House Republicans Highlight Success of LOFT
OKLAHOMA CITY - As it enters its third year and second legislative session, the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) is reshaping state policymaking with major improvements in legislative research, data and state agency accountability efforts.
"Legislative scrutiny of tax dollars has never been higher, thanks to LOFT," said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. "LOFT's accountability efforts are already producing strong bills and a more informed legislative body. The benefit is the taxpayer, whose resources are now better understood, used and protected from abuse."
LOFT's most recent report, released this month, found regulation of Oklahoma's medical marijuana industry severely lacking, and recommended a moratorium on licenses until remedial efforts occur. The report's recommendations are currently under legislative consideration.
To date, LOFT has delivered a dozen other reports, including reports that found:
- Lack of substantial progress toward reducing the state's years-long waiting list for services to the developmentally disabled.
- Oklahoma's teacher pay ranks first in the region and 21st in the nation when adjusted for cost-of-living and tax burden.
- Oklahoma's tobacco use remains among the nation's worst despite high levels of anti-tobacco government spending and continued protection of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
- Oklahoma's fragmented funding approach to early childhood education limits accountability and effectiveness.
Within those reports are 160 recommendations and policy ideas, 25 of which have resulted in legislation enacted or pending.
"What I love about LOFT is it isn't a 'gotcha' group. Its true value is recommending solutions to the problems it finds," said Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, a member of the LOFT oversight committee. "LOFT's recommendations become starting points for us, as legislators, to begin fixing problems for the people of Oklahoma. As a legislator, I find the data-driven, solutions-oriented information LOFT provides incredibly beneficial to those efforts."
Enacted legislation recommended by LOFT includes House Bill 2932, which prohibits state agencies from using federal relief funds in a manner that would result in future state funded expenses, unless expressly authorized by the Legislature, after LOFT identified questionable pandemic relief spending.
Pending legislation includes House Bill 3097, which implements LOFT's recommendation to improve effectiveness of county road projects by aligning distribution of county road and bridge funds with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's eight-year transportation plan.
Another 25 LOFT recommendations have been enacted by agencies, including:
- Clearer state budget information from the Board of Equalization
- Better collaboration on school bus routes between the State Department of Education and Oklahoma Department of Transportation
- Better career path tracking of Oklahoma's Promise scholarship recipients by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
LOFT was created by legislation in 2019 and is overseen by a bicameral, bipartisan, 14-member oversight committee of legislators appointed by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore.
"Improvements are occurring and LOFT is working as intended," said House Appropriations & Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, who serves as a co-chair of the LOFT Oversight Committee. "LOFT has proven its worth to the Oklahoma Legislature and its value to Oklahoma taxpayers. I'm pleased with the progress we've seen in reporting on the efficiency and effectiveness of spending by many of our top state agencies. I look forward to the continued work of this office under the direction of the Legislative Oversight Committee."
The office has statutory authority to examine and evaluate the finances and operations of all departments, agencies and institutions of Oklahoma and all its political subdivisions. LOFT's mission is to assist the Oklahoma Legislature in making informed, data-driven decisions that will serve the citizens of Oklahoma by ensuring accountability in state government, efficient use of resources and effective programs and services.
"Having been around the Capitol since the early 1990s, I can say unequivocally that LOFT is one of the most transformational accomplishments in modern state government history," said Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, a member of the LOFT oversight committee. "In our term-limited system that leaves legislators with so much to learn in such little time, LOFT has really closed a learning gap for legislators, and the result is better policy for Oklahoma."
In addition to its reporting functions, LOFT has presented independent information at four interim studies on the topics of COVID learning loss, best practices of peer state parks, comparative analysis of state-funded health insurance benefits and, as a follow-up to its report on County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB), estimating elimination of structurally deficient county bridges.
LOFT also provides member assistance and additional research for bills directly related to a LOFT report.
"For decades, the Legislature gave agencies tax dollars but had no mechanism to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of those investments. With the independent, credible information LOFT is now providing, Oklahoma can make much more effective use of taxpayer resources," McCall said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Jeff Boatman
Phone: (405) 557-7341
Contact: Rep. Mike Osburn
Phone: (405) 557-7360