Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gov. Mary Fallin Announces Federal Assistance Appeal Approved for Cleveland County

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appeal for disaster aid for Cleveland County has been approved by the federal government, making individual assistance available to residents and business owners affected by this summer’s wildfires.

Oklahoma and Payne counties again were denied federal assistance.

“I am pleased the federal government has accepted our appeal and finally decided to provide help to Cleveland County,” Fallin said. “Unfortunately, the White House has once again denied aid to Oklahoma and Payne counties. Having visited wildfire damage in all three locations and seen families left with no home and businesses burned to the ground, I continue to believe the residents of Oklahoma and Payne counties are deserving of federal aid. The state of Oklahoma will continue to look for ways to provide assistance to the victims of wildfires, regardless of which county they live in.”

The August wildfires damaged nearly 300 homes in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties. This number includes 270 homes that were destroyed. An estimated 85 percent of the homes damaged or destroyed were not insured. One person died in the fire in Cleveland County. Creek County was previously approved for assistance related to the fires.

On August 13, Governor Fallin requested individual assistance for Cleveland, Creek, Oklahoma and Payne counties. Creek County was granted federal assistance August 22, but FEMA denied assistance for victims in the other three counties.  The governor appealed the FEMA denial.

Oklahomans who suffered uninsured fire damage in Cleveland County are now eligible for assistance for housing repairs or temporary housing, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property, disaster unemployment assistance and grants for serious needs and necessary disaster expenses not met by other programs.

To apply for disaster assistance, individuals and business owners in Cleveland County must call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or go online to There is a limited amount of time available to apply.

Cleveland County residents who have already called FEMA to report damage prior to the appeal are asked to please call again now to confirm their registration.

For those impacted by wildfires in Oklahoma and Payne counties, the state is continuing to work to bring assistance through the SBA. Such assistance would make low interest disaster loans available to homeowners, renters and business owners in these counties. Further information will be provided when available.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reforms Save Millions, Millions More Possible

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma taxpayers are saving more than $60 million each year due to a series of reforms approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law during the past few years.
            The House Government Modernization Committee heard testimony today from a series of state officials regarding the ongoing savings from past reforms and the opportunity for additional savings if lawmakers continue advancing modernization proposals.
            Reforms resulting in savings include the consolidation of the state’s information technology infrastructure ($40 million annually), centralized purchasing reforms ($14 million), consolidation of central services agencies ($6 million), electronic distribution of state payments that saved the Oklahoma Tax Commission $500,000 last year and could save state agencies an additional $2 million each year, centralized fleet management reforms ($300,000) and a telework pilot program ($36,000).
            Oklahoma Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit told committee member that the savings resulting from the information technology consolidation have increased from $30 million to $40 million since this time last year.
            “We had two major goals with Information Technology consolidation.  One was to make our state government run more efficiently by replacing a fragmented and antiquated IT system build up haphazardly over the years.  The other was to save taxpayers money.  I’m happy to report we have made tremendous strides in both areas and have surpassed our initial goal for taxpayer savings,” Pettit said.
            The state also continues to realize increasing levels of savings from reforms to the purchasing system. Committee members were told the amount saved each year by state and local governments from these  reforms has increased from $8 million to $14 million each year.
            Committee members also heard testimony regarding additional potential  savings which could be realized with additional legislative action.
            Speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Nico Gomez told committee members that the implementation of a telework pilot program had resulted in $36,000 in cost savings. The expansion of the program could significantly increase cost savings to the taxpayers.
            The director of the state's shared human resources division, Lucinda Meltabarger told committee members that significant savings would be possible should the state copy the successful Utah consolidation of its human resource management infrastructure.
            “It is our responsibility as legislators to always follow-up on past modernization reforms to ensure they are delivering savings for the taxpayers,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, who chairs the House Modernization Committee. “It is also imperative for us to continue sourcing new ideas for reform and apply them to reduce the size of state government and make it less burdensome to Oklahomans.”
            Murphey credited Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and her appointees for advancing new reform proposals and ensuring the already approved proposals were properly implemented.
            “Governor Fallin and her appointees have done a fantastic job of both suggesting new reforms and carrying out the intent of past reform proposals. Without their commitment to these concepts the savings would not have been nearly as significant,” said Murphey, R-Guthrie.
            House Speaker Kris Steele thanked Murphey for continuing to lead the House’s ongoing government modernization efforts.
            “We’re proud to report to taxpayers that efficiency is becoming the new normal in Oklahoma government,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “These significant savings and improvements are a testament to the commitment policymakers have shown to building a leaner, more efficient, more effective government.”