The “tea party” crowd can be a force in Oklahoma politics. To do so, they need to do more than protest the status quo, which inexplicably emerged before their eyes this past May after eight years in the driver’s seat of the Bush administration. The tea party’s real issue is corporate America, which is capable of shaping the policy agenda to its economic benefit.
A tea party strategy for Oklahoma needs to pack itself with small government reforms that appeal to the common sense of suburban Oklahoma ” that’s where the votes are in the Republican Party. If they play their cards right, they can thread the needle of Libertarian/ Ron Paul/Ross Perot/frustrated nationalists who are at their core, while also attracting voters who woke up to the budgetary nightmare they were cautioned about by ” wait for it ” Bill Clinton.
If they are serious about making government smaller, better and more economical, the following 10 ideas should fit the bill:
Revoke the Oklahoma state tax code. Start over with no tax deductions, and see what we come up with for a tax code. It can’t be worse than what we have.
Abolish county government. Counties are creatures of the state, to implement state law. County government largely grows inefficiency and eases corruption. You want local government? Create a city!
Turn all local school districts into not-for-profit organizations. Use open enrollment, with student funds following the student to the enrolling school. If we keep the counties, have county boards coordinate the local school organizations.
Eliminate jail time for drug use and instead move to work-release and monitoring-based rehabilitation with teeth. This cuts down on incarceration costs and moves offenders toward productive activities.
Reorganize higher education, community colleges and technical schools to eliminate physical plant and administrative redundancies.
Create a unicameral legislature, like Nebraska’s. It works up there. I find it hard to believe that Nebraska is so much different than Oklahoma. They have 49 lawmakers who are paid $12,000 per year. We have 149 who make $38,400. We pay nearly 10 times as much for our lawmaking as Nebraskans.
Use open-primary elections with instant runoffs for all elected offices. We go from three elections a year to one, and everyone has to make their case right the first time. It’ll cost less, too.
Make all of the executive positions in the state except governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general elective appointive. The AG needs executive independence; the rest can be appointed by the governor.
Elect the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket: Pick one, pick both!
Have budget-only legislative sessions every other year, for only 20 days, in order to limit the need of lawmakers to think that they have to make new laws.
Finally, here’s a bonus idea: Call a state constitutional convention to redesign and modify state government to reflect the technological, knowledge and value changes that have occurred since 1906.
If you really want reform, you have to do more than protest. You have to advance ideas, and try to make them stick.
Gaddie, a Norman resident, is a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma.