Column by Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the State Chamber, published in the Journal Record on November 9, 2018
At the State Chamber, we have long advocated for increased agency and government accountability. We supported the Incentive Evaluation Commission to examine the effectiveness of tax credits and in 2017, we supported creating the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission to delve into our agencies to ensure they are running at the highest efficiency.
To their credit, this is an issue the Legislature has not taken lightly. Leadership in both houses has been supportive of the idea of increased accountability and scrutiny of expenditures of taxpayer money. During the season of interim studies, incoming Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat sponsored a study on offices of budget accountability. He invited experts from across the United States to speak to his group about best practices and the realities of implementing a similar program in Oklahoma.
Charles Sallee, an official within New Mexico’s legislative finance committee, was an impressive advocate not only for his state’s organization but also the broader concept of expediting the kind of analysis that legislators need to make informed decisions. In an article for The Journal Record, Catherine Sweeney writes that Sallee explained that in addition to being intimately involved with the budget process, the LFC investigates the cost-benefit analysis of government programs and decides if agencies are effectively spending their allotted money.
Opponents to the idea of an agency accountability office often argue that this kind of office will only spur cuts to government agencies. Sallee points out that is not always the case. When officials in his state’s child protective services agency weren’t performing efficiently, the audit found the agency needed more money. The goal is efficiency and good government, regardless of politics. The Legislature exercises the power of the purse and has a constitutional duty to spend hard-earned taxpayer money in the most efficient manner possible.
More than 30 states have some version of an agency accountability office and as Oklahoma strives for a more efficient, well-intentioned government, this concept is worthy of serious consideration. Although there are some initial startup costs, we are confident the investment will be exceeded by the cost savings while delivering increased efficiency and accountability. The timing is also fortuitous since Oklahoma has elected a new governor who campaigned on increased efficiency, transparency and accountability. The State Chamber applauds Sen. Greg Treat and the Legislature for making this a priority for the upcoming legislative session.