When Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State Address and Executive Budget last week, she stunned everyone by proposing to fold the Will Rogers Memorial Commission, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the J.M. Davis Commission, the Scenic Rivers Commission and the Oklahoma Arts Council into the Department of Tourism and Recreation effective July 1.
Outside her inner circle nobody—including the heads of the five agencies being consolidated and the sixth that would be expected to run them—had any advance notice of, let alone input into the plan.
The budget provided few details of how the plan would worked.
If it is assumed that the $17,830,533 reduction it lists, based on zeroing out the five budgets of agencies being eliminated and the increase of Tourism and Recreation, the receiving agency, of $14,065,726 (leaving a net cut of $3,764,717 for the merged agency), the reduction is the 9.5% reported by the Governor’s office.
But under a scenario where the agencies whose budgets were zeroed bear all the cuts for the merged agency, the impact is $3,764,717/$17,830,533 or 21.13%.
We have two key questions:
Most of the agencies involved here are more educational than they are tourism-oriented. How would the merger work?
Also there are certain terms of Betty Rogers’ deed signing assets to the Memorial Commission that might be violated by this action. How is that to be handled?
Longtime Will Rogers Memorial Commission Chair Jim Hartz has written the following commentary to at least start the conversation.
<To read Hartz’s commentary, pick up a copy of the Leader Wednesday on newsstands throughout the area or subscribe to the Leader online.>