Stuart A. Jolly, Oklahoma Director of Americans For Prosperity, is tracking bills in the Oklahoma Legislature pertinent to his organization’s agenda. Tax reform, education reform, pension reform, and property tax reform all make the list. His message: Focus on fiscal responsibility.
Jolly spoke with CapitolBeatOK.com prior to addressing the regularly scheduled meeting of the Capitol Republican Caucus yesterday (Wednesday, March 23).
“We were hoping for a more robust reform on a lot of these issues,” Jolly said, when asked about the many bills addressing AFP issues. “I don’t want to see any more headliners talking about puppy mills or who’s gonna brush a horse’s tooth,” he said.
Asked about the so-called “Right Fight: at the Capitol and the divide as GOP lawmakers take sides on social versus policy matters, Jolly said, “I think we focused on the social issues under (former Gov. Brad) Henry for eight years. That it’s time to focus on issues that’s gonna affect the folks in surrounding, outlying counties.”
While addressing the 25 conservatives at the Caucus luncheon, Jolly challenged them to get involved and get informed. He urged them personally to talk to lawmakers about conservative policy matters and not allow lobbyists to hold the reins all of the time.
“There are about 122 taxpayer-funded lobbyists being paid by 52 state government entities,” he told the group. He said much of local tax dollars are spent on lobbyists, but just how much they are being paid “no one knows.” Oklahoma ethics rules do not require disclosure of lobbyists’ pay.
“So you have the state lobbying the state and that’s not good. That’s not good,” Jolly said.
It’s a different story when it comes to state tax dollars used to hire lobbyists sent to Washington, D.C. Those salaries must be disclosed and Jolly said the AFP estimates Oklahoma spends about a million dollars a year on federal lobbyists. That figure does not include per diem or travel or meals, according to Jolly.
“David Boren (University of Oklahoma President) really tried to bust my chops on this. Because he says, "listen, our lobbyists are paid for by donor dollars," Jolly said.
“I said, seriously so take your money out of this pocket and put it in that pocket. Really?” Jolly said he asked Boren. “What should that money be going towards? Students?”
Note: Rodely, an award-winning journalist, is a staff writer for CapitolBeatOK.