Budget & Tax
Trent England | January 29, 2018
Dr. Coburn says 'Treat the cause'
Public opinion polls show Dr. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma’s former U.S. Senator, is still the most popular political figure in our state. Popular, that is, with regular taxpayers and voters. He was never the darling of insiders, other than when they want his endorsement to win an election.
In Sunday's Oklahoman, Dr. Coburn warns against plans to “fix” government by treating the symptoms rather than the underlying causes.
As a doctor, I investigated the root cause of problems. Some doctors have fallen into the trap of just treating symptoms — this is the major reason for the overdose epidemic.
In government, the prime way politicians, bureaucrats and some advocates approach government is to throw your hard-earned money at it. The answer to state government's failures isn't more money — it's fiscally responsible governance.
What about claims that government spending has been “cut” or even “slashed”? OCPA has exposed these misleading claims and show the long-term trend of higher spending in Oklahoma. Dr. Coburn points out that state revenues are already increasing, and wasteful spending remains.
Recurring revenues have been raised more than $700 million the past several years. State reports show the budget gap at less than $200 million. State government operational dysfunction abounds — for example, the scandal of at least $30 million squandered at the state Health Department. …
Opportunities are numerous for fiscally responsible governance, so tax increases are unnecessary. Robust Medicaid enrollment audits are saving states billions — Oklahoma can implement this and save more than $80 million in state-share funds annually.
Oklahoma state government cries poverty yet has subsidized, over a period spanning the last two recessions, $20 million for Hollywood and film production, including $4.6 million to producer Harvey Weinstein.
The state piggybacks the federal giveaway of subsidizing wind with state subsidies exceeding $100 million annually.
The state cheats itself by more than $100 million annually in state tribal gaming tax revenue because of its below-market gaming tax rate. Oklahoma pays tribal governments more than $50 million annually to sell cigarettes.
Dr. Coburn also calls for reforms to education, government employment, and TSET, and for the legislature to make oversight of agencies a primary and continuing focus. When elected officials claim government is strapped for cash, but refuse to end worthless programs and cut low-priority costs, voters get suspicious that growing—not just fixing—government is the real agenda.
Oklahoma's most vulnerable and Oklahoma taxpayers who don't have an army of lobbyists deserve for politicians to take the true steps to do the tough work of responsible fiscal governance, structural reform and transformational policy solutions that end the failed status quo of government operation — as promised.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.