Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 75, which proposes an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would give local taxpayers or their elected representatives the final approval before any local tax dollars are spent. If approved by the Legislature, the amendment would appear on the November, 2012 ballot for consideration by the voters of Oklahoma. The proposal is dubbed the “Lincoln Amendment” after the President who declared that the American government was “by the people” and “for the people.”
“This common sense amendment enshrines in our state’s Constitution a basic premise of American democracy – that our government is by the people and for the people, just as Lincoln said at Gettysburg,” said Holt. “Oklahoma’s Constitution already makes it very difficult to raise taxes, and that’s a good thing. But every new tax starts with a new expense, and the Oklahoma Constitution, remarkably, does not give taxpayers or their local elected representatives the absolute power to spend tax dollars. There are dozens of examples in recent years of local taxpayers being forced to take on new financial obligations, not only without the consent of either the taxpayers or their representatives, but actually over their objections.”
Recently, Oklahoma was ranked the most anti-taxpayer state in the entire southern United States by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This was primarily because in Oklahoma, the wishes of local taxpayers and their elected representatives are routinely trumped when it comes to spending tax dollars, causing local governments to take on expenses they cannot afford, resulting in service cuts or requests for more taxes. The Lincoln Amendment is a response that shifts the power of the purse back where it belongs, to the taxpayers.
The Lincoln Amendment adds a new Section 26A to complement Article X, Section 26 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Section 26 currently provides for approval by the voters before a municipal government may take on any indebtedness that exceeds income and revenue for the then-current fiscal year. To add to this and other important taxpayer protections in the Constitution, the new Section 26A requires that the city council, the voters, or someone delegated by the city council must expressly approve all expenses before they can be implemented. This taxpayer protection adds no further burden to city operations, but it ensures that all spending is ultimately accountable to the taxpayers.
“Though the Lincoln Amendment presents an ideal that Oklahomans may assume is as American as apple pie, the Oklahoma Constitution currently provides no such protection,” said Holt. “This common sense amendment is long overdue, and I will fight to ensure that the voters are given the opportunity to consider it.”