Budget & Tax
| September 27, 2017
Conservative leaders' open letter to policymakers
Conservative Leaders Release Open Letter to Oklahoma Governor, Lawmakers Urging Them to Protect Taxpayers
OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), along with Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma and more than a dozen conservative leaders, today released an open letter to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma lawmakers urging them to protect taxpayers. The text of the letter is below and can also be found here. Other signers will be added as the special legislative session continues.
Dear Governor and State Lawmakers,
We are a coalition of conservative citizens, many of us serving in leadership of state or local organizations, who write to urge you to address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government and to resist raising taxes on your constituents.
Many Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling and have been forced to reduce their own spending. Indeed, Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income and reduced purchases by $4.1 billion in one year alone when oil prices collapsed.
And yet, Oklahoma’s total state government spending is at an all-time high. The state is now on track to spend more money next year—more than $17.9 billion—than at any time in our history. If you believe that certain state services are not adequately funded, we urge you to prioritize spending rather than raise taxes.
“Limited government” and “lower taxes” have been winning campaign messages in Oklahoma over the last decade. Some candidates have even made written promises to oppose and vote against (or veto) “any and all efforts to increase taxes.” We encourage you to stay true to these principles and to oppose efforts to increase the burden of government on hard-working Oklahoma families.
Jonathan Small Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)
John Tidwell Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma
Grover Norquist Americans for Tax Reform
Steve Curry Republican National Committeeman for Oklahoma
Ronda Vuillemont-Smith Tulsa 9.12 Project
Tom Newell Former chairman, General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, Oklahoma House of Representatives
Michael Bates BatesLine.com
Brandon Arnold National Taxpayers Union
Jamison Faught MuskogeePolitico.com
Andrew Lopez Canadian County Republican Party
Daniel Schneider American Conservative Union
Charles W. Potts Oklahoma Republican Party executive committee member
John Michener Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee
Lisa B. Nelson American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Ashley N. Varner ALEC Action
Dear Oklahoma Policymakers,
Ronald Reagan once wisely warned: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” About taxes and spending, he said, “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” These words of wisdom apply directly to fiscal policies being debated in Oklahoma today.
Take, for example, the last several legislative sessions. Numerous lobbyists for special interests and numerous government executives have worked to focus the discussion on how to take more money from Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, from working Oklahoma families, and from small businesses and job creators.
Each session, the discussion has focused on cries for more revenue, money to be taken from Oklahomans by their government.
The reality, though, is that Oklahomans are hurting—due in large part to the significant price declines in oil and to the failures of the Obama administration’s economic policies and regulations. The Oklahoma Tax Commission reports that from 2014 to 2015 Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income. Further, from FY-2015 to FY-2016, Oklahomans cut their purchases subject to state sales and use tax by $4.1 billion just to survive. From September 2015 to September 2016, fully 21,800 oil and gas and manufacturing jobs were cut.
Given what Oklahomans are facing, now more than ever is the time for policymakers to steel themselves and get about the tough work of reforming Oklahoma’s government. This means focusing funding on critical core functions while working to implement efficiencies. It’s time to craft a state budget that respects Oklahoma families’ budgets.
Now more than ever, policymakers must deliver on their campaign promises to right-size government and adjust it to the current tax burden borne by Oklahomans.
During stern times like these, it is unwise to fall for the trap that is state-level “tax-reform”—when this really means raising taxes on Oklahomans and permanently cementing unreformed state spending so that government can avoid the hard choices Oklahomans have to make every day. Policymakers should especially resist increasing tax burdens on Oklahomans while a lack of transparency in agency spending still exists.
Policymakers should work tirelessly until all expenditures of every state agency are reviewed by our elected legislators. No state agency should hire lobbyists or staff with state funds in order to lobby for even more taxpayer money. Sound and fiscally conservative policy must always consider reforms and prioritizing spending. The people of Oklahoma have spoken clearly in favor of this approach. Most state office holders have earned their offices by voicing support of these principles.
Some claim that recent special-election results show that policymakers aren’t taxing their constituents enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voters will reward those who keep their promises, who work tirelessly to rein in the bureaucracy and special interests—and who carry out their duties and personal lives with moral integrity. When policymakers break promises, avoid reining in the bureaucracy, and have moral failings, none should be surprised when they themselves and those who claim to wear their political colors suffer electoral defeat.
During this special session, those who claim the principles and label of Ronald Reagan must act on their promises. Those principles reject all tax increases and efforts to generate more revenue during times like these. State reports and certified revenue documents show that lawmakers have already passed legislation which increased annual revenues available for appropriation by more than $500 million over the last three legislative sessions.
It is time to dig in to eradicate crony capitalism. It is time to rein in unreformed spending. It is time for real, market-driven Medicaid reforms and innovative health care spending. It is time to be honest about non-instructional growth in common and higher education. It is time to implement government-wide business process improvements and reform outdated government structures.
Policymakers must make the same difficult choices being made by the most vulnerable, by working Oklahoma families, and by small businesses and other job creators in Oklahoma.
Tom Coburn Former United States Senator
Frank Keating Former Oklahoma Governor
Larry Parman Former Oklahoma Secretary of State and Secretary of Commerce