Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Progress

Last week presented Oklahoma lawmakers with the second major legislative deadline of this year’s legislative session.

It is at this point that I can start to get a feeling for how well the efforts to reduce the size of government are proceeding. I believe this year’s state government modernization agenda is much more aggressive then ever before with several major multi-million dollar cost saving efforts still proceeding through the legislative system.

This progress is in no small part due to the commitment of legislative leadership and the strong effort by Governor Mary Fallin.

I knew that a special emphasis would be placed on government reform this year when I noticed that Governor Fallin placed a large “Government Modernization” heading and a series of money-saving proposals at the very start of her proposed state budget narrative. I cannot ever recall a time when proposed budgets even contained a narrative titled “Government Modernization”.

Since that time, Governor Fallin’s policy team has been very engaged in helping to develop and advocate for aggressive systematic reforms.

In the past, legislators spent large amounts of time working on reforms only to have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best when that proposal was sent to the Governor's office. Many times the Governor supported reform legislation but at other times legislation which would have made a substantial effort towards reforming and reducing the size of state government was vetoed. We just never knew for sure what would happen once our proposals were sent downstairs to the Governor's office.

Now, however, not only is the new Governor involved in helping propose and shape reform policy, she is also providing aggressive advocacy for the proposals -- and is not afraid to write editorials or issue press releases that bring attention to our efforts to save money and streamline state government.

As a result, legislative efforts are still alive which create a one-stop shop for business owners to secure their licenses and permits, require an unprecedented level of transparency for government spend initiatives, and consolidate ten state government agencies which will result in millions of dollars of savings.

Another still viable proposal would establish a state employee health insurance plan containing an emphasis on health savings accounts designed to contain health insurance costs to state agencies, and empower state employees with control over their health care spending. Proposals to eliminate inefficient state agency information technology processes have been repeatedly highlighted by the Governor as her budget seeks to take advantage of 140 million dollars of savings from more efficient technology process in state government.

Also still being considered are multiple proposals which would consolidate inefficient state agency financial services operations.

Keeping this large number of proposals moving forward throughout the session has been due to the commitment from the Governor and House and Senate legislative leaders. As the Chair of the House Government Modernization Committee, it has been a huge honor for me to observe this commitment up close and as a taxpayer, I have a tremendous appreciation for the commitment of these individuals to save some of the millions of taxpayer dollars which are wasted each year due to these inefficiencies.

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