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Questions About State Spending on Private Organizations
conservative watchdog group says there is something fishy about Oklahoma’s budget
process. The Oklahoma Council for Public
Affairs, or OCPA, says its review of the state’s budget found more spending and
less transparency. Instead many agencies
are directed to pass through some of their appropriations to other groups. “The reason we're
looking at it, our concern isn't the particular entities it's just the complete
lack of transparency and the broken budget process we have in the state of Oklahoma
right now,” said Jonathan Small, OCPA’s Fiscal Policy Director.
OCPA has already identified $2 million spent through the Department of
Agriculture’s budget being sent to a private organization. Now they say the Department of Tourism was
ordered to ‘pass through’ $40,000 to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, another
private organization. Small says the Oklahoma Aquarium has done nothing wrong,
nor is it a bad organization. “I think the question is, all the tax dollars they come from
us and is it a core function of government to spend money on an aquarium and
our perspective is no it's not.”
Republican Representative Jason Murphey of Guthrie agrees
and says the budget process needs to be more open to lawmakers and the public. “I was surprised
legislators would put pass through instructions into writing. Pass through practices, in my view, really
aren't ethical they in a way subverting the intent of the legislature,” Murphey
told Fox 25.
Representative Murphey says he voted against the budget
because of the plans to send tax money to private entities. “Private entities
should have to compete for taxpayer money through competitive bidding not by
winning favor with powerful legislators.”
Republican lawmakers who authored the ‘pass through’ letters
say they are upset conservative organizations are attacking the support of
organizations that support the children of Oklahoma.
In the case of the Oklahoma Aquarium, lawmakers say Republican leaders
have actually significantly cut back the amount of public funds it has received
over the past several years. They say
the small amount the aquarium receives is actually paid back to the state in
just a month through taxes collected by the aquarium. The aquarium says the money it gets from the state
is used to attract visitors from other states and out-of-town tourists spend more
money than in-state tourists.
Republican lawmakers who signed the ‘pass through’ letter criticize the OCPA for
being too conservative in its ideas on how the state should spend its money. They say it’s unfair the organization is attacking
funds given to groups that help children and families in Oklahoma. Small says his research isn’t focused on politics.
“I don't think
it's conservative or liberal to say that state spending and our state budget
process and how it is arrived at should be done in a public manner. I think everybody agrees with that.”
“Reforming the budget process should be a priority for the
legislature,” Murphey said, “The process should involve all members and give
all members a voice. Currently it isn't
a very an open or transparent process.” Representative Murphey is an outspoken advocate
for transparency and open records in the legislatures. He says it’s a fight that will make sure everyone,
especially taxpayers, knows exactly how and where the state’s money is being spent.
“We're making progress I think pass
through appropriations is an area where we will make progress in the future and
I think these are the last days when ‘pass throughs’are viewed as acceptable.”
Posted: Friday, August 10 2012, 09:27 PM CDT
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
In tornado's wake, worried parents seek out kids
May 21, 2013 08:28 GMT
By NOMAAN MERCHANT Associated Press
MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- Parents and guardians of children whose elementary schools were damaged in the deadly tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City area are hoping for happy reunions.
At least 20 children are among the more than 50 reported dead so far in Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged Monday afternoon by a tornado with winds up to 200 mph. Officials said early Tuesday the death toll could rise by as many as 40.
Many parents seeking their children gathered at a suburban church, listening intently as someone with a bullhorn called out the names of children who were being dropped off. For many families, the ordeal ended in tears of joy. Others were left to wait in the darkness, hoping for good news while fearing the worst.
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