- Why does an Oklahoma legislator make more than 5 times the pay of a Texas legislator?
- Why are Oklahoma taxpayers paying for an exclusive health club inside the capitol for each member?
The recent struggle of our State Auditor, who was just evicted from the capitol because bureaucrats think the building is no longer large enough to house our growing state government; is just another reminder that Oklahoma's conservative rhetoric is just campaign-speak. Republicans like bigger offices and shiny new toys even more than Democrats. and they want someone else to pay for them.
Yes, Gov. Frank Keating wanted a fancier mansion with impressive amenities. He wanted a big heavy dome above the capitol rotunda. But Oklahoma now has to shore up the building under the rotunda and the remodeling and repairs are costing us way more than the dome, itself.
In 1995, the capitol was big enough for the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Sure, the legislators often had to "double bunk" and share support services. But are we getting better government for all our massive new spending? Or are we being eaten up with more overhead just to keep up our appearances? Perhaps it's time to stop trying to look like a mini Washington and instead we should focus on functional. We really don't need a governor's mansion. Most churches don't keep a parsonage or rectory next to the chapel, either.
Often the expense of unnecessary politicians' perks are brushed off by telling the voters that private donations are going to cover the cost. Yet the few who diligently watch these projects through to their completion will tell you that taxpayers ultimately pay a good chunk of the cost.
- The Capitol Dome was not completed until tax money was appropriated. And the cost to repair the foundation and supports have all been shouldered exclusively by our further indebtedness to bonds.
- The Governor's mansion and entire estate costs much more now than ever. Even when the daughter of the governor tried to make it into an RV park, there's no record that the customary RV hook up fees were ever paid.
- The legislator's health club, on the bottom floor, was said to be outfitted with donated accommodations and equipment. Yet the taxpayers ended up paying a big chunk when the donations didn't materialize to the level we were told. Also, the personnel, maintenance and repairs are an annual expense that taxpayers are not very aware of.
Look at the liberal states who pay their legislators smaller salaries than Oklahoma. Two thirds of the states pay their legislators less than does Oklahoma.
Ironically, the Republicans came to power on a platform of smaller and more limited government. the OKGOP platform still touts that core principal. But you wouldn't know it by the Republican leadership's behavior.
The current OKGOP platform says;
"We believe in limited government, individual liberty, natural rights, and personal moral responsibility....
...Revenues collected at all levels of government should be used only for well-defined, legitimate government functions, and should be carried out efficiently so that tax rates may be kept as low as possible."
In the mid 80's, the Reagan revolution was beginning to impact Oklahoma state politics. Republicans reached a milestone of having about 1/3 of each house of the legislature.
It was under the leadership of Speaker Jim Barker and Senate Pro Tem Roger Randle that the first massive legislative pay raises were pushed through.