State of the State: OPEA Questions Agency Consolidation Plan

In an on-going series of articles, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association is questioning several key points in Governor Brad Henry’s recent “State of the State Address.”

In light of one of the worst financial crisis the state has seen in recent years, the governor has proposed a budget for the next year that, he believes, will save Oklahoma valuable dollars.

One proposal is the consolidation of 16 state agencies he says will save the state more than $5 million dollars. But the OPEA has doubts about how that plan will actually save money.

“Agency consolidation can lead to increased efficiency at a lower cost to the taxpayers by reducing administrative and overhead costs,” said Henry in his recent address to the Legislature. “These consolidated agencies will also provide a one stop shop for many of the governmental services accessed by Oklahomans.”

OPEA agrees that consolidation would indeed provide a “one-stop shop” for citizens.
But what the Governor fails to explain is how that consolidation will save money.

For example, a couple of agencies up for consolidation include the Office of Emergency Management and the ABLE Commission going to the Department of Public Safety. OPEA does not understand how combining the agencies will save money. The offices would still require staff and overhead to operate, so where is the savings?

Additionally, OPEA questions some of the mergers. Why would the governor move Aeronautics to the Department of Commerce? Aeronautics seemingly would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. In fact, it operated under the DOT for decades until it lobbied to become a separate agency in the 1990s.

The governor’s budget proposal mentions mergers, but fails to discuss any agency modernization. The “one-stop shop” for citizens is, in some cases, antiquated and needs proper funding to change with the times.

The OPEA sees this final budget of the Henry Administration not as a true reflection of the state of the state, but rather a spreadsheet of cuts with no substance, and very few details on how the state will weather this current economic storm.

The Governor’s Budget recommends the following agencies be consolidated:
Medicolegal to OSBI
Emergency Management to DPS
Will Rogers to Historical Society
JM Davis to Historical Society
Merit Protection to OPM
Aeronautics to Commerce
Conservation Commission to Agriculture
Combine DEQ and OWRB
Dept of Mines to Labor Department
Indian Affairs to Commerce
OCAST to Commerce
ODSIDA to Commerce

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