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The McCarville Report
Category archives for: State Government

Execution By Nitrogen Gas?

Rep. Mike Christian says Oklahoma must find a new way to execute prisoners, and suggests it might be by the use of nitrogen gas: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-lawmaker-suggests-alternative-method-of-execution/article/5342300


Dank: Time To End Tax Reimbursement Programs That Don’t Create Jobs

Rep. David Dank
In The Oklahoman

In the next four years, Oklahoma taxpayers will be asked to subsidize tens of millions of dollars in reimbursements to local entities like schools and counties, not because these are broke, but because of an ill-conceived tax credit involving wind farms that many residents question.

The state’s property tax reimbursement program was designed for a valid purpose: to assist schools and counties in dealing with an upsurge in population resulting from new jobs. If a manufacturer built a factory in a rural area and boosted employment, he would receive a five-year exemption from property taxes.

In return, the state treasury would reimburse those local entities for that lost revenue, which they would need to serve those new residents.

Under that system, everybody won. The county got new jobs, expanded its population and ultimately had a larger tax base to fund schools and other necessities. State government received more sales and income taxes to fund essential government services. The manufacturer would get a higher return on investment up front, making the decision to locate there a smart one.

Then came the wind farms and other entities that produced few, if any, jobs. In the early 2000s, legislation made them eligible for the same five-year property tax exemption. Last year, Oklahoma taxpayers ponied up $32 million in reimbursement payments to counties derived from wind farms alone.

The current estimate is that we’ll shell out another $290 million to subsidize wind farms by 2018, from property tax reimbursements and additional subsidies under the zero-emission tax credit system. Some $76 million of that will be in property tax reimbursements in one year alone. Those reimbursement payments are funded from individual and corporate income tax revenues, which means taxpayers in my district are paying their own property taxes and those in other counties as well.

In some cases these payments are simply a boondoggle. Last year we reimbursed Roger Mills County more than $6 million, about $1,700 for every person living there.

What’s wrong with giving wind farms the same tax breaks manufacturers receive? Wind farms produce few, if any, long-term jobs. Once the farms are built, the companies move on to the next project. With no extra jobs being created, there is no reason for state taxpayers to reimburse costs that don’t exist.

Second, many Oklahoma wind farms sell the power they generate out of state. They’re selling the power they produce, with our generous subsidies, to agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Texas is also a wind farm mecca, but it doesn’t saddle taxpayers with wasteful subsidies. In Texas, local entities are allowed to negotiate tax breaks, but the state doesn’t offer a reimbursement program like ours.

With many communities questioning the wisdom of wind farm development, it makes little sense to spend so much on taxpayer-funded subsidies that bring few, if any, returns.

It’s time to end tax reimbursement programs for projects that don’t create jobs or add to our prosperity.

Dank, R-Oklahoma City, represents District 85 in the Oklahoma House.


OPERS Board Names Joseph Fox Interim Director

The Board of Trustees of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) met today to announce the appointment of Joseph A. Fox as interim director of the System effective November 1.  Mr. Fox fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Tom Spencer, who is leaving OPERS to become the executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System effective November 1, 2014. Fox has been the General Counsel for OPERS since March 21, 2005.

“The OPERS Board is pleased to appoint Joe to serve in this capacity,” said OPERS Board Chair DeWayne McAnally. “We greatly appreciate his willingness to step up at this critical time and provide continuity and leadership as we search for a permanent director.”

Fox served as legal counsel for the Oklahoma House of Representatives for many years and became General Counsel for Speaker of the House Larry Adair in November 2000.

In related action the Board authorized Board Chairman DeWayne McAnally to form a search committee to find a permanent Executive Director.

“This is an important time for OPERS,” said McAnally. “The OPERS Board and staff are committed to serving our participating members and employers as we always have, as well as focusing our efforts on implementing a new defined contribution system in 2015. The board’s actions today help us meet these two vital responsibilities.”

 


Fallin: Land Office Marks Funds Distribution Record

Governor Fallin announced today that public schools, colleges and universities have received record earnings during the last four fiscal years from funds distributed by the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO).

More than $519.9 million has been distributed to the CLO’s education beneficiaries during the 2011 through 2014 fiscal years, according to the agency. That amount is 57 percent, or $188.7 million, more than the $331.2 million distributed during the next-highest four-year period in state history (2007-2010).

“This is great news for public education,” said Fallin. “This money provides much-needed additional funds for school districts, colleges and universities. The increase in CLO dollars is one more way to supplement the $150 million increase legislators appropriated for K-12 education in the last two years. I appreciate the hard work of the land office commissioners and CLO Secretary Harry Birdwell for helping to produce these high returns.”

