Another Red River rivalryBy OCPA President Jonathan SmallEach year in October, Oklahoma’s eyes turn south of the Red River to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the annual football rivalry between OU and Texas. Texas has won 61 of those games, OU has now wo…
From OCPA: “Earlier today, former United States Senator Tom Coburn, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, and former Oklahoma Secretary of State Larry Parman sent a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers. In it, the three conservative leaders urged lawmakers to finally right-size government, pointing out that Oklahoma is hurting because Oklahomans are hurting.”
Here is the letter:
Dear Oklahoma Policymakers,
Ronald Reagan once wisely warned: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” About taxes and spending, he said, “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” These words of wisdom apply directly to fiscal policies being debated in Oklahoma today.
Take, for example, the last several legislative sessions. Numerous lobbyists for special interests and numerous government executives have worked to focus the discussion on how to take more money from Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, from working Oklahoma families, and from small businesses and job creators.
Each session, the discussion has focused on cries for more revenue, money to be taken from Oklahomans by their government.
The reality, though, is that Oklahomans are hurting—due in large part to the significant price declines in oil and to the failures of the Obama administration’s economic policies and regulations. The Oklahoma Tax Commission reports that from 2014 to 2015 Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income. Further, from FY-2015 to FY-2016, Oklahomans cut their purchases subject to state sales and use tax by $4.1 billion just to survive. From September 2015 to September 2016, fully 21,800 oil and gas and manufacturing jobs were cut.
Given what Oklahomans are facing, now more than ever is the time for policymakers to steel themselves and get about the tough work of reforming Oklahoma’s government. This means focusing funding on critical core functions while working to implement efficiencies. It’s time to craft a state budget that respects Oklahoma families’ budgets.
Now more than ever, policymakers must deliver on their campaign promises to right-size government and adjust it to the current tax burden borne by Oklahomans.
During stern times like these, it is unwise to fall for the trap that is state-level “tax-reform”—when this really means raising taxes on Oklahomans and permanently cementing unreformed state spending so that government can avoid the hard choices Oklahomans have to make every day. Policymakers should especially resist increasing tax burdens on Oklahomans while a lack of transparency in agency spending still exists.
Policymakers should work tirelessly until all expenditures of every state agency are reviewed by our elected legislators. No state agency should hire lobbyists or staff with state funds in order to lobby for even more taxpayer money. Sound and fiscally conservative policy must always consider reforms and prioritizing spending. The people of Oklahoma have spoken clearly in favor of this approach. Most state office holders have earned their offices by voicing support of these principles.
Some claim that recent special-election results show that policymakers aren’t taxing their constituents enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voters will reward those who keep their promises, who work tirelessly to rein in the bureaucracy and special interests—and who carry out their duties and personal lives with moral integrity. When policymakers break promises, avoid reining in the bureaucracy, and have moral failings, none should be surprised when they themselves and those who claim to wear their political colors suffer electoral defeat.
During this special session, those who claim the principles and label of Ronald Reagan must act on their promises. Those principles reject all tax increases and efforts to generate more revenue during times like these. State reports and certified revenue documents show that lawmakers have already passed legislation which increased annual revenues available for appropriation by more than $500 million over the last three legislative sessions.
It is time to dig in to eradicate crony capitalism. It is time to rein in unreformed spending. It is time for real, market-driven Medicaid reforms and innovative health care spending. It is time to be honest about non-instructional growth in common and higher education. It is time to implement government-wide business process improvements and reform outdated government structures.
Policymakers must make the same difficult choices being made by the most vulnerable, by working Oklahoma families, and by small businesses and other job creators in Oklahoma.
Former United States Senator
Former Oklahoma Governor
Former Oklahoma Secretary of State and Secretary of Commerce
Conservative leaders urge Oklahoma politicians to protect taxpayers
September 28, 2017
Dear Governor and State Lawmakers,
We are a coalition of conservative citizens, many of us serving in leadership of state or local organizations, who write to urge you to address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government and to resist raising taxes on your constituents.
Many Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling and have been forced to reduce their own spending. Indeed, Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income and reduced purchases by $4.1 billion in one year alone when oil prices collapsed.
And yet, Oklahoma’s total state government spending is at an all-time high. The state is now on track to spend more money next year—more than $17.9 billion—than at any time in our history. If you believe that certain state services are not adequately funded, we urge you to prioritize spending rather than raise taxes.
