We have to fundamentally change how the legislative session operates so we can better focus on the budgeting process and hold unelected bureaucrats more responsible for how our tax dollars are spent. Regaining control of budgeting will help further reform state government and make it more efficient with taxpayer dollars.
The first component of Todd’s reform plan is to change the structure of the legislative session. Legislation not related to the budget would be handled during the first month, reserving the rest of the session for strict analysis of the state’s budget.
STRUCTURAL BUDGET REFORM:
As it is now, state government begins the budget process before it even knows what funds are available. The governor should submit a budget AFTER the amount of revenue available for appropriation is certified by the State Equalization Board – not before, as is the current practice. The current process is unwise and does not make sense.
Oklahoma must implement zero-based budgeting. Bureaucrats and agency directors need to justify every expenditure of taxpayer dollars – not just the new dollars they inevitably request each year. Todd’s plan implements this long overdue reform.
Currently the budget is drafted by only a handful of legislators. The entire legislature should be engaged in the budgeting process. It is time to empty the back rooms and bring transparency to development of the state’s budget. By reforming the structure of the legislative session, every legislator will be tasked with helping keep unelected bureaucrats accountable.
In addition to the budget, Oklahoma must have additional reforms to help restore confidence in our elected officials. That is why Todd Lamb has proposed a comprehensive ethics in government reform plan. This very detailed, step-by-step plan addresses key issues like forcing those leaving office to pay for their special elections when they leave for scandalous or personal reasons; addressing per diem excesses during special sessions; holding elected officials more accountable for sexual harassment issues; creating a “cooling-off” period so legislators and agency directors cannot immediately become registered lobbyists; and eliminating unnecessary special privileges like unique license plates for legislators.
The status quo is unacceptable. Increasing money spent in the classroom is key to giving our teachers the pay increase they deserve. Oklahoma must improve its education system. We have to put parents back in control, maintain a focus on improving academic achievement, and reduce administrative costs so we get a minimum of 65% of every education dollar spent directly with teachers in the classroom.
Based on reports from the State Department of Education, currently fewer than ten of Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts are spending at least 65% of their education dollars in the classroom. The low number of districts reaching even that modest threshold potentially understates how inefficiently our schools’ finances are being spent. One study shows that on a statewide basis, less than 45% of total education expenses went to instruction in 2016. For this reason, Todd Lamb will work to create a more transparent and accountable system for our schools so we will know we are getting the appropriate funds directed to the classroom. In-classroom expenditures include teacher salaries, textbooks and smartboards.
Spending so much of our education dollars outside the classroom is simply unacceptable and must stop. Oklahoma must quit growing administrative overhead in our schools and focus on the two most important people in the learning process: the teachers and students. With an appropriated budget of 2.9 billion dollars for the upcoming fiscal year, increasing the amount of spending in the classroom by just 1%, we can increase dollars spent on instruction by 29 million dollars. If Oklahoma is able to increase the percentage spent on classroom instruction by just 10%, we would see more than 290 million additional dollars spent in the classroom – without a tax increase.
Oklahoma must continually make certain our teachers have a competitive salary. Todd Lamb wants the best and brightest teachers in Oklahoma and knows we can pay our teachers more by dedicating more of our existing education funding to the classroom.
It is time to demand and expect more from our schools and our students. Last year, 40% of all Oklahoma high school graduates who attended college had to take remedial courses. These students, despite having met all of the requirements, were not prepared for college courses. The need for remediation tremendously strains not just these colleges, but the taxpayers who are essentially paying twice for the same service, and the students and their families. Practically, that means it takes these students longer to graduate and makes college even more expensive. Lowering Oklahoma’s high remediation rate will require aggressive rigor reform, not at the high school level, but at the most basic levels of learning.
Oklahoma must reinstate the 3rd Grade Reading Sufficiency Act. In full force for only one year, this act led directly to an increase in our state’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for fourth grade reading. This law was weakened, so it is now easier for a child who cannot read on grade-level to be promoted to fourth grade. Allowing a student to continue to fourth grade without being able to read is a tremendous disservice to the child, the fourth grade teacher and other children in the classroom who are unable to receive the full benefit of fourth grade instruction because so much time is necessary for remediation.
It is time Oklahoma institute a 3rd Grade Math Proficiency Act. In today’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) dominated world, math skills are becoming more and more important.
Oklahoma currently has 9,000 job vacancies in the STEM fields. That number is expected to reach 24,000 by 2026, and only expected to grow. Not only will requiring proficiency in math help these students eventually enter the workforce and be productive, but it will help our state diversify our economy as we are able to fill the employment needs of these businesses.
Parents have to be more involved and in control of their child’s education. We should expand programs like the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program for children that need special education services to include other Oklahoma children. It is wrong to expect our public schools to be able to serve so many students when educators and facilities with special skills could do so at a lower cost to taxpayers.
REFORM AT ALL LEVELS
Now is the time for education reform. Throughout our history, we have made attempts to fund education (House Bill 1017, the “education” lottery, liquor-by-the drink and more) but we have not fundamentally reformed the way we deliver education in the 21st century or demanded academic rigor in return. Oklahoma must better align our education delivery. Instead of reinforcing silos at different levels of education, Oklahoma needs improved communication and coordination between common education, CareerTech and higher education. This will provide the best outcomes for students’ future success.
