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Brian Bush: Oklahoma’s political class still has a spending problem

BY BRIAN BUSH Modified: May 19, 2013 at 10:08 am •  Published: May 19, 2013

If I told you that government spending had increased every year since 2001 (in spite of two recessions) or that policymakers were continuing a decades-long trend of throwing money at programs without any sign those dollars were making an impact, or that government agencies were continually requesting even more funding increases while stockpiling mountains of tax dollars in revolving funds, you would likely be outraged. In fact, you’d probably want to pick up the phone, call your representative in Washington and demand that something be done.

Problem is, you would be calling the wrong office.

These are trends occurring in the state budget, here in Oklahoma, the reddest state in the nation. This year’s increase in total state spending (state-appropriated dollars, non-appropriated dollars and federal grant dollars) will bring the state budget — already at an all-time high — to a record level, exceeding $16.7 billion.

Make no mistake. I’m proud of the historic work the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin have done reforming a costly and broken workers’ compensation system. I’m grateful for their diligence in protecting Oklahomans from the Obamacare Medicaid trap. But one need look no further than the budget to see that even this group of reform-minded conservatives still needs to be encouraged to curb the spending.

In the new budget, state appropriations alone increased by $267 million. This follows last year’s budget agreement, which resulted in $330 million in new appropriations. We’ve certainly experienced growth during that time, but spending increases are outpacing population growth. Lawmakers are choosing to spend every dollar in growth revenue rather than investing in additional growth by lowering the tax burden on Oklahoma families and job creators.

Some say we need to appropriate all this new money simply to return to 2009 appropriation levels. This ignores the irresponsible spending sprees that got us to such a high level in the first place.

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