State Sen. David Holt responded Wednesday to a recent study ranking all 50 states based on government union power versus taxpayer rights. The nonpartisan, data-based ranking, called the “Big Labor vs. Taxpayer Index,” ranked Oklahoma dead last in the entire Southern United States for taxpayer rights. Oklahoma was ranked 24th overall, meaning that 23 other states are more favorable to taxpayers.
"These rankings don't bode well for Oklahoma's reputation as a conservative state, and unless you're a union member, they certainly don't help us recruit people to live and work in our state,” said Holt, R–Oklahoma City. “These rankings should serve as a wake-up call to Oklahoma’s policymakers. We can no longer pretend that we're a pro-taxpayer state. The rankings don't lie. Our laws are anti-taxpayer, and we have work to do. The voters of 2010 made it clear they want to see taxpayers back in charge of our government. It’s time they got what they asked for.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute that created the ranking is a nonpartisan, Washington-based, non-profit think tank. The rankings were based purely on the statutory power held by government unions in each state, such as binding arbitration and paycheck protection.
Holt pointed out that government union power became the hottest issue in legislatures around the country in 2011, as newly-elected conservative state governments attempted to re-establish the taxpayers' right to spend their own tax dollars.
“The power of the purse is finite, and in many states unions have claimed more and more power that once belonged to the taxpayers,” said Holt. “These new rankings demonstrate that Oklahoma's statutes are the most anti-taxpayer, pro-union in the entire Southern United States, a region that includes thirteen states.”
Among bordering states, Oklahoma trailed Texas (4th), Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana (all tied for 6th), and Kansas (tied for 11th).
Oklahoma received some of its worst scores when it came to “binding arbitration.” Binding arbitration has existed in Oklahoma since 1994, when Governor Walters and the Democratic Legislature took the power to spend local tax dollars away from taxpayers and their elected representatives and gave it to an arbitrator. That arbitrator, who has the power to bind Oklahoma taxpayers to paying higher salaries to government union employees, is usually an attorney from Texas. Ironically, Texas does not have binding arbitration and ranks among the top five most pro-taxpayers states in the union.
“Oklahoma competes against other states in the South and in our region, particularly Texas, for jobs and opportunities,” said Holt. “We often talk about beating Texas. Why would we continue to let Texas treat its taxpayers far better than we treat ours, while at the same time allowing Texas attorneys to come here and spend our tax dollars?”
According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, only eleven states have stronger binding arbitration than Oklahoma, and there are 27 states that have no binding arbitration at all. Among the states that border Oklahoma (Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado), only New Mexico has binding arbitration.
This session, Sen. Holt and Rep. Scott Martin (R– Norman) authored SB 826, which would have repealed binding arbitration, but was amended to reform the process in a way favorable to taxpayers. The bill passed the Senate in the 2011 legislative session, and is available for hearing in the full House in the 2012 legislative session.
The full “Big Labor vs. Taxpayer Index” can be viewed at www.WorkplaceChoice.org.