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Point of View: Brand New State agenda puts people before politics

Rep. Cyndi Munson
Rep. Cyndi Munson

During my first few years serving in the Legislature, our state made drastic cuts to vital services that serve all Oklahomans. During those days, the most devastating part of my job was listening to the many stories from Oklahomans of the challenges they were facing — and continue to face — because of our divestment in state government.

We can do better, but it is going to take a bold vision to rebuild our state and truly invest in Oklahomans. Last week the House Democratic Caucus shared our policy agenda for the 2020 legislative session that prioritizes people and to improve their everyday lives. The Brand New State agenda focuses on health care, public education, criminal justice reform and the economy.

It doesn’t take much research to realize that the outcomes we are seeing in these areas are not good enough. Our agenda changes that by putting empathy and equality ahead of politics. Each month during the 2020 session, we are going to focus on how we can improve these areas of government.

Here are some of my favorite highlights of the Brand New State agenda:

Health care: We are committed to addressing our state’s health care concerns holistically, understanding that brain health and physical health are not separate. Therefore, we must fully fund mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services. For too long, these services have been underfunded. It is time to advance policies that will provide investment in these programs.

Criminal justice reform: To end our debtor’s prison, we must appropriate funding for our courts and district attorney’s offices. Fines and fees are holding too many Oklahomans back from obtaining a state ID to be used for housing and employment.

Education: As schools across the state address the impact of adverse childhood experiences, we must ensure our schools have the funding available for counselors to address the mental and behavioral health of students. Counselors are spending too much time proctoring exams rather than doing the work they were trained to do.

The economy: Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was cut in 2016, puts money back into the pockets of Oklahomans. The EITC rewards working families and helps them gain access to basic necessities. This anti-poverty program is supported by Democrats and Republicans and should be seriously considered this legislative session.

Divestment in state government over the past decade has had real consequences for Oklahoma families. We don’t have to reimagine state government; we need to invest in state government. I am proud of the plan that is made to help all of us, not just some of us.

Our Brand New State plan can be found at www.BrandNewStateOK.com.

Munson, D-Oklahoma City, represents District 85 in the Oklahoma House.

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