Spurred by recent actions taken by the Oklahoma Insurance Department, Sen. Harry Coates will be filing legislation to prevent the department and any other state agencies from wasting taxpayer money on unnecessary travel expenditures.
The bill will prohibit any statewide officials besides the Governor and Lt. Governor from chartering state aircraft. Since getting into office, Insurance Commissioner John Doak has been the only statewide official to charter the planes besides Gov. Fallin and Lt. Governor Lamb. Doak has used the aircraft to travel around Oklahoma to survey storm damage as well as attend speaking engagements and various meetings with citizens, insurance agents and community leaders – a service Coates pointed out that the former Insurance Commissioner never found necessary, nor any other statewide elected officials.
“There is no reason for state elected officials or agency directors to charter these aircraft and none of them have except Commissioner Doak. Commissioner Holland never used these planes and she was able to carry out her responsibilities to the people of Oklahoma,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “I realize that Commissioner Doak may need to go survey storm damage but as with past commissioners, he can ride with the Governor or Lt. Governor. It’s ridiculous that he has used the planes more than our Lt. Governor.”
The Insurance Department was appropriated just under $1.9 million in FY’12 and FY’13. The rest of the agency’s budget consists of monies paid by citizens and companies for various types of fees. Coates believes Doak is wasting taxpayers’ money to promote himself rather than actually help Oklahomans.
“If he wanted to help the people of Oklahoma, he wouldn’t be spending so much money on expensive chartered flights, military-type vehicles, special investigator uniforms and all the other ridiculous things he’s spent hardworking Oklahomans’ money on. If he wanted to help people, he’d cut his budget and then could lower the fees that make up that budget.”
The Seminole Republican pointed out that 2012 financial records from four PCards show the Insurance Department spent $150,000 on out-of-state travel and hotel accommodations; $15,000 on special-ops uniforms for the department’s seven anti-fraud investigators; $7,500 on lapel pins; and $300 on ITunes among various other expenditures.
“Chartering the state’s aircraft for thousands of dollars is just one of many examples of Commissioner Doak’s irresponsible spending. The legislature has been working hard in recent years to cut spending by shrinking the size of state government and making agencies work more efficiently with their time and funds. Commissioner Doak obviously didn’t get the memo.”
Coates’ bill would also prohibit elected officials from being in Public Service Announcements or using their image or voice for such productions.
“I have nothing against state agencies using PSA’s – they are educational and serve an important purpose - but it’s not necessary for elected officials to be seen or heard in those commercials,” said Coates. “Having elected officials in PSAs is basically free campaigning for those individuals, which gives them an unfair advantage over future opponents. It’s not right and it needs to stop.”