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Massive reduction in the scope of State government

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Over the past several years, if you have been in attendance while I spoke at the various civic groups and town hall meetings, you have likely heard me describe the study which initiated the move by the House of Representatives to modernize and downsize Oklahoma state government.

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

The study was conducted in 2007 and stated the following:

“Compared to other states of comparable size, Oklahoma currently has an extreme number of agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs). The current number of ABCs is the
highest in Oklahoma’s history.”

The study declared Oklahoma to have approximately twice the number of ABCs as comparable states of similar size and budget. Of special note, Oklahoma sported 515 ABCs compared to neighboring Kansas which had 130.

Why was this a problem? We instinctively know that the government which governs the best is the government which governs the least, but over the years, Oklahoma’s politicians had built the perfect multi-tentacled, big government monster. Fueled by taxpayers dollars, these agencies battled with each other for the right to regulate and control.

Following that study, we went to work to downsize the number of government agencies, starting with the easiest to consolidate or eliminate. Our effort gained a powerful ally with the 2010 election of Governor Mary Fallin who not only advocated for and signed legislation to consolidate and eliminate ABCs, but also bravely vetoed the bills which would have created new government organisms.

Our efforts ranged from the outright elimination of antiquated boards (which were no longer serving a legitimate function) to the consolidation of entire state agencies such as our 2011 legislation which consolidated five state bureaucracies (whose primary purpose had been to provide services to other bureaucracies).

In addition, Governor Fallin was able to identify and abolish boards and commissions which had been created through the executive orders of previous governors and we found some ABCs which, while listed as state government agencies, were really county government entities.

By 2012, the directory of Oklahoma state government had been downsized to contain 443 agencies, boards and commissions; the 2013 directory listed 236; and the 2014 publication displayed just 217. That’s a lot of progress since the 2007 report that showed 515. In the game of acronym soup, we just removed more than half the letters.

Downsizing state government is a lot like clearing away forested land. We first had to clear through the underbrush to identify the tall trees that should be removed. We are nearing that point and can now focus on the larger agencies.

Many state agencies share a common purpose, mission and subject matter with other state agencies, and this duplication creates unnecessary overhead and expense, as well as frustration for the taxpayers who must deal with multiple government bureaucracies.

The current budget shortfall demands that this work continue and hopefully as soon as this year lawmakers could move forward with significant agency consolidations.

Finally, I need to clarify my reference to the life saving ODOT cable barriers which appeared in last week’s article. I should have described the cable barriers by their proper term “Briefen Barrer”. Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to use Briefen Barriers notwithstanding federal government hesitancy and the fact that other types of cable barriers had been approved for used by other jurisdictions. This Oklahoma system was superior to other existing cable systems in that it requires less effort to repair after minor hits, and typically returns to its original alignment so it can sustain additional damage. This is verified by the fact that much of the winter storm damage to the cables on I-35 between Guthrie and Edmond has already been fixed by ODOT and the system is now ready to save more lives.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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