“Limited government” and “lower taxes” have been winning campaign messages in Oklahoma over the last decade. Some candidates have even made written promises to oppose and vote against (or veto) “any and all efforts to increase taxes.” We encourage you to stay true to these principles and to oppose efforts to increase the burden of government on hard-working Oklahoma families.
OCPA’s Center for Investigative Journalism revealed some shocking news this week about the spending habits of Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). TSET is a state agency created to fund programs that help people quit smoking and help pay for the costs of smoking-related health care.
TSET was formed as a result of the state’s lawsuit against tobacco companies in the 1990s, and currently sits on an endowment worth over $1 billion. It brings in and spends about $50 million every year on tobacco cessation campaigns or health issues related to tobacco use. Or rather, that’s what TSET is supposed to use the money for.
Following Governor Mary Fallin’s statement on next week’s special session, and her threat to veto any measures that include cuts to state agencies, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs put the following post up:On the 15th, Governor Fallin sent this …
As announced last week, Job Creators Network’s TaxCutsNow bus tour is stopping in Oklahoma City tomorrow [Tuesday]!We have just received word that the bus tour is making an additional stop in Tulsa tomorrow as well! The TaxCutsNow bus will be outs…
As chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, Rep. Leslie Osborn was one of the legislature’s budget negotiators earlier this year. She used that position to make the case for a litany of tax increases, claiming that Oklahomans are “tired of us doing things the way we’ve always done them.” This begs the question: what has the state been doing?
As one of the most conservative states when it comes to election results, some might assume that the Oklahoma legislature continually cuts taxes. In fact, the state ranks 36th in per capita tax collections. A study shows that Oklahoma historically has had an above average tax burden compared to the rest of the nation. While there have been some state tax cuts, Jonathan Small has shown that the legislature has also increased revenue.
Despite changes in tax laws and fluctuations in revenue, what has remained constant year after year has been the increase in state government spending. According to the data from Oklahoma’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), state government has increased spending in 22 of the last 23 years. Despite recessions in 2008 and 2015, when many Oklahoma families had to make tough choices, Oklahoma government continued to spend.
During the same interview Leslie Osborn said that “more than ever the message and the meaning is going to matter more.” Message matters, but it is imperative they be not only sincere, but also based on facts. Oklahoma government has been growing, not shrinking. People might question the priorities in the budget or in how agencies spend money, but the total burden on Oklahomans is higher than ever.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court opinion striking down SB 845 states “by strictly limiting the Legislature’s ability to enact laws that generate additional revenue—the people’s preference that when revenues shrink, so too does their government.” This is the people’s will as expressed in the Oklahoma Constitution. Maybe the state should try doing things this way?
Free Market Friday: Misleading statements harmful
Former House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn recently stated Oklahoma is “50th in the nation in tax collections.” Calling for more tuition and fee increases on working Oklahoma families, University of Oklahoma President David Boren made a similar dead-last claim regarding state support for higher education.
Despite Boren’s claims, the actual data show that Oklahoma ranks 31st in total state support for higher education. When adjusted for cost of living, on a per capita basis Oklahoma actually ranks 26th in state support for higher education.
Just as the actual data contradict President Boren’s claim, the undisputed data from the United States Census Bureau contradict Rep. Osborn’s statements, proving that we are far from being the lowest-taxed state.
Regarding Osborn’s assertion, the actual data show Oklahoma is not 50th in the nation. According to the latest available data from the Census Bureau, Oklahoma collects more in state taxes than Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Thus, Oklahoma ranks 31st, not 50th. Per capita, Oklahoma ranks 38th in tax collections. When adjusted for cost of living, Oklahoma ranks 36th in per capita tax collections.
What’s really astonishing is that the state managed to collect this level of revenue despite being in a recession while most states were not. Oklahoma lost 21,800 energy and manufacturing jobs, resulting in a loss of more than $13 billion in taxable income. Oklahomans reduced purchases subject to sales tax and use tax to the tune of $4.1 billion just to survive, according to available Oklahoma Tax Commission data. Given this, state government should not complain, and Oklahomans should be thanked for their sacrifice.
Throughout the 2017 legislative session, tax consumers tried to get lawmakers and the public to support more than $2 billion in tax increases. Despite these attempts, no tax increases were constitutionally passed by the Legislature.
It’s understandable why tax consumers are working so hard to get taxpayers to believe the 50th and dead-last mantra: They want Oklahomans to be in the psychological condition to support and accept massive tax increases.
While I believe Rep. Osborn cares about Oklahoma, misleading statements from public officials such as Osborn and Boren are harmful to efforts to find viable, long-term solutions.