With Oklahoma government spending at an all-time high (see chart on page 11), the time has come to set priorities and to exercise spending
Regardless of revenue levels, Oklahoma lawmakers continue to take your money and give it to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), an organization which is “nationally recognized as a formidable lobbying force in Washington, D.C.”
In the last eight years alone, Oklahoma lawmakers have given more than $1 million (in the form of dues money) to make the Oklahoma Legislature a member of this big-government lobbying organization (see “‘Big Seven’ Fuel Big Government: State and Local Leaders Promote Liberal Policies through Nonprofit Associations” at http://bit.ly/I54qiw).
Oklahomans already have representation before the federal government—known as United States Representatives and United States Senators. In addition, there are a multitude of state officials and lawmakers who represent the state. Membership in NCSL is unnecessary.
State funding for NCSL membership is alarming when one considers the group’s policy positions. One need only read NCSL’s numerous policy statements to see they have an addiction to more federal funds—and hold positions in direct conflict with those of Oklahoma’s federal lawmakers. Need we remind NCSL and everyone else that the federal government is broke? As columnist Mark Steyn memorably put it,
The government of the United States is broker than any entity has ever been in the history of the planet. Officially, Washington has to return 15,000,000,000,000 dollars just to get back to having nothing at all. And that 15,000,000,000,000 dollars is a very lowball figure that conveniently ignores another $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities that the government, unlike private businesses, is able to keep off the books.
Undeterred by this reality, the NCSL supports more corporate welfare, promotes welfare through the tax code, and stands in the way of congressional efforts to reduce federal spending. NCSL’s policy positions also include:
- Ensuring “Federally funded family life and health education and prevention (HIV & AIDS) programs must include accurate information emphasizing responsible sex practices. These programs should include but not be limited to the promotion of safer sex …"
- Support for increased funding for the National Health Services Corp.
- Strong support for “the development of an interoperable system of electronic health information for the United States.”
- Support for federal funding of early childhood education, including failed programs such as Head Start.
- Support for the “Common Core Initiative.”
- A neutral position on climate-change legislation, though NCSL does believe that “climate change is a far-reaching topic that affects multiple issues of everyday life.”
- Concern that “excessive spending increases or tax cuts, given the need for continued fiscal discipline, may threaten funding for existing and future intergovernmental programs.”
Oklahoma lawmakers should know better than to take citizens’ hard-earned money to give to an organization which often lobbies for more funds from a federal government which has already strapped citizens and future generations with trillions of dollars in debt. Further, Oklahoma lawmakers should not send state tax dollars to an organization that has had a neutral or compliant position on Obamacare. Many of NCSL’s positions concerning the law are fixated on ensuring the federal government provides sufficient federal funds for states’ implementation of Obamacare, with meetings on the topic dominated by presentations on how states can ensure they implement the law and meet all of the law’s timelines, particularly deadlines for Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.
If there is a continuing educational benefit for a lawmaker who wants to attend an NCSL event, that should be considered on a case-by-case basis and funded by the lawmaker or on a per-attendee basis. To better facilitate lawmakers’ continuing education on policy development and their need to participate in lawmaker-led organizations, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Legislative Service Bureau should allocate all funds given to membership organizations on a scholarship basis to each lawmaker. This will allow lawmakers to seek innovative policy solutions from organizations they deem most beneficial.
It’s time to end the taxpayer subsidization of the NCSL. The potential savings would be $141,551 annually.
Jonathan Small, CPA, is the fiscal policy director at OCPA.