Wednesday, July 31, 2019

McCall, Wallace comment on first meeting of LOFT Oversight Committee

STATEMENT: Speaker McCall on First Meeting of LOFT Oversight Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY – “When I was elected as Speaker back in 2016, it was clear the agency budget hearing process was not as efficient and transparent as it should be, and that lawmakers did not have enough time to fully vet budget requests or analyze how effectively agency programs were serving Oklahomans. Since that time, we have strived to make the entire budgeting process more efficient and accountable to the Legislature, which is charged with stewarding the taxpayer dollars we use to run government. LOFT is another important piece of that multifaceted approach – along with recent efforts to rebalance state boards and commissions and efforts to audit state agencies on an annual rolling basis – aimed at instilling accountability, transparency and efficiency into our government. Not only will LOFT track appropriated dollars and analyze agency programs, but it will also provide lawmakers information prior to agency budget request hearings that will allow us to make better informed decisions. I am very appreciative of Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat and his willingness to address this issue in a way that will make our process much more productive.”

Wallace Comments on First LOFT Meeting

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Appropriations and Budget Chair State Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) today commented on the first meeting of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) Oversight Committee. Wallace was appointed co-chair of the committee by House Speaker Charles McCall. Sen. Roger Thompson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is also co-chair.

“We had a very productive first meeting,” Wallace said. “Now that we have all committee members in place, we were able to do a deep dive on the statute and our responsibilities as a committee. We were able to assign members to working groups and start to work on establishing a calendar by which we want to have certain action items accomplished.”

The LOFT office and the committee were established with the passage and signing into law of Senate Bill 1 this year. The overall goal of the office is to increase transparency and accountability of the expenditure of taxpayer dollars by state agencies. The 14-member bipartisan and bicameral committee is charged with overseeing and guiding the operations of the office.

Wallace said one of the working groups established in today’s meeting will examine the requirements of the LOFT executive director, so the committee can begin a search for that individual. A director will need to be in place before the beginning of the legislative session, he said.

A second working group will establish the rules for LOFT, which will have to be approved by the Legislature during the next legislative session. The committee also set the date for its next meeting, Aug. 20.

Wallace said members hope to have proposed rules soon. They plan to utilize preliminary LOFT information beginning next session and even more detailed information every legislative session after that.

“This office is necessary for conducting the business of state government,” Wallace said. “The public deserves to know how their tax payer dollars are spent and the benefits of each program and service they pay for as administered by state agencies. This nonpartisan office will help us better track such spending and the necessity of items detailed in agency budget requests each year. Lawmakers are hopeful we can find any waste and improve the efficiency of state government to benefit our citizens.”

Wallace said elected lawmakers are tasked with appropriating funding to state agencies to manage programs and services for Oklahoma. The sheer number of appropriated state agencies combined with the number of new lawmakers each year because of term limits predicates the need for additional help in tracking the intricacies of agency budgets and their yearly requests for state funding.

He said LOFT staff will be able to regularly:

  • gather information related to proposed agency budgets;
  • evaluate the extent to which each agency fulfills its statutory responsibilities;
  • determine the amount of revenue available to the agency from various sources;
  • compare current budget information to prior agency requests; and
  • conduct an investigation of any agency as needed to fulfill its responsibilities.
  • The office also is authorized to conduct performance evaluations, independent comprehensive performance audits and will provide up-to-date information and analysis on state spending and the performance of state programs and service to the House and Senate to aid in the yearly appropriations process.
Aside from Co-Chairs Wallace and Thompson, other committee members are:
  • Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow
  • Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City
  • Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond
  • Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa
  • Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City
  • Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa
  • Sen. Kim David, R-Porter
  • Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee
  • Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer
  • Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Guthrie
  • Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City
  • Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City.