While we heard a lot of rhetoric in today’s State of the State address, we heard precious little that builds bipartisan solutions helping Oklahomans live healthier lives, raise thriving families, and make our communities safer.
Increasingly, too many Oklahomans face daily hardships when it comes to putting food on their table or a roof over their heads. This clearly shows the need for our elected officials and policymakers to focus intently on removing obstacles that keep our fellow Oklahomans from reaching their full potential, including:
- Ensure adequate and stable revenue for Oklahoma’s social insurance programs. Revenue cuts during the past two decades have cost the state about a quarter of its revenue power to fund the shared programs that help all Oklahomans. [A Better Path Forward: A Budget and Tax Roadmap for Oklahoma]
- Expand refundable tax credits to empower low-income Oklahoma families to better support themselves and their communities. Strengthening tax credits for working Oklahomans would provide the most targeted — and fiscally responsible — means to help everyday Oklahomans. [Strengthening the Grocery Tax Credit would provide fiscally smart tax relief to working Oklahomans]
- Strengthen Oklahoma’s democracy through a transparent and equitable state budgeting process. While the average state deliberated on state budget issues for an average of 82 days, Oklahoma lawmakers last year only made the bills detailing the state’s $7.7 billion budget available for public viewing for three days. [“Focus on Transparency” report]
- Ensure prompt, consistent, and equitable access to Medicaid for every Oklahoman who qualifies. Nearly 250,000 Oklahomans now have life-changing health care through Medicaid expansion; Oklahoma lawmakers should ensure continued access without creating unnecessary and bureaucratic barriers that keep our friends and neighbors from getting care. [Medicaid expansion is working just as expected]
- Fund criminal courts and court services through appropriated revenue so that Oklahoma’s courts are not reliant on fines and fees from low-income families. Our state’s court funding model relies on fines and fees rather than appropriated revenue, which places an unequal burden on residents and creates debtor’s prisons for those justice-involved Oklahomans unable to pay substantial court debts. [The Cost Trap: How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans Into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting State Revenue] [Rural Oklahomans frequently carry larger burden for court fines, fees] [Fine and Punishment, NPR]
- Construct a supervision and reentry system that allows Oklahomans who are justice involved to build better futures. To help justice-involved Oklahomans successfully move forward with their lives after release from jail or prison, Oklahoma should create — for the first time — a comprehensive re-entry system. [OK Policy Analysis]
- Reduce collateral consequences of incarceration through increased access to job training, education, and automatic expungement. Nearly 100,000 residents would be able to better care for their families and contribute to their communities if the state implements an automated system that automatically connects justice-involved Oklahomans to already existing expungement opportunities. [Automatic Expungement Economic Impact]
Now more than ever, it’s vital for our state’s leadership to unite rather than divide. Only working together can we tackle the issues that matter most to everyday Oklahomans.