The Next Step in Government Reform

The Next Step in Government Reform

Column by Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the State Chamber, published in the Journal Record on March 29, 2019

With the passage of legislation granting Gov. Kevin Stitt the power to make direct appointment of agency heads, it’s time to take the next step of increased scrutiny of the use of taxpayer dollars.

Direct appointment enhances the power of Oklahoma’s historically weak executive branch of government. Under our state’s constitution, and the federal one as well, the legislative branch maintains the power of the purse (appropriation of tax dollars to the executive branch and agencies to fund specific policy goals). It is time for the Legislature to grant itself the tools to faithfully exercise this power and duty. Direct appointment authority is important, but without the power to scrutinize and measure the effectiveness of the programs, the legislative and executive branches of government are essentially flying blind.

Fortunately, there are two separate bills that seek to address this issue. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2484 both are designed to provide transparency and improved analysis of government expenditures. I have previously highlighted why an Office of Accountability is needed and it bears repeating: Historically, government agencies have had little incentive to spend money in the most cost-effective manner or to reduce costs.

Unlike the private sector, government does not face constant pressure to reduce costs and generate profits. Further, there are very few repercussions to not being fiscally responsible. Moreover, agencies expend their energies to deliver services and too little time to analyze whether those services are meeting the goals in the most efficient or cost-effective manner. Not surprisingly, we see little innovation in government programs. The responsibility to correct this needs to be managed by the Legislature. Constant review and analysis of expenditures is an inherent responsibility of the legislative branch.

Gov. Stitt was elected on his pledges to bring transparency of government expenditures of taxpayer dollars and eliminate wasteful spending. Likewise, our legislative leaders have acknowledged the need to provide more oversight to expenditures. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2484 are exactly the appropriate tools to accomplish the duty. I urge you to call your legislator and ask them to pass these measures, right here, right now.