Two Systemic State Problems (and potential solutions)
by: Bart Binning, Ed.D.
By this time in the State’s history, it should be apparent that there are systemic problems in governance. At the state level, I would point to two issues, and suggest solutions:
- We have a system that encourages the election of politicians, and discourages the election of statesman where a statesman is someone with the best interests of the state in mind, and a politician is interested in being re-elected. Specifically, I would suggest that the 12 year limitation on term of service in the Legislature (both Senate and House) is a problem. I would propose amending the constitution to have a term limit of 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate, which would then read as follows:
Section V-17A: Limitation of time served in the Legislature.
Any member of the Legislature who is elected to office after the effective date of this amendment shall be eligible to serve no more than 12 years in the Oklahoma State Senate or House of Representatives Legislature. Years in Legislative office need not be consecutive and years of service in both the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be added together and included in determining the total number of Legislative years in office. The years served by any member elected or appointed to serve less than a full Legislative term to fill a vacancy in office shall not be included in the 12-year limitation set forth herein; but no member who has completed 12 years in office shall thereafter be eligible to serve a partial term. Any member who is serving a Legislative term in office or who has been elected or appointed to serve a term in office term and shall be eligible to serve an additional 12 years thereafter. This amendment shall be effective on the 1st day of the year following its adoption.
This modification to statute would also allow people who were experienced (served more than 12 years in a branch of the legislature) to be appointed to an unexpired term but could not run for re-election. I would submit that there is a learning curve to understanding how the state institutions work, and that 12 years is not enough time to both learn and provide leadership.
- State Question 640 changed the Oklahoma Constitution in March 1992, amending Article 5, Section 33 of Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval. To my knowledge, we have never tried option 2 – perhaps it is time to consider this vote of the people option.
It has been said that one of the problems we have in budgeting is that we have not decided what we want state government to do, and have not provided proper funding for these missions of state government. Another problem is that an analysis of state appropriated money makes up about 30% of expenditures by state agencies; the rest is made up from federal funds and dedicated funds including user fees. Additionally, as pointed out in the recent Department of Health financial irregularities, focusing on appropriated funds may not be the best for oversight purposes. While information on state and local total spending is difficult to obtain, below is an estimate of state expenditures (state appropriations, debt, federal matching, and fees):
I. Education (31.5%)
II. Health Care (and Medicare) (22.2%)
III. Pensions (8%)
IV. Welfare (5.5%)
V. Corrections, Public Safety, Judiciary (8.9%)
VI. Transportation (10.1%)
VII. General Government (3%)
VIII. Select Independent Agencies, Other (9.2%)
IX. Agriculture and Wildlife (1%)
X. Business, Commerce, Tourism, Energy, Econ Development (0.6%) (Source: https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spend.php?title=oklahoma_state_spending_pie_chart&state=oklahoma&pie=state&meta=pie_state)
I would propose that we focus on one of the above 10 divisions per year over a 10 year period. Each year the legislature would focus on one of the 10 divisions to determine for each division:
- once every 10 years the legislature would approve goals and objectives to be achieved for each division, with hearings during the time the legislature is on break
- once every 10 years during the legislative session, funding sources would be identified sufficient to achieve the goals and objectives; authorizations would be sun-setted after 10 years
- annually, legislative committees would review their progress towards goals and objectives, and legislature would make supplemental appropriations as needed
- The first Tuesday in March there would be a state-wide general election for the voters to approve (or disapprove) the division’s goals, objectives, and funding sources for the next 10 years. If needed a subsequent election would be held the first Tuesday in April. If needed the Governor would call the legislature into special session to approve the divisions budget by ¾ vote.
There would be at least four advantages to this methodology:
(a) there would be a complete public discussion about the purpose of government, what is expected and how expectations will be funded (state appropriation, federal match, fees, debt)
(b) budgets would be for 10 years, not one or two; it is much more efficient to budget for longer periods of time
(c) the legislature need only look at part of the state budget in detail, one every 10 years
(d) the agency (division) needs to re-justify itself (state new goals and objectives) once every 10 years
These proposals will establish a new framework for governance and
-will require both constitutional amendments and legislation to implement.
On December 12, 2017) the Oklahoma State Chamber Commerce’s Research Foundation released the OK2030 (www.ok2030.org) plan; a long-term strategic vision project to dramatically improve our state’s rankings and prospects. The year long effort netted about 450 ideas, the OK2030 Steering Committee picked 35 big ideas categorized in four areas: Business Climate and Competitiveness, Workforce and Talent Development, Fiscal Stability and Governance, and Quality of Life.