Oklahoma State Representative Jason Murphey

Chairman Government Modernization Committee

Oklahoma Osage Shield

Preserving the Right of State Agencies to the Superfluous

08.21.2017

Over the past weeks, readers of these articles have read about just a few of the tactics utilized by the tax increase idealogues to convince Oklahoma's legislators to betray their values and to increase your taxes.

The net effect of these strategies and the clear bias of appropriations leaders created a dialogue-killing echo chamber.

As the session cleared its midway point, it had become quite clear that our appropriations leaders were going to spend almost all of their energy, resources and efforts advancing tax increases.

This would leave little to no opportunity for reforms or eliminating the inappropriate and inefficient spending that haunts state government.

Worse, reform-minded legislators were very much disincentivized from working on a plan for reform.

Those who proposed solutions to the government spending problem would come under tremendous fire from the government interests which make a living on inappropriate and inefficient spending.

The bias of the appropriations officials towards new taxation meant that the courageous lawmaker would not only catch fire from the government sector, he would also come under attack from appropriations leaders and would have no chance at enacting the reform.

This concern was clearly demonstrated when a representative came before the Appropriations Committee. He had won approval from the Speaker of the House to advance a plan to put a stop to the many taxpayer dollars that are inappropriately spent on promotional items.

It's a valid concern.

For years I have witnessed state agencies flood the capitol with promotional items designed to entice support from legislators.

At first glance these expenditures do not appear to be significant. After all, agency logos on their own coffee cups, pens, superfluous and less-than-substantive glossy-coated reports may not seem to justify legislative attention.

However, some believe the cumulative effect of these inappropriate expenditures to reach into the millions of dollars each year.

Considering the circumstances of this year, the representative was very much in the right to raise the issue.

However, the vote wasn't close. Cheers broke out in the government-centric audience as the proposal was overwhelmingly defeated with near unanimity, including the "No!" votes of the appropriations officials.

I couldn't help but note the irony. For the previous two months, these same appropriations officials had repeatedly prognosticated the coming Armageddon should the proposed tax increases not go forward.

However, while they were more than willing to increase any number of your taxes, these same individuals were clearly not willing to put even the slightest modicum of fiscal constraint upon the state agencies who are wasting thousands (if not millions) on superfluous promotional items.

They sent a strong message to all of the other representatives, "We are not going to approve even the most basic spending reforms; we are going to raise taxes!"

The representative who had proposed the bill had spent his time, energy and effort articulating for this most basic of reforms, only to face overwhelming defeat.

I tell this story to make a point: when the leaders of the House take such an aggressive position in favor of bigger government and more taxation, they create their own echo chamber and stifle reform-minded proposals.

Few representatives will take the time or exert the energy to propose spending reform when there is little reason to believe their efforts will be successful.

This preserves a big spending status-quo through which millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted, even as the burden on the taxpayer grows larger.

Jason Murphey
@JWMurphey