It's Time for People Over Party
Voters are embarrassed by what's NOT happening in the State Capitol. Members of the two Party system cling to party loyalty while the will of the people is ignored. It's time for the voters to have a real voice, a champion for them, in the State Capitol.
As an Independent, Tom isn't in the pocket of special interest groups. He's also not tied to party loyalty. Instead, Tom is committed to the things the voters want to see happen in Oklahoma.
Tom has built a professional career on listening to people, building consensus and working collaboratively. Tom's 35 years of professional experience is exactly what Oklahoma needs to fix the challenges we face right now. He will work o bring people together and get the work of the people done.
Create an "Open for business" climate in Oklahoma
I believe we need to create an environment that entices small business to grow and thrive. We also need to create an action plan that pursues new industry to come to Oklahoma, which will create more job opportunities, create expanded opportunities for our existing small businesses, and balance Oklahoma's economic interests so we don't rely as heavily on the oil & gas sector.
- Affordable Healthcare: Oklahoma families deserve better than $1,000 or more per month in healthcare premiums. Neither you or I can survive for long with such high premiums. But the answer is readily available. We have allowed Blue Cross/Blue Shield to have a virtual monopoly over health insurance. They hold all the hospital contracts across the state and, as a result, dictate how healthcare is handled and at what price. As your next Legislator, I will fight to break up this monopoly and create incentives to bring more health insurance providers to Oklahoma. This will help lower your health insurance premiums and allow our small businesses to be more competitive.
- Improved Transportation Infrastructure: Our roads and bridges must be addressed quickly before we experience the negative consequences of dangerous conditions. The money taken by the Legislature from the Department of Transportation must be returned and the DOT must take immediate steps to address our most pressing areas. To grow our businesses, we need roads and bridges to get business done.
- Immediate Action on Proper Funding of Education: I address education below, but it must be stated clearly that our culture of dismantling education is over. As your next House Representative, education will be addressed so we can have an effectively trained workforce to meet tomorrow's needs.
Restore Education to Prominence
Over the past decade and more, Oklahoma has stated publicly through our State Budget how we feel about education. This must and will change! Education is the cornerstone of all civilized nations and, in Oklahoma, that must be the standard as well. If we are to create an environment in Oklahoma that says we are first class and "Open for Business," we must invest in education. There are key areas that I will pursue to make education a priority in Oklahoma:
- Raise Teacher Pay: One of the most important roles in any state is that of a teacher and yet we pay them as if they don't matter. We rank in the bottom portion of the 50 states in the United States and it is reflected in the impact of teacher after teacher leaving Oklahoma for other states. As a result, nearly 30% of our teachers currently working in Oklahoma are working as part of an emergency certification program. What does this mean for your student? It means nearly one third of our teachers lack the training and certification to effectively teach. This cannot continue!
- Raise the Per Pupil Rate: We rank 48th out of 50 states in the amount we provide per pupil. What does this mean? It means the funding needed to provide a solid education -- books, supplies, chairs, desks, among other things -- is severely lacking. Our students are getting short-changed from the moment they walk in the door.
- Consolidation of School Systems: This is a very unpopular topic, especially among school administrators, but the bottom line is this: We have 512 school systems in a State with 77 counties. The smallest school is paying, on average, a higher rate for certain services simply because of the lack of negotiating power due to their small size. Multiple states across the U.S. have addressed this over the past couple of decades with glowing success. It's time to transform our administrative structure so our students get the most value out of their education.
Show a Commitment to Our Children & Our Seniors
Our youngest and our eldest citizens continue to get short-changed by a system that works against them rather than for them. We have great people working for us in the Department of Human Services, but it is our leadership at the top as well as our State Legislature that should be ashamed of how little they care for our children and our seniors.
- Apply for the Medicaid Expansion: Oklahoma's refusal to apply for the Medicaid Expansion - for money that already belongs to us - was a mistake. With rural hospitals closing and 25% of Oklahomans without healthcare coverage, we need to apply for this program.
- Protection of Sooner Care Benefits: Children should never be held hostage due to their parent's inability to seek work due to a variety of reasons. Regardless the parent's situation, children should never be denied Sooner Care. Period.
- Protection of Care for Our Seniors: In December 2017, after multiple warnings of the potential loss of The Advantage Program, I was put in the unfortunate position of moving my father from his home in Seminole, OK to Indiana. We had no choice. We needed The Advantage Program to provide him with the required care he needed. No child must ever have to make a decision of this magnitude...ever.
- Accountability: As a result of the State Audit, we have learned that there has been mismanagement of the funding at the Department of Human Services. The money was there, but the DHS Leadership either misled the public or simply was uneducated as to how to read a spreadsheet. It makes the DHS look horrible and, by extension, it creates distrust of all other State departments. DHS Leadership will be held accountable for this.
Transform Our Prison System
Oklahoma now ranks #1 in the world in the percentage of our population that is incarcerated. Our existing education-to-prison mentality must be eliminated.
As a result of our existing system, we incarcerate non-violent offenders simply to fill cells and meet the obligations we have with our private contractors. This is immoral and wrong. This creates a perpetuating problem and an ever-increasing cost burden to every tax payer in Oklahoma. For every non-violent offender, we can reduce the annual cost of care from $19,000 per person to less than $3,000 per person by focusing on rehabilitation and mental health.
Additionally, an educated workforce means a real opportunity to get better paying jobs. The proposals I've outlined thus far regarding healthcare, education, and medicare will each impact our population in a positive way leading to less desperation to create crime that ends up in incarceration.