House plans more government modernization, pension

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OKLAHOMA CITY – House Republican leaders today unveiled another round of policy proposals designed to make government more efficient and fiscally stable.

Next session, Rep. Jason Murphey and other House Republicans will carry a series of government modernization proposals to continue consolidating and improving duplicative or ineffective state services, while Rep. Randy McDaniel will carry proposals to continue reforming the state’s fiscally unstable pension systems.

The proposals are part of the House Republican commitment to fiscal conservatism, saving taxpayer dollars and improving efficiency across state government.

“Government efficiency is now the rule rather than the exception,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “As we continue building a pro-growth Oklahoma, we must continue bringing fiscal order to state government. These proposals are all critical to that effort. We’ve promised the public a more effective, fiscally stable government, so we’re intent on delivering one.”

Government Modernization

Murphey, chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee, noted that legislators “cleared the deck” in 2011 by passing more than 20 pieces of government modernization legislation that were later signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.

“We left nothing on the table,” said Murphey, R-Guthrie. “Last year was a tipping point, so this year we’re going to take that momentum and run with it.”

Murphey named several House Republicans who will carry government modernization legislation next session: Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, will carry legislation consolidating the state’s fiber network to include OneNet; Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, will carry legislation on purchasing, education spending transparency and fleet reform; Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, will carry legislation improving transparency into the state’s bond indebtedness; Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, will carry legislation creating a one-stop-shop for open records requests through the office of Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit; Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, will carry legislation building on his business licensing one-stop-shop legislation from last year; Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia will carry legislation to reform the way the state manages state agency workers’ compensation spending; and state House Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, will carry legislation requiring reforms to the management of state assets.

Murphey will carry two bills focusing on purchasing reforms and transparency.

“House Bill 2197 will focus on purchasing reform and will create options for higher education to take advantage of some of the savings we have been able to enact in past purchasing reforms,” Murphey said. “The intent of House Bill 2196 will be to create online information in a dashboard-type performance matrix to aid the public and press in getting agency data and gauging agency effectiveness.”

An example of a government agency performance matrix can be found at track.dc.gov.

Steele will carry a follow-up to House Bill 2140, last year’s government agency consolidation bill. The follow-up bill, HB 3053, would consolidate the Merit Protection Commission and State Bond
Advisor into the Office of State Finance and rename OSF the Office of Enterprise and Management Services. HB 3053 would also consolidate the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board and Employment Benefits Council Board into the Oklahoma Health and Wellness Board.

Steele noted that as a package, the government modernization legislation of the two-year 53rd Legislative Session is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.

“These reforms are huge parts of our larger effort to find savings across government so we can lower the tax burden on all Oklahomans,” Steele said.

Pension Reform

McDaniel, chairman of the House Pension Oversight Committee, noted that while last year’s pension reforms shaved more than $5 billion off the state’s unfunded liability, more needs to be done to further stabilize the state’s pension systems.

“The goal is to put all our systems on a sustainable path, which would be a notable accomplishment for public workers and taxpayers alike,” McDaniel said.

Much of last year’s pension reform legislation focused on the pension systems for teachers, state employees and judges, so McDaniel will carry legislation this year to improve the fiscal stability of the firefighter and law enforcement pension systems.

“We have negotiated with representatives from both the firefighter and law enforcement organizations. I think we have come to an agreement that is fair to our public safety employees and fair to taxpayers,” McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, said. “Employees and employers will both pay a little more into the system in order to ensure the pension plans are financially strong over the long run.”

McDaniel will also file a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment that would require more accountability in future pension system decisions.

“The constitutional amendment contains the fundamental principles of proper pension oversight. We need a higher law that takes into consideration the future generations of Oklahomans,” McDaniel said.

The amendment would:

(1) Protect plan assets by prohibiting diversion of pension funds to other uses;
(2) Institute a prudent investor rule to ensure wise investments of pension funds;
(3) Reduce future debts by directing adequate funding to pension systems;
(4) Require funding standards and practices to be established before additional benefits are authorized.

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