Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekly Column: Oklahoma Republicans Fighting Federal Intrusion

Did you know that there is approximately $60 trillion in currency currently circulating throughout the world? That is all the money that currently exists. Did you know that, when accounting for unfunded liabilities in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, the United States currently has a debt of nearly $130 trillion? You read that correctly: the United States currently owes more than twice as much debt than could possibly be paid with all the money in the entire world.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that our nation is facing a fiscal crisis. In fact, two of the primary responsibilities of elected officials are to warn citizens of our financial situation and to take actions to correct it.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) has been doing that from the moment the Republican caucus elected him to lead the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Speaker Shannon has actively resisted implementing the federal “common core” educational standards and created the first standing legislative committee focused on protecting our state from federal intrusion. The House States’ Rights Committee was an active and integral part of the 2013 legislative session, hearing dozens of bills and resolutions that sought a balance between federal and state law.

One of Speaker Shannon’s first actions was to hold a legislative study last November to determine how state agency budgets would look if no federal funds were available to supplement their programs. Why? The reason is obvious. Our federal government is broke, yet federal funds make up more than 40 percent of our annual state budget. It seems reasonable to ask our state agencies to plan and prioritize spending on core mission efforts in the event the federal gravy train is closed.

Unfortunately, after winning broad legislative approval from both the House and Senate, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed Shannon’s bill that would have required the agencies to comply and develop a contingency plan and budget for a 25-percent cut in federal funding. Fallin called the measure “duplicative” and “burdensome,” a decision that seems rather shortsighted given the current government shutdown our nation is embroiled in.

Even still, most of the Republican caucus supports those efforts to reduce dependency on the federal government because we know that Oklahomans can take care of Oklahoma. We don’t need the federal government to subsidize marginally useful and shockingly inefficient programs. The truth is, if Oklahomans believe those federally funded programs are so important, then they would be willing to pay more in state taxes to fund them, but, overwhelmingly, Oklahomans want lower taxes. In fact, a March 2013 survey conducted by SoonerPoll found that that 65 percent of likely Oklahoma voters would prefer to phase out the income tax without raising other taxes.

To me, that is clear evidence that Oklahomans want less dependency on the federal government and want their legislators to develop Oklahoma solutions to Oklahoma problems. I am proud of Speaker Shannon and my colleagues in the Republican caucus for standing up to the federal government and fighting to protect the individual liberty of every Oklahoman. And I am looking forward to taking up the battle again in 2014!

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you at the Capitol. As always, I will keep you updated on the status of our great state. God bless you and God bless Oklahoma!

As always, feel free to contact me at (405) 557-7349 or at josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov.

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