Every year, state agency heads and their staff come to the Capitol for annual budget hearings—it gives them an opportunity to explain to lawmakers how the dollars they receive are used as well as giving legislators a chance to ask about funding priorities and other related issues. Those hearings are now underway in the Senate.
Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David said this year some of those hearings will take place in state agencies headquarters and facilities, rather than in committee rooms at the Capitol.
“We have a lot of new freshmen and many returning members who’ve been assigned to appropriations subcommittees they’ve not served on before,” said David, R-Porter. “I’ve found through the years that the best way to make an informed decision about budgets is to go out and see what that agency is doing. It’s something I did as chair of the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, so when possible, I’ve encouraged our subcommittee chairs to schedule onsite hearings and tours of facilities.”
While many subcommittee hearings will be held at the Capitol, several onsite meetings have already been announced. Many of those are for agencies that fall within the Senate Education Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. He’s scheduled onsite meetings with the largest agencies, including Department of Education, Higher Education and CareerTech, to smaller entities overseen by the subcommittee such as the Arts Council, Physician Manpower Training Commission and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. Human Services Subcommittee Chair, Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, confirmed plans for an onsite hearing and a tour of another facility.
“This is a challenging budget year. It’s appropriate for agencies to tell us what their needs are, but the reality is there are not enough resources to fund all those needs,” David said. “Our members are going to be working diligently to look at how those dollars are being used, and prioritizing how our resources will be used in the coming budget year. We’ll also look at additional efficiencies agencies may be able to utilize, and consider more tax preference changes. Ultimately we have a mandate under our state constitution to write and pass a balanced budget—and beyond that, we also must ensure it’s a budget that addresses Oklahoma’s most critical needs.”