Oklahoma must ensure a quality education is accessible to all Oklahoma students because education is a game changer for generations.
Where we raise our families is what really matters, and all Oklahomans deserve to feel secure in their homes and their neighborhoods. Whether it’s a sprawling rural area, a small town, or one of our metro areas, we must improve our communities.
Oklahoma has many shared challenges, but Todd Lamb recognizes some issues are unique to different parts of our state. Each year Todd visits all 77 counties and will continue to do so as Governor.
Regardless of where in this great state we live, Oklahoma’s families should be able to expect quality schools, job and career opportunities, and access to vital infrastructure like health care and good roads. Additionally, we should have the right and freedom to practice our religion of choice and should feel safe and secure in our own home and community.
Transportation infrastructure is a vital need for all of our communities. It is imperative Oklahoma continue the 8-Year Construction Work Plan for repairing and improving our roads and bridges. This plan has been successful in keeping politics out of the decision-making process and ensuring the greatest needs are addressed first. The base line for funding the Oklahoma Department of Transportation should be $775 million.
Oklahoma must be vigilant in our fight against violent crime while making our criminal justice and court systems more efficient. Justice delayed is justice denied, and must be delivered swiftly. Not only does this help provide closure for victims of crime but cutting these delays will save taxpayer money.
Todd Lamb is the only candidate that has authored criminal justice reform legislation. While serving in the state Senate, Todd Lamb worked to pass a bill that created a pilot program to provide diversion programs for female nonviolent offenders.
As Oklahoma reforms the criminal justice system, we must be certain we are making the needed investments in veterans’ administration and drug courts, as well as in rehabilitation services. Simply changing the definition of a crime without providing treatment for that behavior is not a viable option. Criminal justice reform efforts should take a long-term view with a needed focus on how decisions made by the system can affect future generations. The key to long-term public safety is to reduce “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) which too often lead to substance abuse.
In every part of our state, Oklahomans should have the freedom to worship and to assemble. Whether it is around the flagpole, posting the Ten Commandments or praying before a high school football game, Oklahoma must be committed to protecting our individual religious liberties.
Oklahoma must diversify its economy so we are no longer at the mercy of fluctuations in the world’s commodity markets. Energy and agriculture remain the backbone of our economy. Todd Lamb is uniquely qualified to focus on economic development and recruitment of new types of businesses and jobs to our state.
Oklahoma has just under 4 million people, not enough people to buy, want, consume, use or purchase everything we grow, extract, manufacture and fabricate in our state. The great advantage and opportunity we have in rural development and agriculture specifically, is exporting agricultural commodities. Taiwan has over 20 million mouths to feed and backs to clothe. We must increase the exports we have already with countries like Taiwan and other Pacific Rim countries.
Additionally, the United Kingdom has Brexit pending, with an implementation date of March 2019. That is over 65 million people. Those two countries alone amount to nearly 90 million people that need Oklahoma’s agricultural products.
As Governor, Todd Lamb will have a focus on rural exports across Oklahoma, to try to be the first in line with countries like the United Kingdom as they leave the European Union. They are going to need the United States, and particularly Oklahoma, more than ever.
Oklahoma should be a leader in manufacturing. With low energy costs, overall low cost of living and our central geography, Oklahoma is primed to take advantage of Trump’s national tax reforms which are bringing manufacturing companies back to the United States. We already have a proven record in this sector, but more needs to be done.
By improving our education system and ultimately our workforce, we will encourage employers to both grow existing operations in the state as well as bring new job creators here. Oklahoma must be vigilant to not allow our tax structure to become a hindrance to economic growth.
Todd Lamb has already proven his ability to connect with job creators and CEOs and successfully encourage their investment in Oklahoma. As Governor, Todd will continue these efforts which have helped communities all across Oklahoma.
Work is what it will take to make Oklahoma better. Our citizens deserve a government that works, an education system that works, and our students must be prepared to work. Todd Lamb will work with Oklahomans from every corner of the state to be a part of tapping into our unique pioneering spirit to renew Oklahoma for the next generation.
Oklahoma needs a leader to tackle these important components to RENEW Oklahoma. To achieve success in RENEWing Oklahoma, it will take work and a leader who has the knowledge and drive necessary. Todd Lamb is that leader.
Todd Lamb is committed to working hard to turn Oklahoma around. Just as he has done for the past eight years, Todd Lamb will visit each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties at least once every year. It is important to always remember the people should be talking to the government and the government should be responsive to the people – not the other way around. Oklahomans should not be forced to go to the state capitol to have their voice heard – the capitol needs to come to them.
Experience and the knowledge of how government works differentiates Todd Lamb from the other candidates. With Todd Lamb, there will be no on-the-job training. Todd understands state government, has previously exposed inefficiencies, knows how the system works and how to fix it. That is why the change Oklahomans want and deserve will start on Todd Lamb’s first day in office.
Throughout his administration, Todd Lamb will work to restore the trust of voters and job creators. He will do this by listening all across the state, doing the hard work of implementing real reforms and by fundamentally changing the culture of state government.