Those who have lived on the west side of Guthrie are skilled at recognizing the signs of subsiding flood waters from the periodic flooding of the Cottonwood Creek. We know the flood waters have reached their peak when a thin line of debris builds up at the edge of the waterline, which suddenly seems a little less forceful than just minutes earlier. Soon thereafter, the water starts its long retreat back to the banks of the creek and leaves the debris line as a testament to the overwhelming power of the flood.
Last week, Oklahoma released its latest annual financial report. In my view, this is the most important document produced by state government because it exposes its true size and provides the first official indications that the flood of big government spending might be subsiding.
In past years, even when the Legislature has appropriated less money, fiscal conservatives argued that state government actually continued to grow because the annual financial report showed skyrocketing state revenues and growing debts. And they were right!
This year’s report shows Oklahoma’s recent track toward fiscal conservatism is finally starting to have a tangible impact. For the first time in years, the amount of money taken in by state government is less than the year before. Based on this metric, for the first time in recent history, the size of state government actually has become smaller.
Even better, the amount of bond debt on the books for the state’s governmental funds has significantly declined; it dropped by $85 million.
Conservatives should recognize and praise this success.
The financial sheets aren’t the only recently released documents showing progress. A few weeks ago, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries released its latest directory of state agencies, boards and commissions. Last year we successfully passed multiple bills that eliminated or consolidated about 10 percent of these entities. The new ABC book reflects our work. It is 14 pages thinner than its predecessor. That’s 14 pages of government entities that have simply disappeared!
Make no mistake: This progress comes because courageous individuals are working hard to advance small government principles while defeating ongoing attempts to return to the days of big spending through debt issuance.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon and the legislative leadership of the House of Representatives provide an excellent example of this courage. Few realize the tremendous pressure brought upon Shannon and House leaders to issue debt last year. Instead, they stood up to the pressure and refused to issue debt. That’s why the state’s governmental funds are now on the long road to financial freedom.
Shannon and legislative conservatives are insistent that Oklahoma Republicans not repeat the big spending mistakes of their national counterparts. For years, Republicans held power in Washington, D.C., but did not fulfill the promise to stop spending and debt. The voters understandably became unable to tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats on fiscal issues and to this day, federal-level Republicans greatly and rightly suffer from a lack of credibility as a result.
As our next session approaches, there may be some who once again resort to advocating for more debt. They are oblivious to the new reality that Oklahoma’s fiscally conservative elected officials are ushering in a new era of fiscal conservatism.
For years, massive out-of-control state government spending and debt issuance has moved forward with the power of a mighty flood. Now, for the first time, the careful observer can see the first telltale signs of a subsiding flood as government spending starts its retreat back to reasonable levels.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.