The Edmond Sun

Opinion

September 9, 2013

Putting the for sale sign on government land

OKLA. CITY — This year I appreciated the opportunity to work on two significant reforms on behalf of two state government officials for whom I have tremendous respect. Even when they are away from the public eye, these two courageously fight the status quo. I have seen them achieve actual and substantive results on behalf of the taxpayers and it has been an honor to work with them.

At the request of House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the House Government Modernization Committee and I have advanced his aggressive proposals for the past three years to reduce the amount of land owned by state government. The state owns thousands of properties all across Oklahoma. Government agencies have purchased these properties over the years as they have expanded its turf.

A drive near the Capitol complex on Lincoln Boulevard will show the ever-expanding government building boom which continues to occur even as new technology has downsized the number of state employees, thus necessitating less space. Once the government grabs new turf, it is rather unlikely that it will ever give it up unless forced to do so by the Legislature.

This expanding real estate empire requires increasing yearly expenditures because the taxpayers must pay to maintain land even though some of it is never used. In one case, a Tulsa-area news channel documented how the Department of Human Services pays thousands of dollars each year to mow land the department purchased but never used.

Earlier versions of the Speaker’s reform proposal created an inventory of these properties and identified the underutilized properties which should be sold. Now, the latest proposal allows the state Office of Management Services to start selling the properties that are clearly underutilized.

State officials within the Office of Management Services are taking this new law seriously and are moving to downsize the amount of government owned land. Selling these properties will put them back into the free market where they belong. This new sense of fiscally conservative ethics has yet to expand to all of the state agencies but under the direction of Speaker Shannon we are working hard to make it happen.

This year, at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin, I authored and we approved bills to consolidate or eliminate approximately one tenth of the state government’s boards and commissions. A past modernization study showed that Oklahoma had about twice as many of these entities as similar-sized states.

In the past, Oklahoma politicians built an out of control big government monster by creating the many bureaucracies that compete with each other to spend taxpayer resources and impose unnecessary regulations.

Because of the governor’s leadership and reform-minded members of the Legislature, we are starting to contain these wasteful bureaucratic entities and put the big government monster in its cage where it belongs.

I will always appreciate the residents of House District 31 for allowing me the opportunity to participate in these reforms. I am happy to report to them that the Governor, Speaker of the House and others are ensuring the taxpayers’ interests and the values of small government are currently well represented in Oklahoma state government.

REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov.

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Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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