The Edmond Sun

Opinion

August 20, 2012

$40 million in savings — and still counting

EDMOND — Oklahoma taxpayers received some great news as part of a recently released report from Oklahoma State Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit. During the last legislative session, the Government Modernization Committee was told the state’s information technology consolidation plan allowed taxpayers to realize $30 million of savings each year. Pettit’s latest report has upgraded that estimate to $40 million. He will testify to this effect next month before a Government Modernization committee hearing.

Without a doubt, the consolidation of Oklahoma state government’s information technology infrastructure represents the single largest government modernization savings initiative. It would have never been possible without the hard work of a team of dedicated officials who are determined to cut the cost of your state government.

Pettit and his staff at the state’s information services division have done a fantastic job implementing the consolidation plan and documenting the savings. Pettit definitely has one of the most challenging jobs in state government. You only can imagine how hard it is to meet the strict savings mandate from the Legislature when state bureaucracies are refusing to follow the law to consolidate. Even with intense opposition from various bureaucracies, he has still managed to meet the savings mandate.

Interim Department of Human Services Director Preston Doerflinger recently brought to an end that department's persistent and costly opposition to the law. DHS controlled vital components of the state’s IT infrastructure and were refusing to cooperate, thus depriving the state of thousands (if not millions) of dollars of savings and forcing taxpayers to maintain costly and unnecessary IT hardware. Doerflinger courageously ended that department’s opposition and in so doing has almost completely brought the consolidation full circle, as DHS was one of the last holdouts to the reform.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for both Pettit and Doerflinger. They are very much change agents and aren’t afraid to take on the big government status quo.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has made the savings possible by both leading the effort to win approval for the concept in the Legislature and standing strong against bureaucracies when they attempted to keep the law from applying to them. I can’t think of a single instance when Fallin has given in to the political pressure from bureaucrats and I wish all Oklahoma voters could see what we see on a day-to-day basis as the governor stands strong on behalf of Oklahoma taxpayers. She has made all the difference.

It is always important to remember the efforts of those legislative officials who made the reforms happen. These efforts have been ongoing basically every year since the 2008 legislative session. The bills have been difficult to pass and at times received intense political opposition.

State Rep. David Derby from Owasso was the original visionary of the concept when few other legislators understood or supported it. Even though his first bill in 2008 was not successful, he remained determined to pass the bill and has successfully passed legislation ever since.

I always will remember the commitment of former House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate President Pro-Temp Glenn Coffee who, with the help of Rep. Derby and Edmond Sen. Clark Jolley, guided the original consolidation bill through the closing days of the 2009 session against extremely intense opposition from those who wanted to preserve the status quo. Coffee actually kept the Senate in session for an extra week after it was scheduled to go home in order to pass the bill before the deadline. Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill that year even after it had received so much high profile opposition from members of his own party and not a single Democrat in the Legislature voted in support.

These courageous actions spanning the course of the past five years are reaping great dividends on behalf taxpayers today.

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, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.

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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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