Jamison Faught

Moore, Cleveland Issue Republican Budget Challenge

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Lewis Moore and Bobby Cleveland announced today they are challenging Republican lawmakers to prepare for a line-by-line budget review ahead of a pre-session Republican Caucus meeting in December. Moore and Cleveland hope lawmakers will each find $50 million to $100 million in budget reductions and efficiencies.

 “We have spent too much time and energy lately finding creative ways to increase revenue,” said Moore, R-Arcadia. “This Republican Budget Challenge is a way for us to shift our focus back to conservative principles: eliminating waste, streamlining government and finding efficiencies that benefit Oklahomans. It can and has to be done.”

 “We understand going line by line through agency budgets is a tedious task,” Moore said. “But, if we spent even half as much time rooting out waste as we have trying to increase revenue through the legislative process, I bet we could find some real savings. For the past few years, the legislature has allocated money to agencies in block grant form, with agencies determining how they would allocate funds within their agencies.  The legislature, which represents the citizen’s will, to include how much money to raise and spend, should go through each agency budget, line-by-line, prioritizing needs and dictating spending.  I believe each agency and our citizens will be better served with greater scrutiny.”

 After the December caucus meeting, Moore and Cleveland hope to release results outlining the top ideas to the public ahead of the 2018 session.

 “We urge all of our members to participate in this challenge,” said Cleveland, R-Slaughterville. “We are hearing from Oklahomans across our state who believe there are inefficiencies in state government. It is our job to ensure a more efficient system, and the Republican Budget Challenge allows us to do just that.

 “We are excited to see the great ideas that this challenge produces. At the end of the day, we cannot expect taxpayers to bear the brunt of higher taxes when we all know there’s plenty of waste to be found in our system. Our citizens deserve better,” Cleveland said.

Muskogee Politico: Court ruling is dangerous for the Oklahoma taxpayer

The recent ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court has opened a dangerous can of worms for the Oklahoma taxpayer. By essentially eviscerating Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution, the Court now has given the Legislature free reign to hike taxes on Oklahomans in complete disregard of the will of the people as expressed in passage of SQ 640, which was intended to place strict limits on the increasing of Oklahomans’ tax burden by the Legislature.

Governor Fallin, who plans to issue a call for a special session, began the year by pressing for nearly $2,600,000,000 (2.6 Billion with a B) in new and increased taxes. $1.7B of that would have come by removing the sales tax exemption on services. Armed with this ruling, she may feel emboldened to continue that push for higher taxes. Legislators should resist her, and Oklahomans should flood the State Capitol with calls against raising taxes or fees or removing tax exemptions, or whatever other loophole the Governor and Legislature may try to use to squeeze more money out of taxpayers for the state’s coffers.

Justice Combs said this in his dissent, and I am in full agreement with him:

The aim of the people in adopting State Question 640 must not be thwarted by such parsing of words and definitions. The Legislature must not be allowed to circumvent the requirements of Okla. Const. art. 5, § 33 when the clear principal object and purpose is to raise new revenue.

$10 billion worth of tax exemptions in the Oklahoma tax code are now subject to removal by a bare majority vote, rather than the 3/4ths vote intended by the petitioners and voters who wrote and approved SQ 640 in 1992. Hold on to your wallets, folks, because Governor Fallin and the Legislature will be coming for them.

Former OKGOP National Committeeman Steve Fair wrote this on his blog in response to the ruling:

[W]e need a statute of limitations on removal of exemptions. If a good or service has not been taxed for eighty years, then it should be considered a new tax or fee. […] This was clearly a loophole the legislature was looking for to fill this year’s budget hole.

I think that’s a great idea. Hopefully, some taxpayer-defending legislator will take up the mantle next session and work to advance a measure along these lines.

Oklahomans will need to keep a close eye on the Special Session that will begin on September 25th. Your wallet will be placed on the table by a pack of hungry vultures who have complete disregard for the intent and purpose of Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Gov. Fallin plans to call Special Session beginning Sept. 25th

Governor Mary Fallin Statement on Plans to Call Special Session to Adjust Budget for Current Fiscal Year

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement on her plans to call a special legislative session for lawmakers to adjust the current fiscal year budget:

“I am planning on calling a special session beginning September 25 for legislators to adjust the current fiscal year budget. A formal call for a special session will be issued in the next few days, but I wanted to announce my intention to call a special session for planning purposes. I also want Oklahomans to know we are working diligently to address the fiscal matters of our state.”

EDITOR’S [Press Office] NOTE:  The state’s 2018 fiscal year budget has a shortfall of $215 million as a result of last month’s Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling, which struck down a proposed smoking cessation fee that was estimated to raise that amount. The $215 million represents just state funds. With the loss of matching federal funds state agencies estimate the total is nearly $500 million.