Coming from a family of many teachers, I am heartened by the increased funding for teachers recently enacted, as it was greatly needed. Education is the way out of poverty - it's the great engine of upward mobility and economic growth. However, we need a thorough look at the State's complicated funding formulas to achieve better educational outcomes in Oklahoma and to ensure that our tax dollars are well-spent. More tax dollars should be going to the classroom instead of into administration costs. Additionally, some schools districts may be too small and some may be too large to adequately equip students with the tools they need to become productive members of society. I am not opposed to home-schooling, charter schools, or private schools.
Safety and Security
I believe that safety and security should be our State's highest priority. My goal will be to work toward fairer sentencing and greater rehabilitation for non-violent criminals. I will also work to ensure that the judicial system and the District Attorneys’ offices throughout the state are adequately funded and staffed. Additionally, Oklahoma must maintain adequate training and funding for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and our other law enforcement agencies. They are the front line in keeping Oklahomans safe.
In general, Oklahoma gives too many tax credits. These tax credits, in some cases, may unnecessarily detract from the tax base for essential services. The legislature’s recent increase in taxes on tobacco were appropriate, and, importantly, those taxes will eventually be dedicated to health programs and policies. Similarly, the small increase in motor fuel taxes was appropriate, in my opinion, given the lengthy period of time since they have been raised and, given comparable rates in surrounding states. It is significant that those taxes will eventually be designated for transportation needs.
Infrastructure and Transportation
Oklahoma’s roads are notoriously in poor condition -- we can and should do better, especially since, due to our geographic location, we are such a crossroads for the rest of the nation. I would like to see fees for our turnpikes lowered, at least for Oklahomans. I am heartened by the work that has been done in recent years to bring the number of structurally-deficient bridges down, but I know that more work still needs to be done. Legislators need to ensure that our waterways, railways, and roadways continue to be useful for the transportation of commodities, products and goods.
Energy is one of the pillars on which our State’s economic success depends, and we need to always be mindful of ways in which to encourage production, innovation, and profitability in this sector. I believe it was wise for the State Legislature to set the gross production tax back to a reasonable level for the oil and gas producers who received a tax break for horizontal drilling. I think it is time to end subsidies for wind energy initiatives as well. We have huge reserves of natural gas, and our legislature needs to continue to encourage exploitation of this resource without providing unnecessary tax subsidies.
If Oklahoma focuses on providing excellent core services in the areas of safety and security, education, infrastructure and transportation, and health care and human services, economic development will happen. Certainly, Oklahoma should compete for large corporations and business who wish to locate here, but Oklahoma legislators should let the free market work. Get government out of the way. The jobs will come when Oklahoma makes the business and legal climate one in which companies can operate profitably.
Health Care and Human Services
As a volunteer lawyer for children in state custody, I have learned first-hand the difficulties the state agency has in attracting and retaining excellent case workers and others who serve this vulnerable population. Our DHS workers need continuing support. Additionally, we need solutions to address mental health problems, and programs to discover, curtail, and prevent contagious diseases and their spread. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, I saw first-hand how important it is for the State to step in when nursing homes fail to adequately care for patients, and I believe the State has a vital role to play in protecting the elderly and the disabled.