On May 15th, the House Republican Platform Caucus will be speaking to the Tulsa Republican Assembly about the achievements and developments in the Oklahoma legislature.
Oklahoma conservatives have watched the state legislature struggle through some difficult battles in the past few years. Our state's economic forecasters have provided little in the way of prior warning of the state recession which we were enduring since 2015. Only now have we been able to gauge the duration & severity of the financial pinch which hit all of Oklahoma.
The House Republican Platform Caucus was one of the calmer and more confident voices seeking to provide the legislature with principled leadership.
Some of the guidance began with Rep. Jason Murphey's early warnings about Speaker Jeff Hickman's tapping into several one-time funding sources to avoid the real austerity measures which were desperately needed.
Following the 2016 general elections, a number of legislators held informal discussions about their individual concerns regarding the new House leadership and which direction the House would go on several policy matters. The group occassionally gathered and worked informally. They were committed to providing the Republican leadership with a sensible alternative to the 'tax & expand' mentality which had taken over the budget process.
About half way through the 2017 session, the unexpected death of Republican Caucus Chair, David Brumbaugh, had an especially personal impact on the members of the working group. The group decided to officially organize in early April, as another of the several caucus groups of the House. For years there have been various groups, such as a; Tribal Caucus, Black Caucus, Military Caucus, Farmer Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Conservative Caucus, Female Caucus, etc.
The final days of the 2017 session brought some conflict. The Republican leadership was clearly embarking on a strategy which was unconstitutional and the Platform Caucus sought to steer the legislature in a safer and more responsible course.
Unfortunately the Republican leadership chose not to heed the Platform Caucus warnings and the entire 2017 budget was thrown out after the State Supreme Court properly ruled unanimously that the Legislature violated fundamental requirements in funding the state operations.
Rather than open repentance, the legislative leadership & governor tried repeatedly to push new schemes to confiscate more money from the residents, rather than reform the corrupted and wasteful agencies.
The past 9 months have been wasted in efforts to put out scandalous fires when money was unaccounted for in several agencies (Health Dept., Tourism Dept., Agriculture Dept.). Other agencies and almost every county found out that money earmarked for their important constitutional functions was looted by the legislature for stop-gap desperate efforts, rather than an ernest undertaking of the constitutional role of oversight, performance auditing, and real trimming of waste (like the 30 million spent on agency banquets, fancy mugs, plaques, and other give-away 'swag' luxuries).
Last Thursday, State Treasurer Ken Miller provided even more clarity about what really happened during the past 3 years. It's now abundantly clear that Oklahoma was in a cyclical recession from February of 2015, to February of 2017. Last June he voted not to certify the new budget, but he was in the minority on that key vote.
This most recent report from Miller now shows that our Oklahoma govt. tax & fees collections for this current fiscal year far exceeded the 2 previous years. Essentially showing that all the tax increases of the past 12 months were not needed.
We are now enjoying an economic boom. The whole nation is. Without any tax increases needed, we currently have the money to fully fund the pay increase to Oklahoma public school teachers, making the newest tax increase totally unneeded and fiscally reckless. As Art Laffer demonstrates with his famous 'Laffer Curve', there eventually comes a point when over-taxing a society will ultimately bring poverty to everyone. Every tax RATE increase has the potential to do the opposite of what is intended. This is especially true of state & local govt., because people will just move their families and business ventures to places where tax policy is more favorable to economic success.
The Republican Platform Caucus Review
But as prevalent as fiscal responsibility is, The House Platform Caucus brings even more passion to issues of social policy.
Stopped the following Massive Tax Increases:
Platform Caucus Members were the House Authors on the following bills: