America has always been called the Land of Opportunity. As far back as we can remember, parents have told their kids that with hard work and discipline, they can achieve the American Dream. And millions of people have come from around the world to seize the opportunity to build a better future.
That shared opportunity to succeed is central to what makes America the greatest nation in the world. Regardless of where you were born, where you went to school, or who your parents are, every American can dream and achieve great things. That’s not how things are around the world. This is precious, and we must work to preserve it. We need to make sure that government policies in particular don’t act as a barrier that keep Mississippi families from pursuing the American Dream.
That’s why Americans for Prosperity-Mississippi is announcing an agenda called “Make Mississippi the Opportunity State.” We know that too many decades-old state laws protect the insiders who reap benefits from the government, while regular folks – the not so well-connected – shoulder the cost. Recent state leadership has made some strides, but it’s time to turn the corner.
Our agenda includes improving education and health care, protecting free speech, reforming the criminal justice system and curbing unnecessary state spending and taxation. We should be able to come together and work on these important goals. We know that to enact broad reforms, people with different ideologies often have to unite to push for change. We believe this Opportunity Agenda will do just that.
First, we should make sure our education system gives every child access to the education that meets their unique needs. For decades, our schools have offered a one-size-fits-all approach that stifles teachers, families and students. We should give local schools the freedom to innovate and empower educators to focus on students – not excessive bureaucratic requirements. We should eliminate regulations that prevent schools from leveraging modern technology and introducing new ways to deliver education. If we create an environment for a range of educational options to thrive, families will be able to select the traditional public, private, charter or home school that meets their needs, regardless of income or ZIP code.
To make Mississippi the Opportunity State, we must also begin to fix our flawed health care system. Our agenda here is simple: get government out of the way. Right now, state residents struggle to access care, in part, because local providers cannot expand their practice or offer new services unless they overcome outdated regulations. Giving health care professionals – such as nurse practitioners – full authority to practice would create valuable options for consumers. Repealing Certificate of Need laws would make it easier for providers to expand what they offer – potentially bringing new services to more people in the state. Updating state rules to match today’s technology would help underserved areas by increasing availability of telehealth. And we should keep regulators off the backs of primary care providers who care for you without interference from insurance companies. These changes will help give everyone access to better care at lower cost.
Our Opportunity Agenda calls for the state to rein in taxes and spending so you can keep more of what you earn, and to provide a better climate for businesses to prosper. Instead of raising the gas tax, lawmakers should reform transportation spending. Instead of expanding Medicaid, it’s time to repeal outdated regulations that prevent providers from competing to offer the best care at the lowest cost. Our leaders should reform government to save money instead of taking more from the pockets of hard-working families.
Expanding opportunity also means making our state the champion of second chances. Mississippi has a higher incarceration rate than 47 states. We should look to what has worked in other states, so our resources are focused on incarcerating those who pose a real threat, not those with low-level offenses that don’t impact public safety. It’s time to reform probation and parole to prevent reincarceration for technical violations and offer support to those committed to building a better life after completion of a sentence.
Lastly, we believe that open exchange of ideas drives the innovation and progress that create opportunity. Mississippi’s colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to provide an environment that allows students to do just that – engage with each other and a diversity of ideas. We support the FORUM Act to protect free speech on campus.
We at AFP- Mississippi, are excited to launch this effort to Make Mississippi the Opportunity State. Delivering on reforms such as these will help ensure that each new generation achieves the American Dream. Right now, there’s no task more important than repealing the burdensome state policies that protect some and hurt others. We’re ready to work with anyone who shares that vision.
Trey Dellinger is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Mississippi.