Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello has announced he will seek re-election on a platform of “promises made – promises kept.” Costello campaigned for the 2010 election as a businessman who would bring a no-nonsense, private sector approach to government spending, advocate passage of a total reform of the workers’ compensation system and a push back against the overreach of the federal government. Costello, in making his announcement, states that he has kept his campaign promises to the citizens of Oklahoma.
In his first year in office, Costello’s streamlining generated a total savings of $415,383. Costello’s first action as Labor Commissioner was to turn down a state car and travel at his own expense. Thus far, he has traveled over 100,000 miles without seeking reimbursement.
Costello saved $110,347 by returning computers ordered by the previous administration. He cut out-of-state travel by $4,141 and saved over $1,000 by cutting subscriptions and membership fees. He cut the hourly rate of administrative law judges from $75/hr to $25/hr, while recruiting the most competent lawyers in their field. Costello also vacated Deputy Commissioner and lawyer slots for a savings of $176,517.
To date, Costello’s agency streamlining has resulted in the closing of the bricks and mortar Tulsa office and increased licensing locations statewide from 1 to 37 without extra cost by using Career Techs. In addition, he has reduced the number of employees from 85 to 65, demonstrating that streamlining can occur when political will exists.
Costello also returned 15% of his salary or $15,750 to the State of Oklahoma to be gifted to the Department of Labor during a tough budget year. Gov. Mary Fallin wrote, “You have amply demonstrated your commitment to public service, both in your work as Commissioner of Labor and in this exceptional gift of personal funds.”
Costello founded an organization in 2010 to advocate the complete reform of the lawyer based Workers’ Compensation Court system. As Commissioner, Costello traveled to both Texas and Arkansas to review their respective systems to identify which best serves the injured worker and their employer. In 2012, Oklahoma’s premium rate was $2.56 for the identical coverage an employer pays a $1.00 for in Arkansas. Plus, Oklahoma earned a “D” grade in the delivery of medical treatment under the old lawsuit based system. In 2013, the Oklahoma legislature took the bold step of completely replacing the court system with an administrative system.
Twice, Costello has pushed back against proposed bureaucratic rules proposed by the Obama administrations’ Labor Department. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed rules that were according to Costello, “a frontal attack on the rural family, farm life and the family farm or ranch as a small business operation.” Costello stated, “The proposed regulation is suspect, particularly in originating from an administration headed by someone who has spoken derisively of rural Americans who ‘cling to guns or religion.’ This absurdity will destroy agricultural jobs, hurt American agricultural competitiveness and damage the cultural integrity of the rural family.” The proposal was later dropped by the Obama administration.
In 2014, Costello presented testimony in Washington D.C. opposing “the experimental idea of OSHA using ‘naming and shaming’ as a means to improve safety” as unwise. “This proposed regulation is a federal government overreach that will invite distortion of a company’s safety record and encourage unions, trial lawyers and other adversaries of the marketplace to use the data against the backbone of the economy – American businesses.”
Costello promises to continue to fight for streamlining government and lowering taxes.