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Lawmakers unveil ‘line item’ legislation to create ‘transparency’ in budget process

OKLAHOMA CITY - A press conference Tuesday morning unveiled legislation which would require lawmakers to approve a line item budget by state agencies who receive more than $100 million in state funds.

"We as legislators need to be digging. We were elected by the people to be able to do that. They give us their numbers. We look at the overview, if you will, of those numbers. We need to dig deep,” Republican Senator Roger Thompson said in the press conference.

Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections are just a few of the state agencies that would be affected.

Republican Senator AJ Griffin co-authored Senate Bill 875.

"The taxpayers are really demanding that we do this differently, and this is an idea we've had to make a transparent detailed process that answers the question, where does the money go?” Sen. AJ Griffin said.

According to Sen. Roger Thompson, line item budgeting was used until 2009. He said it ended so agencies could have more flexibility with limited resources.

Now they're hoping to bring it back, but this time, they want to require it by law.

"We can already do this, but we don't, so the goal is to disrupt the process,” Griffin said.

But other lawmakers think inviting minority leaders and the media to budget meetings is a more effective way to create transparency.

"We don't need new laws to create transparency work. All they have to do is change their behavior and open the door and let some sunshine in on the budget process," said Rep. Scott Inman.

Higher Education receives more than $100 million in state funds, however it's the state constitution that restricts lawmakers from requiring approval of how money is allocated.

The bill being proposed will have to wait to be heard until the next legislative session in February.