In past updates I have described how Governor Mary Fallin has played an important role in calling for and ensuring the passage of innovative proposals to cut the size of state government and make it more open and transparent.
In addition to getting the word out about the Governor’s hard work for reform, I feel it is also important to mention the work of other newly elected and appointed statewide officials.
This year I worked with several new officials on various modernization proposals and enjoyed observing and (when possible) assisting them in their efforts to institute reforms.
I have observed many times in state bureaucracy that the executive officer of an agency places a heavy emphasis on the fact that funding has been reduced, the subsequent pressing financial needs of the agency, and an ensuing request for more money. This point is so heavily emphasized that the agency director often leaves little opportunity to focus on innovative ways to remove wasteful spending practices or to apply technology to cut costs.
It is rare and almost unheard of for an agency head to actually request a reduction in funding. This is disappointing as I believe the foremost focus of state government leaders should be to provide better service to taxpayers for less cost.
We all know there are a significant amount of wasteful spending practices in state government. This common belief has been confirmed with just about every independent consultant’s report I have seen since taking office. During this same amount of time, however, I have rarely observed state agency heads admit to wasteful practices taking place within their departments. Worse yet, some agencies actually oppose modernization and efficiency efforts that result in savings.
I have looked froward to the day when a state agency official would actually call for a reduction in appropriations as a way of demonstrating their agency’s commitment to providing a more streamlined, efficient service.
That is why it was so encouraging when newly appointed Secretary of State Glenn Coffee requested a complete elimination of all appropriations for the Secretary of State’s office. Coffee made the request early in the session when speaking to a legislative appropriations oversight committee on which I serve. Coffee’s request sent a strong message that the new administration would not only call for fiscal conservatism within state government, but would also immediately apply those principles to their own offices.
The Legislature accepted Coffee’s request and completely removed all appropriations for his office. The Secretary of State’s office will now be funded by existing fees for service, and I did not observe that any of these fees were increased.
Coffee’s request was a refreshing change of pace to a legislative body that has become so accustomed to demands for more money and traditional excuses as to why agencies cannot innovate and reduce the scope of their budgets.
In my next update I will write about working with several of Oklahoma's other executive branch officials to enhance transparency and cut costs.