Every year as we inch closer to opening a new legislative session in Oklahoma, the debates of spending priorities and budget needs begin with renewed fury. It has always been fascinating to me as I have presided over budget hearings in January to hear agency heads and lobbyist groups advocate for additional dollars every year. Only a small handful of times have I heard them ask for less taxpayer funds to properly operate. While there is always a demand for appropriations to deliver needed services, as a conservative I believe in asking the tough questions of how we can better spend the taxpayer dollar. Efficiency and reduction in government, paired with growth and prosperity in the private sector is always an amiable goal. However, this is seldom the rhetoric coming from Washington, D.C., or even Oklahoma City.
Many times we are told by agencies, the media, and individuals alike that there is a growing need for more money within our government structure. We are told year after year areas such as education, health care, and public safety have dire needs for more funds. We are told there aren’t enough appropriations to go around and that agencies will be forced to make dangerous cuts. I would simply caution against such language and would instead point to the real numbers.
The most recent fiscal year ended on June 30, and the data shows that state government revenues are actually at an all-time high. Preston Doerflinger, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance, Administration, and Information Technology, reported earlier in the summer the general revenue fund maintained levels from the prior year and even exceeded them slightly. Last time I checked, that’s not a deficit.
But it’s not just the general revenue fund which has grown. According to Secretary Doerflinger and State Treasurer Ken Miller, total state tax collections set another record. Treasurer Miller reported in his recent summary: “Gross receipts to the treasury, a good snapshot of our state’s productivity, incomes, and consumption, are higher than ever before .... Collections have been higher than the same month of the prior year in 45 of the past 51 months, which indicates a steady economic expansion.”
Remember, all of this comes after a decade of eliminating death taxes and cutting the top personal income tax rate by 25 percent. During that same time the standard deduction increased and a child tax credit was added for many Oklahomans. All of these actions were claimed by critics to be the decimation of Oklahoma’s economy. The numbers don’t lie; these critics were wrong.
Unfortunately for Oklahomans, the same statistic which stated revenues were at an all-time high, show that state government spending is also at an all-time high. In my experience in the legislature, lawmakers are much too willing to spend taxpayer dollars without hesitation while hiding under the “conservative” label.
Obviously, most state spending is needed and is even directed towards the proper needs. However, it doesn’t take long to see the low hanging fruit which needs to be trimmed. Countless other areas need to be re-prioritized to assure every penny is being used wisely. It’s what most of us do in our daily, personal lives. Why not in state government?
It is always a pleasure to serve you! I can always be reached through my Capitol office at (405) 557-7349 and by email at:Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Additionally, you can follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, Twitter: @VoteCockroft27, and at www.FriendsofJoshCockroft.com. My door is always open to you.