This week the House of Representatives approved what I believe to be one of the most exciting pieces of government reform legislation this year.
Indications are that a strong number of House District 31 residents believe that government is too big. They feel the scope of citizens' freedoms are reduced the more government grows and usurps power.
Thus, as your State Representative, I am committed to fulfilling the charge of working to reduce the size of government. The biggest issues we face in trying to downsize government are finding inefficiencies, inappropriate spending and corruption. Once these are exposed it will be hard for elected officials to refuse to take action.
The problem we are forced to deal with is that state government spending (almost $7,000,000,000 in state appropriations alone) is not readily exposed to the scrutiny of the people. Even many legislators rarely have direct access to the items on which taxpayer money is spent. Most of the information presented to legislators only concerns requests for new spending, with little oversight over current and past agency spending. You can only imagine the temptation for abuse of public dollars when taxpayers and their elected representatives do not have easy access to how and where money is spent. A 2006 August poll found that 64 percent of Oklahoma voters believe state government wastes between 10 cents and 59 cents of every dollar it collects.
This is about to change. SB 1, which already won approval in the Senate, cleared the House on Tuesday and should now be its way to the Governor. If the Governor approves the bill, state agencies will be required by law to post their expenditures. The website OKOpenBook.gov will be online by the end of the year and will allow taxpayers to search government expenditures. As the website evolves, it should include easy to use tools which allow taxpayers to track exactly how and where government money is spent. This will offer the average citizen much more oversight than legislators currently have.
Some of the items to be included online include grants, contracts, subcontracts, tax credits, payments to businesses under the various business incentive laws, and expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund.
This idea was proposed by state Senator Randy Brogden and State Representative Paul Wesselhoft after a similar concept was put forward by Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn and approved at the federal level. Coburn's vision of a website where citizens can google government spending has caught on at the state level with 17 states across the nation considering or enacting similar proposals.
I believe this will be a vitally important tool as we begin the process of working to reduce the size of government in Oklahoma and I would encourage everyone to note web address www.OKOpenBook.gov for future reference.
As always, please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance. I can be reached at 557-7350 or on the web at HouseDistrict31.com.