Those who have read these articles during the past year will know that I have regularly opposed the many ongoing tax increase proposals because they will provide cover for the waste and abuse of already-collected billions taxpayer dollars.
Specifically, I have repeatedly expressed my fear that a culture of waste has been cultivated within state government as it relates to travel expenses. Each year, millions are spent on what I believe any neutral observer would agree are completely wasteful and unnecessary travel expenditures.
My observations only intensified as I monitored the state's travel spend through the open spending data tools that we have created in an attempt to get a grasp on state spending, and they continued to grow as government insiders explained to me the various practices of abuse that feature only a modicum of legal legitimacy, but are clearly abuses nonetheless.
In recent days, these concerns have been validated yet again in the form of recently released allegations against a prominent state official.
The director of one of the state's retirement systems has been dismissed after an accusation that his agency's travel money was spent in conjunction with "personal travel." The allegations call into question approximately $26,000 of travel spend.
Upon seeing this news, one of my first thought's was, "Isn't this happening all across state government? Why is this one individual accused of something I have always believed was a defining characteristic of Oklahoma state government?"
I expect this person's attorney could navigate to data.ok.gov, pull the state's vendor and credit card payment travel data, and in just a few minutes put together quite a splendid defense.
Depending on the specific circumstances, it may not even be necessary to litigate the propriety of the accused's alleged actions. Instead, the attorneys may simply point to the millions of wasteful spending and explain that this is just the way business happens in Oklahoma state government. Compared to these millions of dollars, $26,000 is simply a drop in the bucket.
Should this person be held accountable when others are not? Of course, if the accusations are true, he should be accountable for his actions. But a jury might be hard pressed to justify this apparent imbalance of justice.
All of this further builds my resolve to continue voting "No!" on the many millions of dollars of tax increases that are continually and unrelentingly appearing in the Legislature. To approve these tax increases would only give cover and license to this continued waste and I can not be a party to that action.
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