Opinion: The Real Step Up Oklahomans
Published: January 23rd, 2018
Last week, a nonpartisan group of business, civic and community leaders released the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan. It includes a plan to stabilize state revenue, reform government to increase efficiency and cut abuse and to increase teacher pay by $5,000 per year. The Step Up website lists 85 people as supporters and it is a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ in Oklahoma. To see the list, go to stepupoklahoma.com.
Step Up has ten things they want addressed. They want to lower the super majority needed for the legislature to increase taxes from 75 percent to 60 percent.
They want to create an Independent Budget Office to root out waste, fraud and abuse in government.
They want to increase the amount of time a lawmaker can serve from 12 to 16 years. They want to make the Governor in Oklahoma more powerful and have the Lt. Governor and Governor run on the same ticket. They also want to create a Budget stabilization Fund which would protect against budget downturns like Oklahoma government has seen the last couple of years.
First, much of what Step Up Oklahoma is proposing must be voted on by the people. The state legislature can’t repeal S.Q. 640 without a vote of the people. They can’t change term limits without a vote of the people. They can’t have the Governor and Lt. Governor run on the same ticket without a vote of the people. They can’t reorganize county government without a vote of the people.
Second, why do we need to establish another state agency to root out fraud and waste when we have a constitutional office now? Step Up’s idea of the Independent Budget Office controlled by the Governor deliberately circumvents the office of Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector, who is elected by the people. A better solution would be to dramatically increase the scope and power of the Auditor’s office instead of adding another state agency that reports to the Governor.
Third, Step Up seems more intent on raising revenue than right sizing government. They want to increase gross production tax, income tax, cigarette tax, and gasoline tax. These are the same revenue proposals Governor Fallin has failed to get passed, but Step Up has repackaged them with community and business leader’s support.
Oklahoma has 101 House members and 48 Senate members charged with balancing the budget each year. That is their job. While anyone has a right to lobby for any cause anytime, it appears this group didn’t just happen. It clearly was organized by elected officials to lobby for more taxes. Many of the 85 Step Up supporters wrote campaign checks to those 149 legislators they are now pressuring to vote for their proposals. It will be interesting to see if the Oklahoma legislature will bow to the pressure from the donor class. If Step Up is successful, the unemployed and underemployed in Oklahoma will be the ones that will have to step up and pay more taxes.
Note: Steve Fair is Chairman of the Fourth Congressional District for the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by phone at 580.252.8284 or by email at email@example.com. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.