Monday, July 30, 2007

Taking Our Money

I have long been an unabashed critic of the enormous influence wielded by lobbyists over government spending. My observations made during my first year in office have absolutely confirmed the validity of my concerns.

It is only common sense that the large size of government attracts a well funded group of special interests who want to buy their own corner of influence and profit off of the taxpayer. Probably the most disturbing trend that I have noted has been the number of government entities that lobby the legislature for money.

In other words, a public entity, which is funded by the taxpayers, takes taxpayer money which they will no doubt claim is desperately needed to provide vital services and instead spend it on a lobbyist, or number of lobbyists, and marketing materials. All of this spending is targeted at winning even more taxpayer money, some of which can be invested into the next year’s lobbying efforts, making the public entity even more effective in taking more of the taxpayers' hard earned funds. The lobbyists may have access to a large expense account that can be drawn on to flood legislators with gifts and entertainment. Thus, they are extremely effective at swaying legislative opinion as they have constant access to legislators while the average taxpayer has little access since he or she is busy with the day to day responsibilities faced by the average citizen in the real world outside the capitol.

Last week controversy broke out when it was claimed that the executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) failed to notify his governing board that he had authorized a $48,000-a-year lobbying contract with the a prominent capitol lobbyist.

As you may be aware the OML represents municipal governments. When you pay your sales tax by buying an item at the store part of that tax goes to city government. Your city government uses that money to pay membership dues in the OML. The OML can use the money to buy the best lobbyist to insure the legislature makes laws that favor city governments. Government has actually gotten so big that one arm of government is taxing us to pay lobbyists to lobby another arm of government.

Worse yet, the OML actually has eight people registered to lobby for them.

OML has also entered into an agreement calling for the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to pay the OML $49,500 a year. In exchange, OML agrees to distribute the Grand River Dam Authority's promotional materials to its members and cooperate in securing the support of other entities of state government for GRDA's programs.

The Grand River Dam Authority is also a wing of of government as it is quasi-state agency/trust that oversees hydroelectric power generation in northeastern Oklahoma.

Putting this as simply as possible, one government entity (the GRDA) is paying a collective of government entities (the OML) a fee to promote its interests. The OML is in turn investing a significant amount of money in lobbying a third government entity (the state legislature). Much if not all of this activity is financed by you and me, the taxpayers. This is enabled by years of expansion in the size of the various government entities.

Today it is the challenge of the current legislature to prevent this type of abuse by rolling back the level of taxation. Once the amount of money collected by the government is reduced the pressure will begin to take it's toll on the recipients of the government largess. This year the legislature took another small step towards this goal by accelerating cuts in the state income tax. I remain committed to continuing the push for reform by advocating for the complete elimination of the state income tax. I believe this important reform will not only provide for prosperity for Oklahomans but will be an important step towards closing down inappropriate spending.

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