PPAI Responds to Oklahoma Governor's Crackdown on Promotional Products Spending
Two weeks ago, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin decided that the state was spending too much on what she called "swag," and wanted to offset the $200 million budget deficit for this year and an anticipated $400 million for next year.
To do that, she decided the best course of action would be to cut spending on promotional products, and put forth an order to curb spending on items like keychains, stress balls and T-shirts, on which she estimated state agencies spent about $58 million annually.
"While I have always and will continue to support eliminating waste and inefficiency in state government, I strongly believe that we need to continue these efforts while solving Oklahoma's structural budget problem and fund a teacher pay raise," Fallin said, according to Governing.
The executive order states:
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, no executive branch, agency, board, commission, department or other entity organized within the executive branch of state government shall expend any funds on nonessential items to be provided to persons or legal entities including, but not limited to, items of tangible personal property for purposes of promoting or advertising the name of the state government entity or its missions, duties or functions, such as magnets, buttons, bumper stickers, ribbons, awards, prizes, trophies, stationary, writing implements, legal pad holders, book bags or similar items.
For the following fiscal year (and each subsequent fiscal year), the executive order states that total executive branch spending on "such nonessential items" cannot exceed $10 million annually.
Her decision wasn't the first of its kind. In 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a similar order to government agencies to stop spending taxpayer money on giveaway items to offset the state's budget deficit. That same year, the Obama administration issued an executive order to limit federal agencies' spending on promotional items.
PPAI, as a large representation of the promotional products industry as a whole, released a statement yesterday, voicing its opinion on Fallin's penny-pinching legislation.
"[PPAI] supports balanced budgets and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars," PPAI president and CEO Paul Bellantone said in a statement. "However, the promotional items deemed 'nonessential,' according to the Executive Order 2017-37, are anything but. In fact, points raised in the order are exactly why promotional products are one of the most effective, cost-efficient and longest-lasting media used by advertisers, marketers and the state of Oklahoma."
Bellantone added that the executive order would "target" the promotional products industry, and would get in the way of the state's agencies to boost its programs through tangible means.
"Promotional products educate, recruit, highlight safety awareness, urge organ donations, and encourage healthy living and lifestyle choices," Bellantone said. "Promotional products recognize and reward employee achievements and inspire action. Promotional products are used to celebrate milestones, sign legislation and reinforce life-saving messages. Promotional products are the most cost-effective method to communicate important messages to Oklahomans."
Fallin received some pushback from her own state's legislator's, such as Oklahoma State Sen. Kate Floyd, who argued that items like stress balls are typically given out to patients in healthcare clinics or military veterans.
"If that [stress] ball has a suicide or drug hotline number or something on that they may need—and may need quickly—then you want them to have access to it," she said, according to Governing. "We need to understand sometimes that there's more beneath the surface."
The executive order does not apply to Oklahoma's Tourism and Recreation Department, the Department of Commerce, or the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
The final line of the executive order states that "any purchase of an item or service prohibited by this Executive Order may be allowed upon approval of the entity's cabinet secretary," indicating that there could be exceptions. But, what those exceptions might be, however, seems vague.