Policy Matters: Steps to improve budget transparency next session

This legislative session, lawmakers placed great emphasis on budget transparency. It’s been revealing to watch the process unfold, but there are steps lawmakers can take to build on this progress for next year.

Throughout May, legislative leaders and the governor met publicly to discuss big-picture fiscal policy and line-by-line appropriations supporting the people’s business. Such openness is welcome progress for making the process more public.

Before now, it’s been a few lawmakers and staff hammering out a budget behind closed doors, forcing the public and fellow legislators to wait until the appropriations bills are formally introduced to find out what’s in them.

While this year marked a step forward, here are ways in which the process can be improved next year:

  • Start the budget meetings sooner. Lawmakers could front-load major projects, legislative priorities for the least among us, and revenue issues early in the session. We saw it this year with the elimination of the state portion of the grocery sales tax during February. Waiting until May for such detailed conversations leads to rushed work at the end of session.
  • More voices in the room. The optics from the budget negotiations told an important story as white, Republican, male lawmakers were front and center at the budget table. A greater number of perspectives at the table leads to more creative problem-solving.
  • Advance planning could avoid having committee meetings on Memorial Day. With the public negotiations taking longer than expected, lawmakers made the extraordinary decision to hold committee work on the Memorial Day holiday. This will allow them to adjourn the regular session by its required close date. This meant, as lawmakers returned to their districts, the capitol staff had to set aside their personal holiday plans both to prepare for Monday’s business and to staff the building on a holiday.
  • Be consistently transparent. Legislative leaders pledged to have all budget bills available for public review no later than 24 hours before they were to be considered. Posting language for 45 budget-related bills over a holiday weekend for consideration on the holiday itself – including some bills dropping Monday without advance review – well, I’m not sure most folks would call that transparent.

The legislative leaders and the governor are certainly to be commended for making this year’s budget process the most transparent yet. I trust they will honor their constituents by improving the process next year.

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Note: This column originally appeared in the Journal Record.


Shiloh Kantz was named OK Policy's Executive Director in October 2022 following a national search. She first joined the organization in February 2010 serving in roles that included Director of Operations and Development, Deputy Director, and Interim Executive Director. Shiloh is a Rockwood Leadership Institute 2023 National Leading from the Inside Out Fellow, a member of the State Priorities Partnership Steering Committee, and a member of VEST, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities to achieve positions of power and influence for women leaders in the workplace. Prior to joining OK Policy, she worked as a controller for an Oklahoma small business group. She is a wife, mother of three, and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.