The Edmond Sun

Opinion

July 7, 2014

Rise of regional government may prove taxing

GUTHRIE — I recently have written about bills from the last legislative session, which mostly escape wide public purview but contain far-reaching policy. The news has been mostly positive as I have either described harmful bills that were defeated, or good policy that won approval.

Now for some bad news.

I have observed the tendency for state officials to authorize a new super layer of regionalized government. This layer of government grows as state laws allow local government to come together to form new regional government entities that are insulated from the immediate purview of the taxpayer. The primary constituency of the regionalized entity isn’t the voter, but other government entities.

Cities and counties currently possess the ability to form new government entities that oversee transportation issues within that city or county. These entities may fund themselves through a 2 percent sales tax assessment. Until now, an entity’s jurisdiction could not exceed the jurisdiction of the cities or counties that formed it.

This restriction partly helped voters to keep the transportation government entity in check because local taxpayers can always elect new officials if/when the transportation entity got out of control. The newly elected officials could take action to rein in the entity because the officers probably would be the local elected officials or their direct appointees.

The restriction also made it a little less likely that the transportation entity would avail itself of the 2 percent sales tax because the tax would conflict with the city or county’s tax policy.

House Bill 2480 changed this. Transportation entities are now allowed to include parts of their own unique district within the various cities and unincorporated areas, but not necessarily entire cities. These entities may now be formed according to arbitrary and capricious boundaries.

These regional government entities are now less likely to represent the voters. For example, let’s assume a regionalized transportation is formed representing Edmond and Piedmont and connected through a part of the Deer Creek area. Let’s say the entity takes an action that isn’t popular in the Deer Creek area, but is popular in Piedmont and Edmond. Those who live in Deer Creek simply aren’t likely to have their voices heard because they do not have a majority of seats on the regionalized board or the direct ability to vote on the board members. Those voters will have little to no say in what occurs, even though they may be paying taxes to that government group.

The rise of regional government comes at a time when taxpayers already are breaking under the strain of too much government in all shapes and sizes.

It isn’t hyperbole to suggest that the combined taxation of government takes half the average taxpayer’s income. This doesn’t account for the impact of inflationary federal monetary policy or the inherited cost of new government regulation such as the impending draconian increase in utility rates that will be brought about by the federal government’s newest scheme to regulate energy production.

If the federal government is a massive whale that seeks to swallow the taxpayer whole, the multitude of tax-hungry local government entities are the vicious piranhas that in the collective may do more harm to the taxpayer than the federal government. In our area, it has become hard to find a local government entity that isn’t plotting and planning either a rate increase, tax increase or expansion of regulation. The last thing we need is a new set of regional government entities with their own taxing power. They may well be the proverbial last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Unfortunately, this sentiment wasn’t shared by many others in the Legislature. House Bill 2480 will go into law notwithstanding the objection of 25 representatives and 11 senators.

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 jason.murphey@okhouse.gov.

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Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results