March 16th, 2009

Democrats seek freeze on out-of-state travel

Oklahoma City (March 12, 2009) State Capitol – Reiterating their belief that fiscal discipline starts at home, House Democrats this week filed a resolution seeking a temporary freeze on out-of-state travel for all state agencies, the Legislature and higher education. Democrats stated that this kind of spending is unnecessary while our state faces a $900 million deficit.  House Democrats are taking the lead on this issue by declining to travel out of state at taxpayer expense until the state’s financial picture improves.“This resolution is about making tough choices,” said Rep. Jeannie McDaniel , D-Tulsa, who is principal author of HR1021.  “It’s what people in our districts do every day when money gets tight.  Our constituents sometimes have to make life-or-death choices, such as whether to pay for heat or for prescription drugs.  We have a much simpler choice – do we prioritize trips to conferences, or life-saving services? “We need to show respect for people going through hard times by conserving taxpayer dollars.  It’s time for leadership by example,” she adde d. Rep. McDaniel hopes her Republican colleagues will agree to abide by this simple set of priorities – to preserve the most essential functions of the state first, ahead of costly trips outside Oklahoma .Rep. Brian Renegar , D-McAlester, added that several Democrats discussed the need for this temporary freeze after Republican legislators attended a conference last weekend out of state – at taxpayer expense. “Last week, several of our Republican colleagues took a trip to Washington , D.C. , for The Energy Council’s Federal Energy and Environmental Matters Conference,” said Rep. Renegar.  “I think conferences can be wonderful tools, but our state has more pressing needs than spending thousands of dollars to send several of my colleagues to Washington in the middle of session.“Over the last few days, we’ve talked on the House floor about not having enough money for education, health care and public safety reforms.  It’s hard for me not to look at some of my colleagues when we have those discussions and think about the taxpayer dollars they just used for a trip to D.C.,” he added. HR1021 notes that this time of economic uncertainty “calls for thrift and sacrifice in all areas of government.”  Rep. McDaniel added that State Treasurer Scott Meacham’s office this week issued a release which stated that February tax revenues were critically low, falling 30 percent below the estimate. “I’m afraid that we have not seen the worst of our fiscal problems, and we must take swift action to prepare for the future,” she stated.  “I hope we take up this resolution – I think it’s important for us to step forward and show we are serious about fiscal discipline.”  Rep. McDaniel has requested that the resolution receive a hearing as soon as possible.