Budget & Tax
Jason Murphey | April 1, 2009
A Billion Dollars of Unnoticed Taxation
Over the past two years, I have been taking note of state government's hidden spending.
Each year, the state government appropriates about $7 billion of your taxpayer money. The agencies that depend on this funding are more subject to legislative oversight because they know their appropriations must be approved on an ongoing basis. In theory, these agencies should be on their best behavior because they are supposed to be held accountable by the people's representatives.
However, many of Oklahoma's agencies, boards, and commissions are not required to come before the Oklahoma Legislature each year for appropriations. These are the hidden government entities that thrive off fee-generated revenues or other ongoing funding sources that are not subject to the appropriations process.
As a result, they are operating with little legislative oversight while taking close to a billion dollars from the private sector each year.
What do you think the economic impact of $1 billion would be on the state's economy if it was kept in the hands of the people instead of being gulped up by state government?
The fact that these boards can exist without public scrutiny while being guaranteed a revenue stream largely unaffected by legislation makes the organizations an easy target for political patronage jobs. The opportunity for the boards to be co-opted by the groups they are supposed to regulate also is highly prevalent.
The term "rogue agency" is used to describe an agency that has a board which has been co-opted in this manner. By raising fees and paperwork requirements, a rogue agency can be a tool to keep any new competition away from the industry members who have taken over the board.
This potential monopoly and lack of free-market competition could have the effect of driving up prices for consumers, to say nothing of all the fees that are passed on.
The board members on the rogue agency board also can exert tremendous influence on the agency's executive director to overlook or go light on the transgressions of their own business interests and those of their favored associates.
Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) is chairman of the Government Modernization Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.