Wednesday, January 12, 2022

OCPA: three New Year's resolutions for policymakers

New Year’s resolutions for policymakers
By Jonathan Small

With a new year comes new year’s resolutions. While the average citizen may focus on diet and exercise, state policymakers should emphasize growth—growing our economy and increasing opportunity.

To that end, OCPA has embraced the following goals this year, and we are encouraged by lawmakers openness to the following goals.

Universal School Choice: We must allow education funding to follow the student, whether to public, private, or homeschool. We must start caring about children, not systems, and make sure our children get quality academic standards, and moral instruction.

The last two years have awakened parents to flaws within public-school systems. Too often, school officials have been unresponsive or even hostile to parent concerns. It’s time to give parents the leverage they deserve through school choice. Families have already paid for their children’s education via taxes. They should not have to pay out-of-pocket a second time to escape a bad situation. Their tax dollars should follow their children.

This will also reduce the fever pitch over many debates. For example, those who reject Critical Race Theory can send their children to schools that don’t embrace that dogma, while parents who want their children exposed to CRT can select a school that does so.

Income Tax: We need to get rid of the penalty on work in Oklahoma and replace it with a revenue-neutral tax that doesn’t punish people who get a job. We need a no-income tax state to keep jobs and people in Oklahoma.

Lawmakers reduced the state income tax this year, which is a move in the right direction. But we need to keep going.

Recent Census data showed only 15 states grew more, as a share of total population, than Oklahoma did between July 2020 and July 2021. That growth was due to people moving to Oklahoma from other states. Quite often, families chose Oklahoma to escape “blue” states that imposed draconian-and-extended COVID lockdowns in addition to over-taxing and over-regulating. That shows conservative policies fuel Oklahoma growth.

But the biggest winners nationally included Florida and Texas. Notably, neither state imposes an income tax and both have long been economic powerhouses. It’s not enough to not be California. Oklahoma needs to the first choice for those looking to invest and create jobs.

Judicial Selection Reform: Special interests have too strong a say and control over who gets considered for judicial appointments. Oklahoma’s judicial nomination process is among the nation’s most secretive, impeding accountability to the voters and taxpayers impacted by the state’s judicial system. It’s time to reform Oklahoma’s judicial-selection process to include the best features of the federal model so that appointing authorities aren’t bound to choose only from applicants presented by special interests.

These are ambitious goals. But Oklahomans are an ambitious people. The past few years have shown conservative policies improve life for all—so why should we not keep traveling down that path?

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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