“Every time you take a dollar from that citizen you make that citizen less free,” said Brian Bush, Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc., (OCPA) at the Altus Rotary Club luncheon held in the Student Center of Western Oklahoma State College. on Tuesday, Aug. 13.
Luncheon guest speaker and Altus native Brian Bush introduced Altus Rotarians to the organization’s purpose and asked if tax dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently on state programs. The OCPA focuses on free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative according to Bush.
“Our real focus is how the government taxes, what they spend that money on, and can we lower the amount of money that the government needs to operate,” Bush stated. The OCPA researches various issues and approaches them from a free market perspective for economic development and seeks to encourage legislators to do better on certain issues where there appears to be a discrepancy, however, does not lobby or ever ask a legislator or citizen to vote “yes” or “no” on a particular issue or candidate, he explained.
“What were finding is those states that have no income tax have been vastly out performing those states with the highest income tax,” said Bush. According to research performed by the OCPA comparing the nine lowest income tax rated states to the nine highest income tax rated states, their analysis showed that the lower tax rated states had a better economy. The OCPA evaluates state programs to see if they best meet the needs of the voting public, Bush explained. If the program fails to meet those needs, the OCPA asks if it can be done better and without accepting federal dollars to do so.
“Until we get a handle on those types of discussions our state budget is going to continue to grow and our federal budget will continue to grow,” Bush said. “And as you all know a good chunk at the federal level is borrowed money and we all know that it is unsustainable.”
One of the issues Bush discussed at the luncheon was reforming the State’s pension program for state employees.
“We care about this issue because we care about those public employees. That’s one of the things that I think is really lost in a lot of these discussions.” Bush said. “My concern is that right now we have a lot of public employees who may not have a pension when they retire, and the employees expect to have one. They’ve been told they’ll have one but they might not have one.”
Without taking anything away from state employees already promised certain benefits, the OCPA recommends in the future new employees be placed under a defined contribution system rather than the current defined benefits system to make up any discrepancy.
“If that system is ever called upon to fund all of its promises, if that ever happens that we have to pay up on those things, the folks paying the bill is the tax payer. That’s who takes care of that problem every time it comes up. So for us this is a chance for everybody to win if we act now and we do it in a way that is fair.”
For more information about the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc., goto www.ocpathink.org