April 5, 2001
Oklahoma State Treasurer Robert A. Butkin has stepped out of what he describes "the traditional bean counter role" of the treasurer in order to make changes that benefit not only the state's financial situation but communities and individual Oklahomans, he said at the Oklahoma Baptist University spring business forum, Friday, March 30.
"I first ran for office because I felt we needed a state treasurer who lived up to the same high standards we have in our daily lives," Butkin said. "We should have a state treasurer who manages the people's money with integrity and honesty."
As treasurer, Butkin's goal is to be "fiscally conservative and accountable."
He issues "Treasurer's Reports" so taxpayers can know "that every single penny of their tax dollars is well invested," he said.
Oklahomans can also find out about the financial affairs of the state by visiting Butkin's webpage, "The Treasurer's Open Window."
Butkin attributes most of the changes he has made as state treasurer to his belief in the notion "that government should be run more like a business."
When Butkin began his first term, he and his staff examined the 300 programs that their office oversaw and came up with a 20-page document on ways to be more efficient.
"Some of the changes are mind-boggling in simplicity," Butkin said. Yet the changes have yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest to the general income of Oklahoma without raising taxes.
One of the first changes Butkin made was employing a full time internal auditor "to trace every penny that goes in and out of the state treasury," he said. "The internal auditor identifies any problem area such as an accounting problem or lack of controls. This is important to give confidence to the people that their money is well-managed."
Butkin has also introduced competitive bidding when the government is investing tax dollars. He personally reviews each bid to ensure that Oklahoman's money is properly invested and will yield high returns.
One of the programs that Butkin has introduced to help individual Oklahomans is the Oklahoma College Savings Plan. A parent, grandparent or even friend of the family, Butkin explained, can start saving for a child to attend college anywhere in the United States by depositing a minimum investment of $25 and then a $15 payment every month.
"I believe in the tremendous importance of a college education and the plan is to make sure no Oklahoman is priced out of college," he said.
As the plan is designed now, investments are tax-free until the money is withdrawn and then the earnings are considered to be the student's and are taxed in the student's tax bracket.
Butkin said that there is a bill in the legislature now that would give investors in the College Savings Plan a tax deduction on the investment up to $2,500 per account.
He concluded his address by telling the audience, "As treasurer, I deal with a lot of numbers, but the two most important numbers I want you to know are my direct dial number and my home number."
He encouraged the students and faculty to call him if they ever had any ideas or concerns dealing with the treasury department.
Butkin, who was elected in 1995 after his first campaign for public office, was re-elected in 1998 as the first uncontested State Treasurer in Oklahoma history.