Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bingman Outlines Senate Budget Cuts

Senate President Pro Tem
Brian Bingman
The Senate is continuing efforts to reduce costs within the agency in anticipation of additional budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.

That’s according to Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman who has been working with members and staff to find more innovative ways to reduce costs.

“We recently informed our staff that the Senate would offer another round of voluntary buyouts this year. We offered this program during the 2010 session and 25 employees accepted, resulting in a savings of $1.8 million,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.

Senate staff began taking one furlough day a month beginning last July. By the end of the current fiscal year, the unpaid days-off will have resulted in an additional $360,000 in savings.

Although the Oklahoma Constitution prevents lawmakers from changing their own salary, Bingman said Senators wanted to find ways to join with staff in the belt-tightening.

“We’ve been working long hours in our floor sessions so that we will be able to adjourn on Wednesday, March 16, one day earlier than a regular legislative week. This will result in a per diem savings of close to $5,000, with additional days planned in April and May for a total savings of $14,700,” Bingman said. “I’ve also authored Senate Bill 607 which authorizes us to reduce legislative per diems for additional savings. That bill will be heard next week.”

Traditionally the Senate has contracted for the printing of leather-bound copies of the chambers rules for its members, for a cost of $7,000 every two years. This year, a paper-bound version was printed in-house for about $100.

A moratorium on out-of-state travel continues with an expected total savings this fiscal year of $60,500.

Reductions in the Senate Page Program will result in $44,500 in savings.

The elimination of coffee and water service will save more than $26,000 by the end of June.

“All of these efforts, without even including the second round of buy-outs, will ultimately result in more than $2.3 million in reductions for the State Senate for fiscal year 2011,” Bingman said. “In addition, our freshman senators have session-only, part-time executive assistants. This will save a projected $500,000.”

“I want to commend all our senators, our executive assistants and our staff for their hard work and sacrifices which have enabled us to balance our budget,” Bingman said, noting the Senate has seen more than 20 percent in budget cuts since just two years ago, and has seen the total staff reduced by about 20 percent as well.

“We have fewer people and fewer resources, but all of us are working together to ensure the business of the people continues to be done in a professional and efficient way.”

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