (2014), U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced he was not running for re-election, and Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon vacated his seat to run for U.S. Senate,” Montgomery explained. “That left Shannon’s seat open down here. So, I ran.”
Four years before the teachers’ walkout, while Common Core education and other regulatory issues were being discussed, Montgomery was also focused on Oklahoma’s exodus of educators to other states.
“For me, it was more about the budget,” he said. “If salaries aren’t competing with other states, then teachers will leave..”
Montgomery’s second term in the House saw the 2018 Oklahoma Teachers’ Walkout as educators demanded relief from overcrowded classrooms, increased funding for public education as well as pay increases for faculty and support staff. At the time, Oklahoma teachers’ pay was third lowest in the country. The nine-day strike ended with education getting a $500 million increase, teachers received a $6,000 pay raise and support staff received a $1,250 hike in pay. However, Montgomery recalls budget shortfalls that drained close to 30% of the budget over the preceding two years, which prompted him to run for state Senate.
A few years ago, “we had $611 million shortfall and then the following year it was approximately $1.2 billion. At that time, the state budget was about $7 billion.”
Currently representing Senate District 32, Montgomery serves as vice chair for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation. He also works on the committees for Finance as well as Retirement and Insurance.
Until recently, Oklahoma’s oil and gas exploration and production industry had grown exponentially over the past two decades in spite of governmental challenges, said Montgomery. As more people drive electric or hybrid vehicles, reducing the dependence on oil and natural gas – which attributes up to 25% of the state budget – he is concerned about how the state will endure the economic transition.
“In a structural sense, Oklahoma relies so heavily on oil and natural gas as a main source of revenue,” he said. “That’s something we need to be cognizant of as a major oil and natural gas producing state. How are we going to deal with that economically? What happens to the state budget? We have to be able to answer that dual challenge.”
Considering the strong possibility of a budget shortfall this year due to the surplus of oil and natural gas driving down prices as well as the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on any other revenue sources, Montgomery said, “as far as the pensions go, there are things that will be headwinds for us next year, for sure.”
As a way to safeguard revenue in 2016, Montgomery worked to get the Revenue Stabilization Fund in place. Two years later, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his goal to save $200 million and add it to the state’s RSF.
“If our oil and gas revenue gets above a running five-year average, then we deposit that money into the stabilization fund so we can tap into it during shortfalls,” Montgomery added.
To improve access to mental health services across the state, Montgomery authored Senate
Bill 1718 a/k/a “the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act” which “follows federal law ensuring that mental health treatment is treated the same as health care, in general, within your insurance policy,” he said. “We’re making sure it is coded and treated the same way as any other doctor visit, normalizing mental health and making it more accessible for people who need that help.”
With overwhelming support from the state Legislature, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed SB 1718 into law on May 19, 2020.
He was listed as one of NextGen’s 30 under 30 and, in 2017, received the Guardian of Free Enterprise award from the State Chamber of Oklahoma.
Senator Montgomery’s parents, John and Amy Montgomery, work in the Lawton community.
“Dad has worked for Goodyear for more than 30 years, and Mom works for the Comanche County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
Montgomery and his wife, Kylee, a teacher a Lawton High School, have a two-year-old daughter named Elizabeth.
“Elizabeth’s a lot of fun,” he said proudly. “She’s got personality and is as cute as can be, but she can throw a tantrum, and she keeps Kylee and me pretty busy.”
Like many, Montgomery would like to see the region grow and succeed and continue to be the place more people want to live, raise their families.
“We can’t rest on our laurels and not try to bring in new things,” he concluded. “I’d like to see us be a place of opportunity in whatever your interests may be – farming, agriculture, high- tech developments with FISTA (Fires Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator) – but at the same time not lose our sense of community. Because Lawton is a big town with the small-town feel.”