The CLO distributes money from oil and gas exploration and land leases on the agency’s controlled property as well as dividends from investments made by the trust fund.

Public schools received most of the money, or $381.9 million of the $519.9 million, distributed the past four fiscal years by the CLO. Higher education received $137.9 million.

The money for kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools is distributed to each of the state’s 517 school districts based on school attendance numbers.

The value of the CLO’s permanent trust fund since 2011 has grown by nearly $700 million, from $1.606 billion to $2.304 billion.

It took 95 years for the CLO’s permanent trust fund to reach the $1 billion threshold. It took only 11 additional years for the permanent trust fund to pass the $2 billion mark.

The CLO is assigned the task of managing, leasing and selling properties set aside decades ago to be managed for the maximum financial benefit of Oklahoma’s common and higher education schools.


Murphey: Does Your Elected Official Understand The Budget?

murphey1

Rep. Jason Murphey

Here’s a not-so-secret but still shocking fact. Many elected officials do not possess even a basic, high-level comprehension of the budget over which they have been assigned stewardship.

I have often spoken in favor of term limits. It’s a healthy process for new and energetic elected officials to replace those who have become acclimated to the status quo.

Last year I observed one of these new officials make a difference simply because he asked very basic but important questions which challenged a key pillar of the very inefficient status quo.

As the newly elected official met with his constituency, he faced questions about Oklahoma’s education budget. He wanted to honestly answer these questions but determined that the education budget documents routinely shown to most legislators aren’t in fact reflective of the actual budget. Instead the legislative documents simply detail the amount of money appropriated each year by the Legislature. This reflects only a fraction of actual state government spend.

The new legislator wasn’t content to just see the appropriated dollars. In order to answer the constituents’ questions he needed to see the entire budget. That’s when he exposed what has for many years been an unfortunate status quo: the entire budget for state agencies isn’t readily accessible to the public and is rarely requested by most legislators.

The new legislator subsequently sponsored one of our most important modernization initiatives of this year. He proposed that each budget document should be placed online through one of our most successful transparency projects: the state’s omnibus government documents transparency portal located at documents.ok.gov.

Our modernization committee approved the proposal; however, it became unnecessary to advance the legislation beyond this point as our transparency allies within the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services – OMES – had taken note of the idea and proactively posted the budgets of the largest state agencies at documents.ok.gov. This avoided the need for writing a new law while still accomplishing the goal of transparency.

Better still, this is just the tip of the iceberg. At this moment, OMES is implementing a new statewide budgeting system – known as Project Encore – which should allow for real time public access and purview to all state agency budgets as just one of numerous other advantages which I look forward to describing in a future article.

You may view the budgets of Oklahoma’s largest agencies by navigating to hd31.org/643.

Additionally, I strongly advocate the complete reshaping of the process by which the Legislature appropriates funds. The Legislature must transition to a system by which all state spending is examined. It’s an absolute indictment of the current system that it takes a freshman representative to expose the lack of budget purview exercised by Oklahoma lawmakers. The advancement of technology will provide the tools by which legislators can finally attempt to exercise proper budget oversight.


McCarville: Madness

mike3

Some parts of our world have gone mad. Stark, raving, mad. Stone cold nutso.

Firefighters in Illinois are told by their chief to remove American flag decals from their helmets because they might be viewed as racist.

Ferguson, Missouri, is held hostage by “demonstrators,” some of whom have looted and burned.

A city orders a 2nd Amendment flag taken down but allows a Muslim flag to be raised.

A 3rd grader who bites a piece of food into the shape of a pistol is suspended and sent home for three days.

The race (?) for governor of Oklahoma so far is a yawner. Democrat Joe Dorman is digging for traction, but the arrows he’s shooting aren’t hitting the target, much less the bullseye. Dorman and his supporters are throwing mostly wild punches in a mad dash to cut Fallin’s lead.

Panera Bread bans law-abiding citizens and their firearms, joining other retailers who have done the same. What…only bad guys with guns now allowed?

A 1st grade boy who kisses a female classmate on the cheek is suspended for sexual harassment.

Why does a 2-hour examination and treatment at a hospital ER cost $1,200?

How can our president declare to the world that we have no strategy for dealing with an international situation? If George Bush had said that, the media would have pummeled him without mercy and painted him as wearing a dunce cap.

From Detroit: An army officer is told he can’t enter his daughter’s Metro Detroit high school this morning because he’s wearing his uniform.

Nebraska’s Lieutenant Governor Lavon Heidemann announced his resignation, both from office and as running mate to a GOP gubernatorial candidate, after a judge granted a restraining order against him to his sister after he attacked her.

