Transcript Managing Editor

Only when his debate opponent hauled out a horse bridle from behind the podium did State Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman, break stride in slamming State Question 726.

"Now, you've got me worried," he joked to state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso.

The two lawmakers debated the merits of the state question, often called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR proposition, before members of the Norman Business Association Friday morning. Voters will likely face the issue on November's ballot.

Simply put, the proposed Constitutional amendment limits the level of state spending growth to a formula arrived at by the percent of population increase and inflation and returns surpluses to taxpayers.

Brogdon said the measure puts a bridle on state spending, is good for business and the economy because it gives Oklahomans more say over what they want to do with their money.

"For the first time in the history of the state, it will give us, the people, a seat at the budget table," Brogdon said. "When we grow government to a reasonable level, we're going to let you keep your money."

He likened state spending to a wild horse that once took a chunk of his shoulder. It just needed some control, he said.

"We shouldn't have to be afraid of what our government is doing to us," he said.

Nations, an early opponent of TABOR, said most of the provisions in TABOR are already included in Oklahoma's Constitution. He said the proposal was too restrictive and would ratchet down government.

He said Oklahoma teachers and state workers are underpaid and that roads and bridges have $9 billion in deferred maintenance. "If we restrict government spending, how will we ever get to average in Oklahoma?" Nations asked.

"Most of what TABOR did in Colorado was very good. Most of that is already done in Oklahoma," Nations said. "There is an appropriate size for government. The killer in this law is the formula by which government is allowed to increase. When the economy goes down, it makes it nearly impossible for state government to ever recover."

Brogdon argued TABOR will force legislators to do a better job of prioritizing by capping what they have to spend. Nations said major functions of government -- Medicaid and education spending -- are increasing at double digits and can't be capped or shouldn't be tied to consumer indexes.

Both men listed groups that were in their respective camps. Brogdon said small businesses are for TABOR but big business and chambers of commerce are against it because they have become the new special interests of the state's Republican party.

"Big business is not against it because they are in line with their hands out just like the unions and the lobbyists," he said.















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