Oklahomans were told this week the governor plans to call for a special legislative session beginning Sept. 25.
We’re looking at a special session because the Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this month declared the cigarette fee unconstitutional. I would like to point out that I voted against all tax increases and will continue to oppose them. All I hear is, “We need to raise revenue,” which is a catchphrase for raising taxes. How does anyone know if there is a legitimate need to raise taxes? No agency has received a forensic audit to even see if they are spending our tax dollars appropriately. Until these agencies are held accountable on how they are using our tax dollars, even the thought of raising taxes should never be considered. That is why I’m sponsoring a bill with state Sen. Allen this session to require a forensic audit be completed before an agency gets an increase in their budget. If there is an identified and proven need for more taxes to go to an agency, then the people should be given the right to vote to increase their taxes or not.
Some of the agencies have proven by their actions that they would rather cut funding for our senior meals and in-home care, or services for children and the disabled before they consider cutting absorbent salaries and slim down their upper management. Then, they hold their hands out and try to convince people to blame the Legislature.
And, there are plenty of examples of wasteful spending: a $22 million dollar monastery overseas owned by a state university; a state-run luxury hotel that costs millions. We also must stop state agencies from spending enormous amounts of money on advertisements, memberships, sponsorships and project art to the tune of $30 million-plus each year.
It’s time to take back our state government by making the state agencies be accountable to you, the taxpayer. I say we cut the waste out of government, line item money to protect our most vulnerable, and audit every single agency before we allocate more of our hard-earned tax dollars. I call it Cut and Protect!
When we go into special session I will be advocating to properly fund core functions of government and advocating for filing "line item" budget bills to ensure we properly fund vulnerable programs. This will legally prevent agencies from cutting vulnerable programs on which our senior citizens depend and force the agencies to spend your tax dollars on you instead of their pet projects. If they have to cut it will be in non-essential areas.
All our families are forced to live within our means. When we have to make cuts in our private homes we're not allowed to say were not going to pay taxes. Why does the government get a pass? The government must live within its means. I will fight for my constituents, and I call on all other Oklahoma lawmakers to stop raising taxes on Oklahoma families!
Winston Churchill said it best: "For a nation to try and tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."
John Bennett represents Oklahoma House District 2. He can be reached at (405) 557-7315 or John.Bennett@okhouse.gov.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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