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State Question 640 a Target for Tax & Spend Liberals

Since its passage in 1992, tax & spenders in the Oklahoma legislature have been continually frustrated by the restrictions placed on them by State Question 640 and this year’s special session of the legislature is highlighting that disdain. After the largest tax increase in a century failed to receive the required three-fourths vote for passage, proponents of House Bill 1054X were quick to complain about the three-fourths requirement placed on the legislature by State Question 640.

House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) called SQ640 a “high hurdle.” Yes, and it was intended to be such.

While the House members were on the floor debating HB 1054X I heard one representative actually complain about the three-fourths requirement, saying that it would only be fair if a three-fourths vote was also required to lower taxes. I wish I’d noted which one of our elected sages had the chutzpah to actually say that on the floor of the House.

I noted a column about SQ 640 this morning on NonDoc, a liberal news & opinion site that seems to have become popular with Oklahoma politicians. One of the site’s co-owners, William S. Savage III is clearly supportive of curtailing the protections that SQ 640 gives Oklahoma taxpayers.

Either way, it might be time for voters to relax State Question 640’s three-fourths requirement for revenue measures.

“Maybe send to a vote of the people ‘two-thirds?’” Rogers said after Wednesday’s vote. “Allow them to make that decision. Do you want there to be a little bit lower of a threshold? Because 76 votes in the House is nearly impossible on anything.”

While anyone who follows the Oklahoma legislature knows that 76 votes are hardly impossible, Rogers also seems to be missing the point about SQ 640, that it is supposed to be difficult to raise taxes.

For several years now, Republicans have owned the governor’s mansion as well as the legislature, having not just the majority in both houses, but a supermajority. What have they done with this opportunity? Have they fulfilled their legislative oversight duties? No. Have they controlled spending? No. Instead, they allow state agencies to threaten citizens with a loss of taxpayer-funded services unless the legislature comes up with more money.

I never thought I would see the day when the Republican-controlled legislature in Oklahoma would be pushing so hard to pass the largest tax increase in a century. What happened to fiscal conservatism? If nothing else, this special legislative session has allowed the fiscal liberals to show their true colors as they moan and whine about not being able to raise our taxes. Fiscally conservative voters now have a list of representatives who need to be primaried.

One look at the financial mismanagement at the Department of Health, where an emergency $30 million appropriation is needed just to make payroll, should clue in even the most incompetent of legislators that there are state departments managing their funds the way heroin addicts manage their drug use. But instead of conducting audits on state agencies to find abuse of funds and inefficient spending, the legislature comes to the taxpayers not just with one hand out, but both, asking for more and more money to flush down the spending commode. Such a fine example of political incompetence and bungling.

Some legislators and local pundits are now mulling over the possibility of asking the voters to repeal SQ 640 or ‘soften’ the three-fourths requirement. Yes, they want the voters to make it easier for the legislature to raise their taxes. That is a real head-scratcher.

KOSU – “I really believe the tax taboo is dead in Oklahoma,” said David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a progressive-leaning think tank based in Tulsa. “I believe people are beginning to realize just how important a stable revenue stream is to the government.”

Those who think voters might be persuaded to remove the restrictions placed on the legislature by SQ 640 should think again. Just one year ago, Oklahoma voters rejected a tax increase that would have been targeted to education and salary increases for teachers. I don’t believe that Oklahomans don’t want teachers to get salary increases. Oklahomans just believe we are already taxed enough if the legislature would just do their duty and be efficient with what’s already given them.

In 1992, a stockbroker named Dan Brown formed the Oklahoma Taxpayers Union and spearheaded the effort to get State Question 640 passed. I have no idea where Dan is today or if the OTU still exists, but we owe them all, as well as the 1992 voters, a debt of gratitude. Twenty-five years later, they have stopped the legislature from raising our taxes and exposed the tax & spend liberals who were masquerading as conservative Republicans. If only the people serving in our legislature could do their jobs that efficiently.

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