(OKLAHOMA CITY) Although the beginning of the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature is still more than three months away, Senate Appropriations sub-committees have already begun preliminary work on the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, the Senate’s chief budget framer said Tuesday.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan said the meetings, which began last week and will continue over the next six weeks, are part of the Legislature’s new zero-based budgeting initiative.
“Counting every dollar in a state budget of more than $5 billion is a big job, but we believe our work this fall will be rewarded by a more efficient state government when we complete our budget work next spring,” the Stillwater Democrat said.
Morgan chairs the Legislative Oversight Committee on State Budget Performance. The joint committee, which is made up of five senators and five House members, began an in-depth examination of the budgets of 20 state agencies in August. But, he said, the joint committee is just one part of the overall zero-based budgeting initiative.
Zero-based budgeting, as defined in House Bill 1256 by Morgan and House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Mitchell, has two key components. The Legislative Oversight Committee on State Budget Performance will look at one-fourth of the state agencies each year for the next four years. Part of that examination will be a determination of the need for the continuation of the agency. The subcommittees will examine each agency’s budget from the ground up each year.
“The new law requires the sub-committees to take a zero-based budgeting approach to every agency every year. That work began in the Senate last week with a meeting of the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education and will continue until we finalize the last agency budget next year,” Morgan said.
In zero-based budgeting, lawmakers conduct bottom-up reviews of state agencies to determine the need for the agency and each of its programs.
“The joint committee’s job is to act as a new level of accountability and oversight. The work of the sub-committees is where the rubber meets the road in the zero-based budgeting process,” Morgan said.
The next of the subcommittees to meet will be the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Human Services, chaired by Senator Robert Kerr, D-Altus. It is scheduled to hold its first meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Other sub-committees are scheduled to begin meeting in the coming weeks. They include: the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, chaired by Senator Rick Littlefield, D-Miami, which will meet Oct. 29; the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on General Government and Transportation, chaired by Senator Gilmer Capps, D-Snyder, which will meet Oct. 29; the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Public Safety and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Dick Wilkerson, D-Atwood, which will meet Nov. 5; and the Senate Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Senator Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, which will meet Nov. 18.
Committee chairpersons expect their groups to hold multiple meetings before the second session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature begins in February. The schedule for the Appropriations Sub-Committee on General Government and Transportation lists seven meetings beginning next week and not ending until Jan. 21. That subcommittee works with its House counterpart to write the budgets for 16 agencies.
House Appropriations and Budget Sub-Committees have also already begun to meet as part of the zero-based budgeting process, Morgan said.