Monday, February 4, 2008

Changing Leadership

This week the House of Representatives took action to elect a new Speaker of the House. While I look forward to working with new House Speaker Chris Benge, I think it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of former House Speaker Lance Cargill.

When I sought your vote for State Representative, I did so for very specific reasons: I wanted to shrink the size of state government and the high level of taxes we are forced to pay to support it. As I visited with the people, they told me of their belief that there is much waste in government. They also helped me realize how important it is for strong leaders to attack that waste. In advocating for change, I wanted to reduce the salaries of Oklahoma legislators (the third-highest paid part-time legislators in the nation), adhere to a policy of refusing all personal gifts and political contributions from lobbyists, oppose pork earmarks, and advocate for legislation that turns up the heat on legislators who accept lobbyists' gifts.

Some have said that taking such controversial stands would make it difficult to work with the leadership of the House. Cargill saw to it that this was not the case. He honored my desire to work for change and asked me to join his study to modernize state government. This study has demonstrated that Oklahoma has 515 agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs), which is almost 2½ times the size of comparable states. The study also documented that up to 70 million of your taxpayer dollars could be saved in just one state agency! Imagine how much waste actually exists in state government when modernizing just one agency could result in such savings? Following Cargill's efforts, there are now a number of legislative efforts to incorporate the ideas of government modernization.

Cargill also expressed support for two other upcoming legislative initiatives that are important to restoring control of the government to the people. These include letting the people see what is going on in state government by allowing government proceedings to be televised, and shining the light of day on taxpayer-funded lobbyists (those who take our taxpayer dollars and use them to lobby for more taxpayer dollars).

Cargill also demonstrated that as part of reforming government, it is important to include the people. As part of this effort, he took the time to visit Guthrie to accept suggestions from Logan County residents as part of his 100 Ideas campaign. Last week he released the 100 Ideas book. Some of these courageous ideas include eliminating the abstract cost of real estate (a very important reform), expanding term limits to include all statewide officials, and modernizing county government to make it more efficient by making it more like city government. The 100 Ideas book provides a fantastic starting point for those fighting for reform.

There is no doubt in my mind that Cargill will continue to be an energetic force for the reform of government, despite his resignation as Speaker of the House.

It is my hope and belief that Speaker Benge will continue Cargill's work to reform Oklahoma government.

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