Monday, February 11, 2008

Violating the Constitution

One of the rites of passage for legislators is a vote that occurs near the end of each legislative year on what is known as the "spill-over" bill. This is a massive spending bill that is used as a way to dole out extra taxpayer dollars in order to placate those who did not get everything they wanted in the yearly budget. Last year's spill-over bill featured a massive one-time spending of $135 million of your money on everything from an unnamed private foundation to an aerospace industries training program in Oklahoma City.

The first problem with this bill is that it is an unconstitutional practice known as "logrolling." Logrolling is the process in which a spending bill contains a number of appropriations all rolled into one. This bill is presented to the legislature in a form that cannot be amended from the floor, thus forcing legislators to vote up or down on the bill without giving them the chance to vote for or against how the money is specifically spent.

This massive one-time spending also provides cover to future legislatures to increase recurring spending while telling the people that they are cutting the amount of spending in government. For instance, if your personal spending budget was $800 per month and you received a $200 bonus from your job, and you spent all $1000 in one month, would it be fiscally prudent to spend $990 the next month and then assert you had cut your personal budget by $10?

Twice prior to the legislature's consideration of this bill, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled this type of logrolling as being unconstitutional. Just a few days ago, the Supreme Court has again said that the legislature violated the Oklahoma Constitution by once again approving a spill-over spending bill.

I must admit to being shocked by this refusal to follow the law. The Constitution could not be more clear. But it looks like the legislature has continued to be engaged in it for years even though the Court has now said three times that this type of spending is unconstitutional.

I believe this proves the folly of big government. Because the legislators control billions of dollars, they are under tremendous pressure to give that money to certain special interests. Those who have the courage to vote "No," risk being seen as uncaring and opposing progress.

I feel it is important to downsize the size of government. By taking away the politicians' ability to spend billions of our taxpayer dollars, we will take an important first step in stopping these types of abuses.

Jason Murphey
District 31

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