Senate President Pro Tem-designate Greg Treat on Thursday filed legislation to create a legislative fiscal watchdog office to help lawmakers better fulfill their oversight role of state agency spending and performance.
Senate Bill 1 creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to provide the Legislature with objective, verified data lawmakers can then use as they consider and make critical policy decisions.
“Real numbers and objective data will help the Oklahoma Legislature make better informed decisions when writing the state budget, setting policy, and tracking whether programs are meeting or exceeding our expectations,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
“The most important duty the Legislature has is to write the budget and provide oversight of agency spending and performance. In most cases, the Legislature depends on the agency itself or the executive branch to report data on spending and performance. Agencies present only the data they want us to see not necessarily what we need to see. Agencies tend to focus more on outputs and not outcomes. That’s not how we are going to turn Oklahoma around. The Legislature needs independent, objective data so that we can make better informed decisions,” 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 bicameral, bipartisan committee;
LOFT would have six to eight independent, nonpartisan office staff;
Data gathered by and reports produced by LOFT would be available to the public.
Treat pointed to the recent Health Department scandal as one of the best reasons why an office like LOFT is needed.
“Last year, the Legislature was told the Health Department needed $30 million immediately or they agency couldn’t make payroll and there would be catastrophic public health implications. As we know now, the department didn’t need the money and the agency’s finances were in shambles. That is unacceptable and must not continue,” Treat said.
“Well more than half of the states have a legislative oversight office like LOFT. It helps provide accountability and oversight among the branches of government. The legislative, executive, and judicial are co-equal branches of government. They serve as a check on one another’s power. We need an independent, nonpartisan office like LOFT to provide the Legislature with real numbers as we make decisions on how to get the best outcomes and returns on each and every tax dollar,” Treat said.