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A Victory for Oklahoma Featured

Written by  Tuesday, 31 October 2017 12:20
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By Rep. Rick West

 

It was a doozy of a week at the Capitol. On Oct. 23, Gov. Mary Fallin paraded a plan in front of the media that she claimed was a deal between House and Senate Republicans. That plan included a cigarette tax, motor fuel tax, a restructuring of the beer tax and restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit. It would have generated more than $400 million in revenue.

 

Later in the week, the plan failed to pass the House floor. The bill’s failure was a sign that lawmakers knew we could do better. We can’t tax our way to prosperity, and the vote on Oct. 25 reassured me that conservative principles could win out in the end, but it wasn’t going to be an easy victory. In the days that followed the failure, the House slapped on a tax on oil and gas wells, but that version of the revenue bill did not pass out of the budget committee.

 

Over the weekend, I thought a lot about the political theater at the Capitol. I have not been able to understand why we can’t tap into one-time money as a stopgap measure. Why are we threatening services that folks depend on when we know there are millions of dollars available? Why are we holding agency employees hostage for no reason at all?

 

But on Monday, Oct. 30, things turned around. The House of Representatives opted to pass four bills partially funding the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Human Services. These three agencies were the primary agencies set to receive the bulk of the cuts after lawmakers passed the unconstitutional cigarette tax in May. The Supreme Court’s decision in August to overturn the tax left the agencies nearly $215 million short. The four bills passed by the House this week fill half of that gap, fully funding these three agencies until April 15.

 

This legislation is a huge step forward for our state. It’s a signal that conservative principles are winning out after all. Though I wish we could have done this on the first day of session, I will take the victory today.

 

Going forward, we should dedicate ourselves to rooting out government waste. Lawmakers should look at administrative waste within agencies, and we should draft legislation to ensure taxpayer dollars are being put to good use. We should seek to fund core services for the most vulnerable in our state.

 

One clear area of waste is mandatory purchasing agreements at state agencies. I hosted my interim study on central purchasing on Oct. 31, and I was pleased with the outcome. There were lots of people in the room, and the representatives from the Department of Corrections, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Tourism did an excellent job expressing their concerns. It’s now time to take those lessons we learned and use them to streamline government.

 

Please continue to email me and call if you need anything. You can reach me at 405-557-7413 and at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Thank you, and may God bless Oklahoma.

 

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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