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The Senate Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval on Wednesday to a bill that establishes a legislative watchdog office, advancing one of Senate Republicans’ key agenda items.
Senate Bill 1, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to provide the entire Legislature with independent budget and performance data for lawmakers to use to write the budget and make policy decisions.
“The people of Oklahoma want more transparency and accountability in how their tax dollars are spent, and Senate Bill 1 provides that transparency and accountability by giving legislators access to independent data to better inform us as we make budget and policy decisions. This is an important issue, which is why Senate Republicans included it among our four agenda items, and I appreciate all the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing this measure,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
“Right now, legislators must depend on either executive branch agencies or those who benefit from state programs for information on how well tax dollars are being used. LOFT will be a watchdog that provides the Legislature with independent budget and performance data that will help the Legislature and the public understand the successes or failures of specific programs,” Treat said.
Key parts of SB 1:
LOFT will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs, or specific divisions;
LOFT would have open access to all agency data and budgets;
LOFT would be overseen by a bipartisan committee of House and Senate members;
LOFT would have a small nonpartisan, independent staff of highly educated professionals;
Reports produced by LOFT would be available to the public.
Treat said well over half of states have an office similar to the LOFT. He also said a legislative budget office would strengthen and support the checks and balances that exist among the three branches of government.
“A legislative budget office enhances the checks and balances among the three branches of government, which overall is better for taxpayers and brings more accountability and transparency into the state budget,” Treat said.