This year was by far the most successful year for legislative state government modernization reform proposals. In all, 23 significant government modernization initiatives have been identified. Each of this initiatives was considered by either the House Government Modernization standing or conference committee and all were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.
These changes are comprehensive and will have a far-reaching effect in monetary savings, creating new transparencies and driving down the cost of state government. The first of these new laws has already gone into effect and the state has already started to experience the savings.
A description of five of these initiatives is as follows:
Online Electronic Payments - An estimated 230,000 of the state’s payments are made through traditional paper transactions. Governor Fallin asked the Legislature to approve a component of House Bill 1086 to transitions the state to an e-commerce payment system. The State Office of State Finance has indicated that by using traditional paper conveyances, the state could be spending up to $13.50 per vendor payment. This compares to electronic payments which costs the state approximately 5¢ per transfer. House Bill 1086 creates a mandate to convert the system to electronic payments. This mandate should save state taxpayers millions of dollars each year. House Bill 1086 contained this, and a number of the other modernization initiatives.
Health Savings Accounts - House Bill 1062 put in place a law to drive down state employee and state agency insurance costs through the implementation of health savings accounts. Very few state employees are enrolling in the state’s free market-oriented health savings accounts, partly because the accounts are post-tax. This provides little incentive to the employee to sign up. House Bill 1062 allows pre-tax enrollment and is a step towards the successful Indiana state employee health insurance plan that stabilized the cost of state employee health insurance. If the Oklahoma HSA program follows the Indiana example, the savings will be significant.
Agency Consolidation - Each year, Oklahoma's non-appropriated state agencies take about $900 million out of the Oklahoma economy. These fees punish businesses and disincentivizes new economic growth. Senate Bill 772 empowers a task force to study consolidation opportunities for these agencies. Consolidation could lessen the burden placed on Oklahoma businesses, incentivize economic growth, and allow the state to benefit from new business activity.
Centralized Online Forms - Oklahoma taxpayers are forced to spend time searching through state agency web pages to find the necessary forms to interact with state government. Some of these forms may not even be available online. House Bill 1086 allows citizens to access state government forms from one location. The forms.ok.gov Web portal should be searchable by keyword, allowing for the speedy retrieval of forms by number or description.
Reducing State Agency Office Footprint - State agencies can enter into contracts for expensive office space without documenting efforts to use innovate approaches such as telework to reduce the amount of office space needed. House Bill 1086 places a check and balance on the ability of agencies to expand their office footprint by requiring them to certify that they cannot reduce the number of square footage needs through the application of innovative telework approaches. I believe this is an important step in the effort to mandate that state government quit financing new buildings with expensive bond issuances. We need to change the focus of state government to where many of the physical assets of the state are liquidated and the state’s capital infrastructure footprint is greatly reduced.
Next week it is my intent to write about the two big Government Modernization state agency and process consolidation initiatives that are taking effect and will be the target of a Government Modernization interim study on November 10.