Legislative leadership recently completed negotiations with the Governor regarding the approval of a budget agreement for the state's next fiscal year.
As always, the agreement represents negotiated positions by all involved parties and as such does not necessarily represent the stand of a single group. Many times this puts House appropriations officials in the position of having to secure support for provisions of the budget with which they do not agree. I understand this dilemma. However, I have never felt that as members of the House we should vote for bad policy simply because the Governor or the Senate is asking us to do it. Likewise, those groups should not support bad policy because members of the House have negotiated for it.
As the various bills which constitute this agreement are presented to the House, there are a number of criteria I will use to govern how I vote on the proposal.
As usual, I will be analyzing bills for earmarks. As I have written in the past, I believe legislative earmarks are extremely inappropriate because they violate the important principle of separation of powers between the three branches of government and risk opening the door to "good old boy" politics and corruption. Government expenditures should be allotted according to objective need-based criteria. They should never be made based on politics.
I will not support components of the agreement that include fee or tax increases. I believe the worst thing that government can do during an economic downturn is to increase the cost of government services. Oklahoma fee-based government entities take nearly a billion dollars out of the state's economy each year, and increasing the amount of this taxation is very bad policy. This does not include the amount of money taken by government entities that are not entirely fee-based, but receive funding from a combination of fees and appropriations.
Finally, I will oppose the issuance of new debt. In addition to millions of dollars in bonded indebtedness, Oklahoma state government is dealing with billions of dollars in underfunded long-term liabilities. This debt is tying up state resources for many years into the future and serves to make it difficult to truly reform Oklahoma's antiquated tax code. I believe that our state and nation will face a day of reckoning for the reckless policies of assuming so much debt; we must do whatever we can to stop policy leaders from incurring additional indebtedness.
These are the principles I will apply when voting on the state's 2011 budget.