By Rep. Mike Sanders
A bill that would create a legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs passed this week in the House Government Efficiency Committee. The measure now can be considered by the entire House.
House Bill 2484 would create the Office of Government Accountability (OGA) within the existing Legislative Service Bureau (LSB), which serves both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The OGA would be similar to the federal Government Accountability Office.
The OGA would have approximately 15 financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services and report findings to the Legislature. The OGA would also have subpoena and investigation authority.
House leadership and Gov. Stitt have said since the beginning of this year that more accountability of spending taxpayer dollars would be a priority. This is a positive step towards that goal.
In other news, Teachers will get a $1,200 additional pay raise this year if House Bill 1780 passes the state Senate. The bill already passed in the House. As a part of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Education Initiative, he has promised to sign the measure when it reaches his desk.
This is on top of $6,100 average pay raises given state public school educators last year. In addition, we are working to secure additional money to go to our public school classrooms.
We have many needs in state government, but education is of great importance. Education leads to better outcomes for our citizens such as better opportunities for employment, better health and less chance of incarceration.
Also on the education front, my House Bill 1228 passed unanimously with a vote of 96-0 in the House and now goes to the Senate. This is a big victory for students with dyslexia. This measure would provide additional dyslexia professional development for state teachers. This professional development will include information to help teachers distinguish between students with dyslexia and those with other learning disabilities. Once a student with dyslexia receives proper help, they often learn to read and do other school work on level with their peers. This is important for those students and will give teachers the tools they need to recognize these students early and help them. I was pleased this bill passed on Dyslexia Awareness Day. Many students, parents, educators and others interested in this important topic were in the House gallery to hear the bill presented.
In addition to education, transportation is a priority for state dollars. Several bills passed in the House or in committee over the past few weeks that seek to restore County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Fund.
House Bill 2676 attempts to restore $30 million of the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) fund that was taken when Gov. Fallin vetoed the Legislature’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The governor’s action swept additional money from the fund, and this would replace a portion of that. As you all know, I’m an avid supporter of the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program. This is badly needed. I was happy to co-author this bill.
House Bill 1406 would create an encumbered revolving fund for CIRB projects once they are approved. These funds would then be protected when lawmakers go looking for extra money in future economic downturns.
To help achieve these funding priorities, the state Board of Equalization this week certified we will have a $574.5 million revenue surplus for state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020. Much of this surplus will be spent on education, transportation and health care, but we will be evaluating other uses as well – including adding to the state’s savings account.
As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or email@example.com.