HB 1986: Brumbaugh's county budget reform bill
While putting together the previous entry, I came across a spreadsheet of newly-filed legislation for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature (on the home page of thehouseandsenate.com), and found yet another reform worthy of notice and support.
State Representative David Brumbaugh, a Broken Arrow Republican, has filed legislation to increase county budget transparency and accountability, requiring the annual budget process to include all county revenues and previous year surpluses, not just those subject to appropriation, which is typically limited to the current year's ad valorem revenues. The bill is HB 1986.
In order to gain an accurate picture of all revenues at the disposal of county elected officials and agencies, HB 1986 would give the county excise board the authority and obligation to develop independent estimates of fund revenues and balances "for any fund of any department or elected office within the county." The bill also expressly gives the excise board the duty to "act in an oversight capacity with respect to the county budget" and authorizes the excise board to hire personnel needed to carry out these responsibilities.
County government in Oklahoma is one-size-fits-all. All 77 counties have the same set of eight independently elected and autonomous officials that together constitute the budget board: three county commissioners, county clerk, county sheriff, county treasurer, county assessor, and county court clerk.
Under current law, it is possible for each county official to hoard surplus funds, which are not subject to budget board appropriation. The eight officials might decide to turn a mutual blind eye to one another's surpluses and to appropriate new revenues without regard to cash already on hand. HB 1986 would end any such cozy arrangement by bringing an independent check and oversight to bear on the county budget process and would ensure that all county funds are accounted for at least once a year.
My only suggestion for improvement is to add language that explicitly includes funds held by county trusts, authorities, boards, and commissions, such as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (which oversees Vision 2025 funds, 4 to Fix the County funds, and conduit funds loaned to private institutions), the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, the Tulsa City-County Library Commission, and the Tulsa City-County Health Department.
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