Oklahoma state lawmakers are continuing to rob fee revenue dedicated for regulatory services of the Insurance Department and the Secretary of State.
Over the last three legislative sessions, lawmakers have authorized the removal of at least $12 million from the Oklahoma Insurance Department and $4 million from the Secretary of State.
Lawmakers rationalize their actions by deeming the funds “surplus.” But this raises an obvious question: If an entity being regulated by the Insurance Department or filing with the Secretary of State pays a fee, and after covering for the cost of regulation there are funds remaining at the agency (enough for lawmakers to grab those funds and spend them on other purposes), aren’t the fees too high?
This practice of taking dedicated fee revenue and using it for other purposes also has constitutional implications, as it makes the fee look a lot more like a tax than a fee (the purpose of which is to reimburse the government for a particular service). Yet lawmakers did not receive a three-fourths majority approval by both the House and the Senate, nor was the measure referred to voters for approval.
In any case, it’s clear from the raiding of surplus funds that some fees are too high.