Thursday, May 23, 2019

House Passes Bill Creating Legislative Budget Office

House Passes Bill Creating Legislative Budget Office

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today passed a measure creating a legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs for lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1, by House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, would create the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) within the existing Legislative Service Bureau (LSB). The LSB is a shared office between the House of Representatives and the Senate that currently has limited functions. LOFT would be similar to the federal Government Accountability Office within Congress.

“The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent by the agencies appropriately and without waste, and we need the resources to do that effectively,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “LOFT will be a legislative-level office, not an executive branch office, that ensures lawmakers are getting accurate and timely information from the agencies so we can make better informed decisions for citizens. This office has been a shared priority between House and Senate leadership this session, and I am very pleased that we accomplished this goal before the end of session.”

LOFT would employ financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services. The office would then provide reports to the House and Senate. LOFT would have an oversight committee made up of an equal number of bipartisan House and Senate members. All members and the co-chairs of the committee would be appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

“The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency will increase transparency and accountability by providing the public and lawmakers with in-depth information on agency budgets and program performance,” said President Pro Tempore Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “Rather than depending on agencies or third parties that receive state funding, lawmakers will have independent data as they make budgetary decisions and evaluate the effectiveness of individual programs. I appreciate Speaker McCall’s commitment and collaboration on the idea of a legislative budget office and thank him for his work in seeing Senate Bill 1 passed.”

The bill also requires agencies, boards and commissions to turn over to LOFT upon request all records, documents and budgets and make personnel available. LOFT will also have subpoena and investigation authority.

The Legislature appropriated $1.7 million to fund LOFT in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that just passed.

The bill passed by a vote of 69-18 and now heads to the governor’s desk to await his signature.


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