Law & Principles

Trent England | June 7, 2023

Stitt defends rule of law from tribal tax collectors

Trent England

On May 31st, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed two bills that would have extended tax compacts with tribal governments. He did the right thing, not just to protect state taxpayers from a possible revenue grab by the tribes’ tax collectors, but also to defend some basic principles of American government.

Elementary school civics teaches that we have three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch has its own role. This separation of powers makes it possible to have checks and balances that protect liberty and promote good government.

Negotiating agreements with other governments is a core executive power. This is as basic, and common sense, as it gets. Presidents negotiate trade deals and treaties. They require the consent of the Senate after the fact, but the negotiation and initial agreement is done by the executive. Governors have the same kind of power.

A legislature is a big committee—or, in the case of Congress and all state legislatures except Nebraska’s—two big committees. The inability of committees to effectively operate government, including things like negotiating agreements, is why the United States has a president and why states have governors.

Stitt was defending his rightful power when he vetoed the compact bills, and he was upholding the Oklahoma Constitution. The people of Oklahoma deserve a government that can act efficiently in negotiating deals—like tribal tax compacts—and that means keeping that power where it belongs.

Finally, these compacts are a bad deal for Oklahoma taxpayers. Tribal tax collectors want to rush them through without negotiations while also trying to get a court to expand the sales and licenses covered by the compacts. In other words, they want to redirect millions of dollars of current revenue away from the state of Oklahoma and into the hands of tribal tax collectors.

Some people will remember the famous photograph of President Harry Truman with this sign on his desk: “The buck stops here.” It was a statement about executive power—and the responsibility that comes with it. While a committee might negotiate a bad deal and hope that no individual member is held responsible, that is harder for a single elected executive.

Oklahoma taxpayers can thank both Stitt and the Framers of American government for a system where executives have the power to negotiate deals—and to veto bills that try to interfere with that power.

Trent England David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England

David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.

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