| December 10, 2012

Some get it, some don't

Total state spending is at an all-time high. One of the biggest drivers of total state spending is the use of federal grants by state agencies. As incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon has so aptly reminded us, this is an addiction that must stop. Given the broken and debt-ridden financial condition of the federal government, one way or another, it will.

Annually, many state agencies are required to submit a budget request for the upcoming year. The requests are received by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (formerly the Oklahoma Office of State Finance). A review of the total amount of requests for FY-2014 is instructive.

In a time when federal spending must significantly decrease, a struggling national economy, belt-tightening and constrained spending by Oklahoma families and local governments, it seems some state agencies just don’t get it. Despite a 5 percent increase in total appropriations over the prior year for FY-2013, state agencies (including higher education appropriation requests) are requesting total state-appropriated increases of $1.06 billion. If some state agencies get their requests, state appropriations will increase this year by more than 15 percent. One has to wonder how many Oklahomans in the near future are going to see household income increases of 15 percent. State agencies have also planned for (dependent on a number of factors including state appropriation requests) an increase in federal funding exceeding $211 million. What is it about the words “sequestration,” “fiscal cliff,” “addiction to federal funds” and the reports of the likely declines in federal funds to the state that state agencies don’t get? To make matters worse, state agencies don’t just want to spend a total of $1.74 billion more for FY-2014, they need 900 more state employees to do it.

Thankfully, while some state agencies have a complete disregard for reality and taxpayer’s personal budgets, some state agencies are behaving exemplarily. According to the report, approximately 14 state agencies (who typically receive state appropriations) made no requests for more funding and some requested a decrease. This action is encouraging. According to a recent statement by State Banking Commissioner Mick Thompson, assessments for some regulatory duties at the Banking Department will be reduced. This action is possible because of the fiscally responsible nature and hard work of employees at the Banking Department.

It is time for state agencies to understand that, in an increasingly competitive world with constrained resources thanks to rampant spending by government, finding and solely focusing on how to perform core functions at the best and lowest possible price is necessary for survival. A review of state agency requests reveals that some get it and some don’t.

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