The Edmond Sun

Business

April 3, 2014

Grau looks to improve budget process

EDMOND — State Rep. Randy Grau often asks groups how many of them think there could be a better budget process at the state Capitol.

“Every hand goes up,” Grau said.

Grau has authored legislation to create a state question for voters, requiring the state legislature to meet in alternating sessions. However, the bill is likely to die in the state Senate this week, state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond.

Grau is the author of House Joint Resolution 1003 that would designate a fiscal session to focus exclusively on the budget and a regular session that would focus on both budgetary and policy matters.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved the constitutional amendment in March by a vote of 70-18.

“Many people have been supportive. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to get a hearing in the Senate,” Grau said.

This week is the deadline for the Senate to hear House bills. The bill was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee where committee chair, state Sen. A.J. Griffin did not hear the bill, Grau said.

“It’s been disappointing,” Grau said. “But the good news is there has been a lot of conversation about how we can have a better budget process — how we can be more efficient.”

If the Senate does not act, Grau said he will continue his effort next legislative session.

During the years exclusively reserved for budget discussions, state lawmakers could pass policy bills if they had a super majority or three-fourths vote in favor of the legislation, Grau said.

“Our current budget process is far from optimal,” Grau said. “We scramble around in the last two weeks of session to pass a budget. A session dedicated exclusively to the development of a budget would put more deliberation into this process.”

Lawmakers would have four months, instead of two weeks during fiscal session years to thoroughly debate funding priorities, said Grau, who plans to file for reelection next week.

Griffin said she is interested in the concept of the bill and believes the idea is solid.

“The wording of the legislation didn’t address every concern I have regarding our budget process,” said Griffin, R-Guthrie. “It’s something I definitely think the legislature should review as a potential.”

Griffin agrees that legislators are interested in not building on previous budgets but in writing original budgets when in session. Such a major change in procedure needs more people to study the idea, she said.

Griffin said she encourages Grau and state Senate Majority Whip David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, to revisit the concept during the next legislative session.

“I think it’s an interesting concept, something we should look at,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “I’m open to listening to (Grau’s) discussion.”

Managing the budget is complicated, Fallin said. So many people run legislation without understanding the budgetary consequences, she added.

“I think it would give us more time to thoughtfully understand the budget,” Fallin said. “And then probably cut down some of the legislation that we see, because we always have 2,000 to 3,000 bills produced every year.”

Fallin said she is open to consider all things that make government more efficient and work better.

The governor’s 2014 Democratic opponent facing her reelection bid is state Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs. Dorman said he authored a similar bill several years ago.

“The idea of changing it to a budgetary session and a policy session, I think is wise,” Dorman said. “I would certainly like to see legislation filed in the first year with a cooling off period of one year to research the legislation and honestly to think things through before they are passed.”

Grau’s idea to alternate legislative session is interesting, said Independent Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond. Prawdzienski said he plans to formally enter the gubernatorial race during the filing period of April 9-11.

“One of the things Grau talked about is there’s not real time to study the spending of the money,” Prawdzienski said.

A one-hour briefing is not enough time legislatures to deliberate the consequences of the state spending millions of dollars, he said.

“Let them have two days per bill and actually debate,” Prawdzienski said.

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