The Pryor Times

February 27, 2014

Consolidation may cost, not save, money


Sen. Sean Burrage

PRYOR, OK — Although Oklahoma has only been a state since 1907, our history and heritage are vast, rich and compelling. I think that’s especially true in our part of the state. In Senate District 2, we are fortunate to be the home of two important museums, each with a mission to preserve and teach new generations about that history and heritage; the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum and the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.

Both of these institutions operate with tremendous efficiency while providing an invaluable educational service to thousands of visitors each year. The J.M. Davis annual appropriation is about $304,000 which helps pay for day-to-day operations, salaries for four full-time and four part-time employees and maintenance.

Despite doubling its space since first opening in 1938, the number of employees at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum has hardly changed over the years. They have seven full-time and 11 part-time workers, which is only one more than when they first opened.  Their state appropriation is $740,000.

I was stunned to learn that the governor was planning on consolidating these two museums with the Oklahoma tourism and Recreation Department. No one at the museums was given any notification at all that this was in the works, and neither was I, or Rep. Marty Quinn.

The aim of her proposal, which would place the two museums, the State Historical Society, the State Arts Council, and the Scenic Rivers Commission under the Department of Tourism, was to reduce state costs by a reported $4 million. Many of us are worried it would simply diminish these entities and actually cost money in terms of lost grants and federal dollars.

This session I’ve authored SB 1979 which would allow the establishment an endowment fund for the J.M. Davis Museum. Donations for the fund could be used for special projects, such as the ongoing effort to replace the building’s roof, or to help reduce the use of state funds. Like the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust fund, only the interest money from the endowment account could be used.                 

Sometimes consolidations make sense, but I don’t believe that applies to the planned consolidations of the Will Rogers and J.M. Davis museums along with the other entities targeted in the governor’s proposal. Each of these entities is an important asset with unique missions and operations—forgetting that could cost us more in the long run, in terms of money, educational value and even quality of life.

For those reasons I am opposed to this consolidation—however I do believe SB 1979 can help offer greater protection for the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum and something I will continue to work to get signed into law this session.

Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at:  Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 537, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.