Observing the Legislature over the past 11 years have given me much perspective. I now have a tremendous appreciation for those courageous legislators who are willing to defend the taxpayer interests even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Over the course of the last few weeks, you have may have heard the frustration of the Legislature's big tax advocates. They continually express annoyance with the small bipartisan group of legislators who are the only barrier between the people of Oklahoma and the largest tax increase in the modern history of the state -- including a massive, 170 million dollar gas tax increase that will become the 2nd highest gas tax rate in the region and punish working Oklahomans as it will likely be priced into many daily commodities such as groceries and other consumables.
The tax-ideologue, big government advocates, and the highest levels of state government have aggressively targeted the minority of taxpayer-friendly legislators throughout this legislative year and the ensuing special session. Their frustration centers around the fact that the minority refuse to join the majority and become yet another "yes" voting zombie a la the famous 1984 Apple commercial.
Herein lies the irony: these minority legislators have never acquiesced to the zombiesque, big-spending status quo that placed the state into its current fiscal situation.
This blame game of Oklahoma's big-spending, tax-increasing politicians is not unlike the actions of the habitual alcoholic who upon awakening with a hangover, places the blame for his misdeeds of the previous evening upon his sober-minded friends who were unable to physically restrain him from his excesses.
You see, at a time when state government had plenty of "new" money in past years, the same big-spenders -- who are now asking for new taxes -- advanced proposal after proposal to expand and create new government programs, increase spending, create lobbyist-requested special interest tax loopholes and tax credit giveaways; and, grow the government's debt -- the latter which is a practice that continues to this day.
All too often these terrible proposals went into law notwithstanding the objections and the "no!" votes of the taxpayer-friendly legislators -- the same legislators who are now the target of the ire of the state government establishment.
In recent years, even though state government has still managed to reach an all time spending high, the energy sector entered into one of its predictable down cycles and the "new" money stopped flowing as rapidly into state government coffers.
In their most candid moments, the most intellectual of the current crop of legislative leaders will properly attribute the problem to its true owners: their big spending predecessors.
But ironically they fail to attribute the deserved credit to the fiscal conservatives who opposed the big spending and who, had they prevailed, would have prevented state government's fiscal challenges of today.
In this way, the majority has now taken on the form of the quintessential narcissist who shifts the blame to others -- even those who would have prevented the problem in the first place.
This narcissism blinds them to the solutions provided by these same fiscal conservatives whose medicine of spending reform will cause some short term political pain (taking on the special interests who benefit from big government spending is alway painful) but would provide a non-tax solution and cure the problem that ails today's state government: too much spending!
More on that in future articles.
There is now light at the end of the tunnel -- thus my attitude of gratitude to those who courageously and successfully defeated the tax increasers.
With the conclusion of the special session, deprived of their tax increases, the big government legislators are forced to content themselves with the fact that state government appropriations will only grow by about 150 million this year as opposed to the approximate 500 million in new revenues that they sought.
The state's economy continues to recover from the energy sector downturn; many legislators appear to have been awakened by the massive spending and inefficiencies in the executive branch and now seem willing to perform at least of modicum of meaningful oversight; election year is rapidly approaching meaning many more legislators will refuse to vote for the increases; and new state officers will take office in just a bit over a year's time.
The recently-concluded special session was the last best chance for the tax advocates to pass their massive, punitive, job-killing tax increase package.
The citizens of Oklahoma should take heart and realize that the worst is now over and state government will likely soon return to a more business and taxpayer-friendly position.