When 11-year-old Grace Karaffa was told she couldn’t use ChapStick at her Virginia elementary school, the girl — who’d been prohibited from using it for years to treat her dry, bleeding lips — decided she’d had enough. The fifth-grader at Stuarts Draft Elementary School created a petition and presented her case before the Augusta County school board last week, arguing that a ban on the most commonly used remedy to treat chapped lips was “inappropriate,” her father said.

A Republican governor and Republican Legislature spends tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow…forgetting it was just yesterday that promises to cut taxes and cut spending is, in part, what propelled them into office. Nutso.

 

 


Editorial: Budget Process Change Needed

Editorial
The Oklahoman

THE National Association of State Budget Officers noted in a recent report that many states are in a similar situation fiscally. They have “limited resources with numerous demands for spending and not enough revenue to go around,” NASBO said.

Oklahoma feels their pain. Agency directors go to the Capitol each year to (almost always) ask lawmakers for more money. Whenever they can, lawmakers try to oblige. This has been the practice for decades, although since the Great Recession most agency heads have seen their budgets shrink a bit, or perhaps be held steady.

It’s a flawed system. When times are good, the Legislature writes bigger checks. When they’re not so good, the checks get smaller. A question asked all too infrequently is whether the state is getting its money’s worth.

Oklahoma will begin asking that question more often, as it joins several other states in moving toward “performance-based budgeting.” This process — using specific measures of past performance to determine whether a budget item is worth the money — gained popularity in some states in the 1990s, but was pushed aside after the recession to focus on navigating the fiscal minefield.

Now it’s back, including in Oklahoma. The state’s budget office in January began implementing a new budgeting system that went live a few weeks ago. It’s intended to allow the state to move toward what Preston Doerflinger, state finance secretary, calls “performance-informed budgeting.”

“It will allow us to look across state programs throughout the state,” Doerflinger says. “We have agencies that are trying to solve the same problem, and at times may even be competing with each other to try to do it. This will allow us to make better informed decisions about programs that are successful.”

He used the issue of teen suicide as an example. Several state agencies are involved in trying to address it. Are particular programs having the greatest impact? If so, that should be evident and thus make it easier for budget appropriators.

“It makes perfect sense that we would approach budgeting this way,” Doerflinger said.

NASBO surveyed states that have used performance-based budgeting and said there are important factors to consider. One is that buy-in from agency managers is a must, because elected and politically appointed officials come and go. This system of budgeting “creates a level of uncertainty that will be unsettling to many of the key employees expected to implement the process,” NASBO said. Doerflinger says he’s witnessed some of that uneasiness here as the change has been made.

Budget officers in other states also said it’s important for state leaders to push and support the idea and for agencies to see the benefits in performance-based budgeting — upsetting the status quo can be difficult. And, this sort of budgeting can’t simply be a budget-cutting exercise. “The focus should be on how the process directs investment of scarce resources toward more effective programs,” NASBO said.

The organization found that although performance-based budgeting practices are increasing, “the process of actually tying performance information to funding decisions in an effective, meaningful and practical manner continues to be a major challenge for all levels of government.”

Doerflinger, however, says Oklahoma’s practice for years “is the definition of insanity — doing the same thing year in and year out and expecting a different result.” This new way of budgeting, he believes, can transform the state for the better.

“I’ll keep talking about it until I’m blue in the face,” he said. And he may have to, in order to get this particular aircraft carrier turned around. We wish him well. Taxpayers should too.


High Court Declines To Reopen Telephone Case

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to reopen a controversial 1991 Corporation Commission case: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-supreme-court-declines-to-reopen-telephone-case-tainted-by-corruption/article/5340119


Engineers Inspect Capitol Building

Engineers inspected the Capitol building today as part of preparations for repairs. This photo, by Senate Communications Director Malia Bennett, shows inspectors at a column on the north side of the building. capitolmalia1State Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson and Capitol Architect Duane Mass supervised the inspection.


Engineers Inspecting Capitol

Engineers from an internationally-renowned firm specializing in historic structure restoration will begin rappelling from the Capitol building Monday to investigate damage to the 97-year-old building’s exterior facade.

The investigation by Chicago-based WJE is necessary to determine the full extent of the damage before the state seeks bids from contractors to repair and restore the exterior. The rappelling portion of the investigation will last two weeks.

Media can view and record Monday’s rappelling during a 2 p.m. availability with state officials to discuss the work.

Governor Fallin signed legislation this year providing $120 million to repair and restore the crumbling Capitol building. For social media updates on the Capitol restoration project, follow:

twitter.com/CapitolRestore
facebook.com/OKCapitolRestoration
instagram.com/OKCapitolRestoration


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