| April 20, 2012

State could save millions at OTRD

Following is an excerpt from OCPA’s Proposed State Budget for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2013.

With Oklahoma government spending at an all-time high (see chart), the time has come to set priorities and to exercise spending discipline.

The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (OTRD) is an example of an agency working hard to use taxpayer dollars wisely. Whether it has been the wise release of state parks with intensely local functions, or leveraging OTRD products such as Oklahoma Today magazine to minimize use of taxpayer funds, the OTRD has been a recent leader for other state agencies.

Further reform is needed. Policymakers should eliminate any state subsidies or appropriations for golf courses. According to the Governors’ budget books and reports from the OTRD, from FY 2001 to FY 2011 lawmakers have appropriated $7.95 million for losses on state golf courses. For FY 2011, appropriations for losses were more than $300,000. Operating golf courses is not a core function of government. If it is a worthwhile park amenity, user fees will support the costs to operate these courses.

Earmarks for intensely local festivals or exhibits, and promotion of the arts, are not core functions of government and should be removed. Also, intensely local funding for advertising and other operational efforts for multi-county organizations and some local chambers is not a core function of government.

In future years, the OTRD needs to work to duplicate the success of the US Forestry Service and use the private sector (leasing operation of state parks) to operate parks or resorts at no loss to the state, or fit state parks so that users can adequately support parks and resorts through fees. Those utilizing parks should pay sufficient user fees to support their usage. Park and resort self-sufficiency should begin to allow for further reductions in taxpayer support beginning in FY 2014.

The potential savings from implementing such reforms would be more than $1.4 million annually.

Submitted each year by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc. to the taxpayers of the State of Oklahoma and their elected Officials, the OCPA “Budget Book” is carefully crafted by Fiscal Policy Director Jonathan Small to help lawmakers set priorities and exercise spending discipline while creating a state budget that respects your family budget. Offering unmatched fiscal policy analysis and recommendations, Small draws on his experiences as a former budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, former fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and former director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department to provide perspective on the state budget that you cannot find anywhere else.

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