| July 18, 2012

With your bucks, legislators buy membership in big-government lobbying organization

At an OCPA speech in Tulsa and in other venues, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said: "Never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose. We have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible because, when we took it, we diminished that person's freedom."

Even though Oklahoma government spending was already at an all-time high, our political leaders who crafted the FY-2013 budget decided to spend even more money. But is there "a very legitimate purpose" behind all this spending? Is all this money — more than $500 per second — being spent "as carefully as possible"?

Regardless of revenue levels, lawmakers continue to take your money and give it to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), an organization that is “nationally recognized as a formidable lobbying force in Washington, D.C.” Sadly, lawmakers have budgeted taxpayer funds for the NCSL in the FY-2013 budget.

In the last nine years alone, Oklahoma lawmakers will give more than $1.2 million (in the form of dues money) to make the Oklahoma legislature a member of this big-government lobbying organization.

The NCSL’s past support for Obamacare and current efforts to facilitate its implementation are discouraging. Oklahomans have to wonder why a strong majority of Oklahoma lawmakers who jump at every opportunity to publicly oppose the law would allow state taxpayer funds to help an unnecessary entity implement Obamacare.

Oklahoma lawmakers should know better than to take citizens’ hard-earned money to give to an organization that often lobbies for more funds from a federal government that has already strapped citizens and future generations with trillions of dollars in debt. Further, Oklahoma lawmakers should not send state tax dollars to an organization that has had a neutral or compliant position on Obamacare. Many of NCSL’s positions concerning the law are fixated on ensuring the federal government provides sufficient federal funds for states’ implementation of Obamacare, with meetings on the topic dominated by presentations on how states can ensure they implement the law and meet all of the law’s timelines, particularly deadlines for Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.

Oklahomans already have representation before the federal government—they are known as United States Representatives and United States Senators. In addition, there is a multitude of state officials and lawmakers who represent the state. Oklahoma lawmakers know this because the website for the Oklahoma legislature provides a great tool with which Oklahomans can “find my legislator.”

Mandated state funding for NCSL membership is also alarming when one considers the policy positions of NCSL. One need only to read NCSL’s numerous policy statements to see they have an addiction to more federal funds—and hold positions in direct conflict with Oklahoma’s federal lawmakers. Need we remind NCSL and everyone else that the federal government is broke? As columnist Mark Steyn memorably put it:

“The government of the United States is broker than any entity has ever been in the history of the planet. Officially, Washington has to return 15,000,000,000,000 dollars just to get back to having nothing at all. And that 15,000,000,000,000 dollars is a very lowball figure that conveniently ignores another $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities that the government, unlike private businesses, is able to keep off the books.”

Undeterred by this reality, the NCSL supports more corporate welfare, supports welfare through the tax code and stands in the way of congressional efforts to reduce federal spending. NCSL’s policy positions also include:

  • Ensuring “Federally funded family life and health education and prevention (HIV & AIDS) programs must include accurate information emphasizing responsible sex practices. These programs should include but not be limited to the promotion of safer sex …”
  • Support for increased funding for the National Health Services Corp.
  • Strong support for “the development of an interoperable system of electronic health information for the United States.”
  • Support for federal funding of early childhood education, including failed programs such as Head Start.
  • Support for the “Common Core Initiative.”
  • A neutral position on climate change legislation and the statement that “Climate change is a far reaching topic that affects multiple issues of everyday life.”
  • Concerning a balanced federal budget, the NCSL states “NCSL is concerned that excessive spending increases or tax cuts, given the need for continued fiscal discipline, may threaten funding for existing and future intergovernmental programs.”

State lawmakers will say that NCSL provides vital research and so warrants state taxpayer funding. But the annual budget for the Oklahoma legislature funds millions of dollars in full-time research, fiscal, legal and legislative staff for the legislature. If there is a continuing educational benefit for a lawmaker who wants to attend an NCSL event, that should be considered on a case-by-case basis and funded by the lawmaker or on a per-attendee basis. To better facilitate lawmakers’ continuing education on policy development and their need to participate in lawmaker-led organizations, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Legislative Service Bureau should allocate all funds given to membership organizations on a scholarship basis to each lawmaker. This will allow lawmakers to seek innovative policy solutions from organizations they deem most beneficial.

It’s time to end the taxpayer subsidization of the NCSL.

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