The Pryor Times

January 31, 2014

Keep the money in Oklahoma

PRYOR, OK — State Rep. Lewis Moore

The people of Oklahoma delegated various responsibilities to government that include their health, safety and general welfare.

Last year, almost 40 percent of our state budget came from the federal government – to the tune of roughly $8.2 billion. This has put Oklahoma at risk to the sometimes violent swings of the national government policy in Washington, D.C. But what would happen if those violent policy swings were permanent? What would happen if Washington, D.C. could no longer fund 40 percent of our state’s budget? I don’t think this is an unreasonable question.

Last year, the Legislature addressed this question by passing House Bill 1917, which asked each state agency to create a budget that would anticipate a 25 percent decrease in federal funding. Unfortunately, the measure, which was introduced by House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) and passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate, was vetoed by the governor.

I believe it is important to prepare for any number of threats to our state by providing continuity of government and preparing individuals to take care of themselves, their families, neighbors and businesses.

The problem is big; the federal government is broke and broken. At this moment, we are a staggering $17 trillion in debt!

Last year alone, the federal government took in a record $2.8 trillion but still needed to borrow almost a trillion dollars just to fund day-to-day operations. Remember, that’s borrowing $1,000,000,000,000 over a 365 day period. I think we can all agree this is a huge problem and is unsustainable.

What we don’t know is how much money we Oklahomans send Washington, D.C. each year. We are unclear how much money the federal government spends in overhead expenses each year. Add to that the fact that the state Legislature doesn’t even know how much money is actually sent to Oklahoma each year.

Oklahomans and legislators should know that before appropriating a single dollar to state agencies. That’s our job and why we are elected.

This raises many troubling questions for me as a legislator.

Why doesn’t federal matching money go through the regular appropriations process for everyone to see? Do state agencies have fund balances or carryover money from previous budgets? If so, where do they hold fund balances between budget years? What accountability, oversight or transparency protects taxpayer money?

Does any of the federal money received by Oklahoma consist of “borrowed” money? Is the money taken from another state or the federal reserve private bank? If so, this money and lack of appropriation may skirt several sections of the Oklahoma Constitution, such as Sections X-16, X-23, V-33 and V-55.

Finally, why is the federal government returning money to the state? Shouldn’t we be sending them only what is needed as per the Enumerated Powers of Article I., Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution? Do we have so much money we can afford to pay the much higher cost of doing business in Washington, D.C. and accept far less money in return, than if we had kept it ourselves? Let’s do the work ourselves and keep Oklahomans’ money in Oklahoma.