OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today took steps to address bringing more efficiency in state spending, as was listed in her recent special legislative session call.
The governor issued two separate executive orders dealing with the administrative costs consolidation of college campuses and public school districts.
A third order calls on agencies to stop spending state money on swag and unnecessary promotional items, which could save the state up to $58 million a year.
The governor’s special session call asked for the state to address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government. To help jump-start ideas, she provided the budget committee chairpersons in the Senate and the House of Representatives a list of efficiency proposals she had made during the past seven years as governor.
During the special session, many legislators who opposed a bipartisan, compromise bill to address Oklahoma’s repeated budgetary shortfalls and fund a teacher pay raise defended their “no” vote by claiming waste exists in state government, with some calling for agency audits. (Lawmakers have that authority based on 74 O.S. 450.1)
“While I have always and will continue to support eliminating waste and inefficiency in state government, I strongly believe that we need to continue these efforts while solving Oklahoma’s structural budget problem and fund a teacher pay raise,” Fallin said. “These two goals are totally compatible.
“As governor, I have requested the state auditor and inspector audit different state agencies 22 times. I have provided the Legislature with dozens of proposals to streamline state government and save our taxpayers money. While some of these proposals have been signed over the years into law, many never made it to my office for approval.”
Executive Order 2017-39 directs the state Board of Education, with the assistance of the state superintendent of public instruction, to compile a list by Sept. 1, 2018, of every public school district that spends less than 60 percent of its budget on instructional expenditures. School districts designated for administrative costs consolidation or annexation are to be notified by July 1, 2019, with the districts required to submit plans for administrative costs consolidation, such as human resources, purchasing, accounting, technology and maintenance, or annexation by Jan. 1, 2020. Implementation will begin with the 2020-21 school year.
“Oklahomans support additional dollars going into the classrooms, and we have to make sure those dollars make it there,” Fallin said. “According to a 2014 report, Oklahoma ranked sixth among states in the percentage of funds spent on district administration. This is unacceptable.
“The most important component of successful educational outcomes is an effective teacher in every classroom who has the instructional materials and technology needed to enhance student learning. It is important to send a greater percentage of taxpayer dollars to support classroom learning rather than non-instructive costs. It’s time we get serious about reducing administrative overhead.”
Executive Order 2017-38 directs Oklahoma’s higher education chancellor and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to develop a plan for the administrative costs consolidation of universities, colleges, centers and branch campuses by December 2018. The plan should be executed by December 2019. The governor’s executive order is compatible with efforts underway by the state regents’ Task Force on the Future of Higher Education
“Administrative costs consolidation will allow for a more effective distribution of resources and educational programs throughout the state to better serve students,” Fallin said. “It also will allow higher education to focus on the areas that will strengthen career pathways and result in fewer dropouts and more students graduating on time. Administrative costs consolidation will also lead to significant administrative savings, such as personnel, payroll, purchasing, maintenance, IT and energy efficiency savings.”
“These two education reform directives will lead to better education outcomes and wiser use of existing resources,” Fallin said. “We owe it to our taxpayers and students to be good stewards of their money.”
Executive Order 2017-37 directs that directors of state agencies and departments not purchase nonessential items, or so-called swag items, such as pens, cups, trophies, bumper stickers and book bags. A bill proposing to eliminate such items was introduced during the past special session, but failed to win final legislative approval.
Fallin said it’s frustrating for citizens when suggestions aren’t considered or improvements aren’t made in a timely manner. Part of the problem is the hundreds of advisory boards, commissions and agencies that were created by law over the past several decades, and the lack of power given to the governor in the state constitution ties the governor's hands to make timely and needed changes.
“As a result, we’re left for the most part with an inefficient, slow-responding form of government,” Fallin said. “It’s difficult for constituents to find out who serves on a board of commission.”
Fallin said she will again ask lawmakers next year to pass legislation allowing voters to give more power to future governors by putting them in charge of appointing key agency directors.
“As it is now, Oklahoma’s governor appoints board members, and in most cases the House and Senate make board and commission appointments, too," she said. "The majority of these are staggered terms, and it can take many years before a governor can get a majority of appointments on a board or commission. A governor ought to be able to hire a director, and have the authority to fire that director. Let’s put more accountability in our state government.”