Budget & Tax

| February 26, 2014

YOU GUEST IT: State government must plan ahead

Planning. Ever notice when we are asked to plan, we get that blank look like “What did I miss?” Most of our days are spent executing our current project and the time we take for “planning” is very limited. But in business — especially big business — planning is essential. It affects not only establishing and meeting our goals, but also the price of the company stock. Stock prices move on the anticipation of how a company will perform.

So, how about state government? In Oklahoma we spend several billion dollars in our budget each year so we certainly qualify as a big business. Keeping in mind the legislature is a part-time job, planning is not an ongoing year-round effort. The primary opportunity for the legislature to plan operations for the short and long term is the budgeting process. Here are some tips for state government that are used successfully in the private sector:

The budget must come first. It doesn’t make sense to execute a plan that doesn’t exist, and then develop a plan. So why do we do the budgeting at the end of the legislative session when doing the appropriations? It is more logical to develop a budget at the beginning of the legislative session, then appropriate accordingly with the passage of required legislation.

Quality control is vital. Setting goals, then funding the steps you think it will take to meet those goals, is worthless unless you monitor the process. Measurement of performance is essential and should be addressed before the money is spent. If more money is put into education with no better performance, you should know why.

Take care of problems first. So, do you drive to work on a flat tire so you can work on your current project? No, you fix the tire or get a ride to work and fix it later. Recently in The Oklahoman, I read of a bill to find funding for the Indian Museum but nothing yet for the Capitol Building. We also have a necessary bill for a change to a defined-contribution plan for pensions, but it excludes teachers who have the worst-funded plan. Does this make sense to you?

Make a constructive plan for the future and know how you are going to execute it. That is what budgeting, and success, is all about.

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