Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Billion Dollars of Unnoticed Taxation

Over the past two years, I have been taking note of the state government's hidden spending.

Each year, the state government appropriates about 7 billion of your taxpayer dollars. The agencies that depend on this funding are more subject to legislative oversight because they know their appropriations must be approved on an ongoing basis. In theory, these agencies should be on their best behavior because they are supposed to be held accountable by the people's Representatives.

However, the majority of Oklahoma's agencies, boards and commissions (more than 500 in total, which appears to be more than double the size of comparable states) are not required to come before the Oklahoma Legislature each year for appropriations. These are the hidden government entities that thrive off fee-generated revenues or other ongoing funding sources that are not subject to the appropriations process.

As a result, they are operating with little legislative oversight while taking close to a billion dollars from the private sector each year.

What do you think the economic impact of 1 billion dollars would be on the state's economy if it was kept in the hands of the people instead of being gulped up by state government?

The fact that these boards can exist without public scrutiny while guaranteed a revenue stream largely unaffected by legislation makes the organizations an easy target for political patronage jobs, and the opportunity for the boards to be co-opted by the groups they are supposed to regulate is also highly prevalent.

The term "Rogue Agency" is used to describe an agency that has a board that has been co-opted in this manner. By raising fees and paperwork requirements, a rogue agency can be a tool to keep any new competition away from the industry members who have taken over the board. This potential monopoly on the market and lack of free market competition could have the effect of driving up the prices for consumers, to say nothing of the nearly billion dollars of fees that are passed on.

The board members on the rogue agency board can also exert tremendous influence on the agency's executive director to overlook or go light on the transgressions of their own business interests and that of their favored associates.

If you would like to see the monstrosity that you are paying for with your tax dollars, visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries web site ( and download the list of agencies, boards and commissions. You will find it an enlightening experience.

Can you imagine the impact on our economy if, instead of taking a billion dollars from its citizens, the government simply let you keep your own money?

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