Giving its children the best chance at succeeding is one of the most important tasks a society has. Children may only make up slightly less than 25% of our population, but they make up 100% of our future. The only way to secure the future of our state is to secure the future of our children, and providing access to quality education for all Oklahomans is the best way to do this. We must invest in Oklahoma education by fighting for funding to provide high-quality public education to all of Oklahoma’s children. This funding must be put towards not just funding our classrooms but also towards the teachers who staff them. Teachers are leaving Oklahoma to work in better-paid positions out of state. If we want to keep Oklahoma teachers in Oklahoma, then we have to pay them competitive salaries.
Criminal justice and mass incarceration are some of the most serious problems that Oklahoma is facing. We lock up far too many people for far too long. Despite a 20-year long decline in violent crimes and property crimes, our incarceration rate has risen 27% in the same period, and Oklahoma is predicted to soon have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Not only is it unjust, but incarcerating rather than rehabilitating people is a large financial drain on our state’s budget, and it limits participation in the economy. To reverse this trend of mass incarceration, I will fight for criminal justice reform, which includes education, job training programs, and implementing programs focused on reducing recidivism.
Our tax structure is severely outdated, and the time is ripe to modernize it. The current system simply does not work for the average Oklahoman and leaves them overburdened financially. Not only are we taxed when receiving our paychecks, but then we are taxed again at the register when buying the things we need to survive! This practice of double taxation needs to end. Instead of relying on 18th and 19th century practices, we should create a balanced tax code that no longer balances our budget on the backs of middle- and working-class Oklahomans.
A healthy state is a productive state. Would you be able to work to support yourself and your family if you had to struggle with a debilitating illness? Unfortunately, far too many Oklahomans are unable to either find or afford the care that they need to stay healthy. If elected, I will promote legislation ensuring that all Oklahomans have access to affordable healthcare. We also have to expand how we view healthcare to include the whole person, not just the body. In Oklahoma, providing mental health and substance abuse services has fallen tragically to the wayside, leaving many Oklahomans without the care that they need. Currently, Oklahoma ranks 45th in the nation on mental health spending. This is unacceptable. In addition to funding our healthcare system, we need to fund our mental health and substance abuse programs to keep Oklahomans healthy in mind and body.
As a service member of five years, I understand the extreme challenges faced by the members of our armed forces. As a veteran, I also understand the struggles that these brave men and women endure when they come home. For too many veterans, the war is not over when they return. Fighting for our safety is an honor that takes its toll on the minds and bodies of our veterans, and we have a duty to care for those who are willing to lay down their lives for us. As Americans, we must ensure that Oklahoma veterans are properly cared for through a well-managed and well-funded VA system.