Lawmakers Ask Governor to Block Taxpayer Dollars to Non-ProfitsMon, 27 Aug 2012 10:54:32 CDT
State Reps. Paul Wesselhoft and Sally Kern this week delivered a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asking her to block tax dollars that would go to non-profit organizations.
“We do not think tax dollars should go to non-profit organizations. I believe this spending is unethical and, if not illegal, at least contrary to the spirit of the Oklahoma Constitution,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore.
“Although we approved appropriations to various agencies, we have found that some of that money will be spent on non-profit organizations,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “When lawmakers pass a state budget, they intend that the money be spent by the agency appropriately. Tax dollars are intended to fund government programs, not other organizations. I think it is a terrible practice and we are calling for it to stop.”
Some examples of non-profit entities receiving taxpayer dollars include Clem McSpadden Roping ($50,000 over a two-year period), the IPRA National Finals Rodeo ($50,000 over a two-year period); the Rural Enterprise Institute ($2.25 million over a three-year period), the OK Expo ($2 million for fiscal year 2013), the Jenks Aquarium ($40,000 for fiscal year 2013) and the Red Earth Day Festival ($25,000 for fiscal year 2013).
The two lawmakers have learned that portions of appropriations to four state agencies totaling a little over $12 million in fiscal year 2013 are intended to be spent on non-profits. The agencies are the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
“Twelve million dollars is a lot of money going to non-profits in a manner that could be much more transparent,” said Wesselhoft. “The figure of $12 million is consistent over the past couple of years. These ‘pass-through dollars’ are inappropriate.”
The two lawmakers said enquiries for more specific information can be made to their offices and that they have a document listing some 36 non-profit entities receiving taxpayer dollars.
Here is the full text of their letter to Governor Fallin:
August 23, 2012
The Honorable Mary Fallin
Office of Governor
2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Suite 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
This letter is to inform you that we are opposed to the practice of passing tax payer money through state agencies to nonprofit organizations. We believe these pass throughs are unethical and very well may violate the Oklahoma constitution, if not by the letter of the law, certainly by the spirit of the law.
It is the responsibility of legislators to pass a state budget. The use of pass throughs gives no opportunity for those who are duly elected to constitutionally fulfill this responsibility. There is no vote on these pass throughs as they do not appear in the state budget and are done without the knowledge of most legislators. When asked by constituents if we knew that a nonprofit was given appropriated funds, we had to admit that we knew nothing about it. This makes us look ignorant and amateurish in the eyes of the citizens who sent us to represent them and creates the impression that our government is non-transparent.
We respectfully ask you to withhold these funds to nonprofit organizations. This is not a criticism of these organizations. They do excellent work. However, they are not core functions of government. As a matter of fact, they are not government at all. This is a matter of transparency, ethics and good government.
We look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible regarding this matter. A copy of this letter is also being sent to
those agency directors for whom we have information. There may be additional agencies utilizing pass throughs that we are presently unaware of. We are continuing to research this matter and collect additional information. A press release is also being issued.
Representative Sally Kern, District 84
Representative Paul Wesselhoft, District 54
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