Republican Sharon Parker and Democrat Sen. John Sparks can retire their walking shoes from door-to-door knocking — or in Sparks’ case, his “campaign khakis” — after their battle for the state Senate District 16 seat ends Tuesday.

Sparks, 41, of Norman, was elected to the state Senate in 2006 and is vying for another round.

“I want to help the state become the place Oklahomans say it can be,” said Sparks, a founding partner of the Odom, Sparks and Jones law firm.

Sparks serves on the Education, Finance, Retirement and Insurance and Rules committees.

If re-elected, Sparks proposes to eliminate income tax on full-time college and career technology students. He said the money graduates would funnel into the state’s economy as they move from shirkers to workers would offset any initial revenue lost to the state.

“The loss to the state is small compared to the huge benefit individuals would receive,” Sparks said, adding that the exemption would have to be capped at some level.

Sparks also plans to ensure the public retirement system is funded by a pre-determined deadline through a constitutional amendment, noting that teacher retirement is only 49-percent financed.

“I don’t care if it’s done in one year or 10, but we need to put that money toward obligations before we make up new ones,” he said.

Parker, 64, of Norman, echoed similar plans to fund retirement, saying the state has an obligation to fund its commitment to teachers.

Parker, a registered nurse at Norman Regional Health Systems, also noted a need for consolidation among school districts, adding that the 500-plus districts within the state’s 77 counties could be trimmed.

Sparks also outlined plans for a PAYGO law to thwart overspending. If passed, the legislation would call for legislators to identify priority spending. So if the Legislature increases spending or decreases taxes, it would have to specifically itemize the offsets, he said.

“In Oklahoma, there will be bills that pass, but they won’t be enacted for three to four years,” Sparks said. “They’re just putting the bills off to tomorrow.”

Parker stressed her background in health care and said, if elected, she could “hit the ground running,” whether the state opts in or out of, through votes on two state questions on Tuesday’s ballot, the proposed health care system.

Parker, who ran for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1990 and 1992, also said the state needs to improve workers comp reform and tort reform.

“I think I bring a realistic approach into the trenches on what health care is about,” Parker said, noting that there isn’t a registered nurse currently serving in the Senate. “It’s going to be a huge undertaking. I haven’t met anyone not in favor of health care. It’s more the consensus of how we get there.”

Nanette Light 366-3541

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