Last month the House of Representative’s Government Modernization Committee conducted a study to examine cost savings and efficiencies which could occur as a result of consolidating state agencies. As part of that study, we heard testimony about the unusually high number of agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs) which are a component of Oklahoma state government.
One of the reports stated that as of 2007, Oklahoma had about 520 ABCs. The report referenced a 1995 study which was commissioned by Governor Frank Keating. The 1995 study stated that Oklahoma had over 360 ABCs at that time and indicated that this diversified approach to governance made it difficult to manage related functions, and impossible to hold someone accountable for minimal results.
The Keating report was produced by a Commission of Government Performance. The Commission was comprised of business and community leaders from across the state working with a team of 50 state employees.
The Commission pointed to Oklahoma’s weak gubernatorial powers as a reason for the inefficiency of state government processes. With power spread across so many different ABCs, Oklahoma’s Governor simply isn’t empowered to make state government more accountable. By proxy, this means that Oklahomans do not have a method to hold government accountable and make it more efficient.
The report stated that other studies going back as far as 1928 have found that Oklahoma government could be more effective if the chief executive officer were given more authority to change state government. The Keating report described the current situation as a situation where the chief executive officer could call a meeting and the managers of state did not have to attend. The report opined that this is no way to run such a large enterprise.
The Commission detailed that this fragmented organization process produces a clear lack of line of authority and an “unresponsive, duplicative and costly state government.”
Unfortunately, the Keating report was ignored by Oklahoma lawmakers. Today, instead of shrinking in size, Oklahoma government is much larger than before and the Governor does not appear to have been empowered to effect change.
Due to the budget downturn and the recent changes in many of the statewide elected office positions, I believe we will have an opportunity to incorporate some of the suggested reforms this year. We must finally start to reduce the number of Oklahoma agencies, boards and commissions and we should also empower the Governor with the ability to remove members of boards and commissions.
This will finally give Oklahomans the opportunity to start downsizing state government. If these changes are accepted, when we vote for the position of Governor in the future, we will be voting for a chief executive officer who will have the ability to require Oklahoma government to use our taxpayer dollars wiser and more efficiently.
The report’s suggestions should have been followed 15 years ago. I do believe in the “better late than never” adage, and feel we should incorporate these ideas for reform as soon as possible.