The Edmond Sun

May 20, 2013

Last-minute funding proposals not in state’s best interest

Rep. Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun

GUTHRIE — All indications point to this being the last week of this year’s legislative session. The Legislature will go home a week early. This is good news for Oklahomans as not only will there be cost savings but all Oklahomans should breathe a sigh of relief when the Legislature stops making new laws a week ahead of schedule.

As usual, the Legislature will take a number of important votes during the last week. Some will be forced due to attempts to introduce and pass far-reaching, new policies that should have been introduced much earlier in the year.

Here are some of the last-minute initiatives expected to receive consideration:

I will absolutely vote against two brand new, suddenly introduced proposals to establish funding for a new museum in Tulsa and the continuance of the Native American Cultural Center in Oklahoma City.

The state Historical Society does not maintain assets that it has already committed to such as the local State Capital Publishing Museum in Guthrie. It absolutely perplexes me that state bureaucrats are pressing to build new when they do not maintain existing.

It also perplexes me to note that those within state government don’t appear to realize the practice of building an old-fashioned, real property empire has become completely antiquated and is the way of the past. It isn’t the 1960s. Instead of building a new real property infrastructure, state officials should focus on downsizing the existing real property footprint and better maintain its still needed assets.

Historical Society officials want to build the Tulsa museum as a showcase for visual media collections of Oklahoma performers. The Historical Society has received donations of these media items that it wants to put on display. It would be a much better service to Oklahoma taxpayers to provide this collection in an online form. This way everyone could enjoy the collection from their own home on their own timetable without having to travel to Tulsa to view the media from within a museum. In this way, the taxpayer could access the service at a fraction of the cost. That’s the way government should work. But, unfortunately, all-too-often government officials fail to innovate. This proposal couldn’t provide a better example. It’s time for new state leadership that understands modernization and the way to provide a better service at a much lower cost using the technology of today instead of the practices of the 1960s.

Those who propose sending millions of dollars to the Native American Culture Center Authority should be required to read State Auditor Gary Jones’ insightful audit of the entity. Jones detailed the organization’s extremely wasteful spending practices that already have lead to the rapid liquidation of $97 million in state dollars and significantly increased the state debt. Instead of rewarding bad behavior with big bucks, the state must develop and implement a plan to transfer the entity from the state rolls and into the private sector.

These recently proposed measures would redirect $40 million to each of these projects or $80 million in total. This money wasn’t in the state budget that we already have approved. Had it been, I and others would have voted against the budget and it likely would have been defeated. Instead, the proponents of this spending waited until just more than a week was left in session and then surprised us with the new proposals.

And, that is an even better reason for my opposition to the proposals.

I understand that many proposals evolve throughout the session. But, the introduction of entirely new and dramatic spending proposals just days before the end of session justifies the perception that the state’s legislative process remains broken.

Those who have read my previous articles will know that I am most optimistic about the results of this session. However, should these two proposals win approval, the luster will be taken off what has to date been the best session since I took office in 2007.

 

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.