Like their contemporaries in the Texas Legislature, Oklahoma lawmakers used to assemble their budget in a shadowy process far removed from the prying eyes of the general public and even most legislators.
This year, that’s changing… but only in Oklahoma.
The incoming Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Republican Charles McCall, announced last week that he was changing the process to provide “citizens and lawmakers — particularly the 32 new members of the House — valuable insight into how agencies develop programs and spend taxpayer dollars and will help lawmakers develop funding priorities earlier than usual.”
That’s good for Oklahoma taxpayers, and should be emulated in the Lone Star State.
In Texas, the budget is compiled in the Texas House by subcommittees of the powerful Appropriations Committee. The working documents are hard even for lawmakers to come by and the meetings are held in places designed to keep everyone out… if you can even find out about them in the first place.
By the time rank-and-file members of the Texas House can see the numbers, they are told that they need to stop asking questions and trust a process that kept them in the dark.
There is nothing magic about being a member of the Appropriations Committee, or even being a senior lawmaker. Constitutionally, all legislators represent 1/150th of the state’s 28 million people with equal power and authority.
It’s the internal, byzantine rules assembled by the crony cartel of big spenders that has locked most lawmakers and citizens out of the most meaningful aspects of the appropriations process.
It’s time for those rules to change, to bring more sunlight into the budgeting process, and involve more lawmakers and citizens in the details of crafting the state budget.
If Oklahoma’s Republican House can do it, Texas’ should be able to do it even better.