Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.
Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off today with a State of the State address from Governor Mary Fallin. OK Policy and the Together Oklahoma coalition have identified six priorities for the coming session that are practical, politically achievable steps to move Oklahoma toward lasting, broad-based prosperity. Read on for brief summaries of our priorities and links to a fact sheet for each one, or click here for a 2-page summary of the six priorities. If you want to join the campaign to make any of these goals happen for Oklahoma, check here to see how you can get involved.

Restore Education Funding

In the last five years, Oklahoma’s per pupil investment in common education fell more than twenty percent, the largest percentage drop in the entire nation. As a result of these steep cuts, Oklahoma is seeing a serious teacher shortage, and many of our most talented educators are leaving for other professions or other states. We must restore our investment in education by at least enough to pay teacher salaries that are competitive with surrounding states in order to be economically prepared for the future.

Expand Health Coverage

Oklahomans get sicker, die sooner, and go without much needed medical care more than almost everyone else in the nation. But today we have a huge opportunity to save lives and protect struggling rural and community health care providers by expanding health coverage to uninsured low-income workers and their families, at little cost to the state. As long as we continue to refuse federal funds, Oklahomans’ tax dollars will be paying for medical care in other states while our citizens go without.

Get Smart on Crime

Oklahoma’s policies of long prison sentences and few alternatives to incarceration have become extremely expensive to taxpayers while failing to protect the public. The state’s overcrowded, understaffed criminal justice system is at the breaking point. To avert a disaster, Oklahoma needs to move quickly to reduce the number of non-violent offenders being sent to prison, eliminate barriers to ex-felons who want to do the right thing and rejoin society, and expand evidence-based substance abuse and mental health treatment programs that are our most needed alternatives to prison.

Curb Unnecessary Tax Breaks

Unnecessary and unaffordable tax breaks to businesses have more than doubled over the past four years, even as Oklahoma has slashed funding for education, public safety, and other important services. Oklahoma needs to reign in unnecessary tax breaks and improve oversight of the tax breaks that remain. If we value our children, safety, infrastructure, health, and economy, we need to stop hollowing out our core state services with wasteful tax subsidies.

Oppose Constitutional Convention

A well-funded, nationwide effort is pushing state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a new constitutional convention to add a balanced budget requirement and make other changes to the U.S. Constitution. Approving such a resolution is dangerous for two main reasons: (1) A constitutional convention cannot be controlled once it is called, so a runaway convention could make extreme, unexpected changes to our system of government; and (2) a balanced budget amendment could severely damage the economy and prolong recessions.

Boost Electoral Participation

In Oklahoma participation in electoral democracy has reached a historic low, so that important decisions for our state are being made by a small minority of eligible citizens. To counteract this trend, Oklahoma should pursue reforms that make it easier to vote, allow more choices at the ballot box, and help voters become more informed.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

2 thoughts on “Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

  1. 85 percent should be repealed because even judges don’t sentence with this in mind. Truth in sentencing was never put in place. There are 1st time offenders sentenced to too much time.

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