Budget & Tax

Michael Carnuccio | May 15, 2015

Free Market Friday: Strings attached

Michael Carnuccio

This week, legislation by state lawmakers making the strings attached to federal funds more transparent to the public has been stalled by the governor’s veto of House Bill 1748. The measure mirrored actions of a number of states enacting legislation to provide policymakers and citizenry with better, more accessible information about their government.

Support for expanding transparency regarding government spending is high. A recent SoonerPoll survey of Oklahoma voters revealed 64.9 percent of Oklahomans want to decrease federal influence in Oklahoma. The survey found 87.3 percent think state government spending of federal dollars should be more transparent; 91.6 percent believe it’s important for Oklahoma to be financially prepared for reductions in federal funds. The bill passed the House of Representatives 69-19 and Senate 39-1.

Efforts to expand transparency of government spending are bipartisan. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and President Barack Obama promoted together the need for government transparency websites. These reforms alleviate the public and policymakers from onerous time spent trying to get what should be easily accessible information.

It’s understandable that policymakers and the public would want to know the strings attached to federal funds. Often bureaucrats are focused chiefly on the possibilities of additional grants, but not the challenges. This often leads to state agencies convincing lawmakers to expand programs at the state level based on the enticement of federal cheese.

Federal strings abound; many are not known by the public. For example, the unreported, successful push by bureaucrats several years ago to participate in an expansion of family planning services has resulted in Oklahoma taxpayers now having to fund the morning-after pill in the Medicaid program.

The good news is lawmakers and the governor still have an opportunity to accomplish the goals of HB 1748. Its provisions can easily be included in the final budget agreement and placed into one of the numerous appropriation bills to be approved by lawmakers. Also, bureaucrats who have opposed HB 1748 have admitted that it wouldn’t be difficult to begin providing the information within 24 hours, so the governor and lawmakers now know implementing the provisions of HB 1748 won’t be onerous.

Government transparency is a good thing for citizens; luckily, both still have a fighting chance this session.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

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