Monday, October 8, 2007

Cutting The Size of State Government

Cutting The Size of Oklahoma Government

This fall the House will impanel what I believe to be one of the most important studies of the legislative interim. Representative Ken Miller from Edmond, Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, will lead a study into consolidating state government agencies.

Last week in my constituent update, I wrote that in order for Oklahoma to compete with Texas for economic development, I believe we must eliminate the state income tax. Eliminating this tax can occur in much faster order if we also do the right thing and cut the size of state government.

Miller's committee is charged with making recommendations to do just that. Speaker of the House Lance Cargill has indicated he is determined to incorporate the findings of Miller's committee into legislation next year.

In order to lay the groundwork for the consolidation study, Speaker Cargill commissioned the House Staff to compare the size of Oklahoma government to the government in surrounding states.

This was not the easiest job, because believe it or not, no official count of the number of state agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs) is even kept by state government. Can you imagine what would happen to a private business in the free market if it could not provide an official accounting of its organizational structure?

In fact, the size of Oklahoma government is so big that the only way to count the number of Oklahoma state agencies is to use a publication of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries which lists contact information for state officials.

The house study returned some shocking results. When Oklahoma was compared with 5 other states of similar size, it was determined that Oklahoma had 515 ABCs, while the other five states of Kentucky, Arkansas, Iowa, Oregon and Kansas averaged 210 ABCs each. The number of ABCs in Oklahoma is almost two and one half times the size of comparable states.

Not surprisingly, the study found that Oklahoma's ABCs have grown at a steady pace over time. In 1957 there were 115 ABCs, in 1977 there were 215 and in 1997 there were 470.

Since 1928 there have been no less than seven statewide studies that recommended reorganization of state government and a reduction of ABCs. Yet there is little record that any action was taken on those reports.

It is my hope that Representative Miller's study will be the first such study to be acted on in a significant manner. I believe it is our duty as legislators to honor the desire of Oklahomans for smaller government. I am committed to helping Miller and Cargill make this desire become reality.

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