Saturday, January 06, 2018

OCPA: Resolutions for 2018

Resolutions for 2018
by OCPA President Jonathan Small

More exercise, fewer fibs, a better diet, and abandoning what doesn’t work – individual Oklahomans have New Year’s resolutions, so why not state government? Here are four suggestions.

First: More exercise. That is, the Legislature needs to exercise its power of the purse. Like a muscle in the body, legislative powers need action to remain strong. After the Oklahoma State Department of Health scandal and numerous accounts of unprioritized spending at other state agencies, legislators should demand more information from agencies during the budget process. When officials don’t comply, the Legislature should end nonessential spending, like travel budgets and spending that doesn’t directly empower the most vulnerable.

Second: More honesty and consistency. Trust in government is at all-time lows. The easy thing on the campaign trail is promising to support limited government and low taxes – only to then succumb to the easy thing once in office – working to appease the insiders by increasing spending and taxes. Honesty isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

Third: Self-discipline. Everybody needs food, but too much will make us sick. Government is similar. You can’t run government without revenues, but too much or unaccountable revenue and too little restraint harms. Government at all levels in Oklahoma needs to implement the new goal set by those cleaning up the Health Department, which is “Service delivery will now occur according to actual available funding.”

Of course, self-restraint requires self-awareness and works best with outside accountability. Most government agencies want more money most of the time; that’s just human nature. When other people push back, it isn’t personal; it’s how the process is supposed to work. And, back to our first resolution, the Legislature can help by bringing healthier accountability to state agencies through the budget process.

The House Special Investigative Committee hearings into the State Department of Health are a great way to start holding bureaucrats accountable: asking tough questions and saying “no more money” until there’s a complete understanding of agency revenues and spending.

Finally: Abandoning what doesn’t work. It isn’t pretty when individuals keep pursuing what doesn’t work, but it’s far worse when done by politicians. Every child is unique. There are all kinds of ways to teach and to learn. Given the abysmal performance on state assessments, it’s devastating to continue the failed status quo when parents determine that a private or hybrid model of education would be safer or more effective for their children. Let’s make 2018 the year that Oklahoma opens a world of choices to our future citizens, embracing our land run spirit by setting education free.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (