The Woodward News

Local News

June 11, 2013

Lawmakers say rural Oklahoma was big winner



The area legislators said the water board issue wasn't the only homerun for the 2013 session.

Blackwell said he felt the session's other successes included the passage of the horse slaughter bill; the decision to budget funds to repair the state capitol building instead of seeking a $200 million bond; giving $34 million to DHS to "continue to reform the agency;" pension reform for state firefighters; and the modernization of the state government, including the elimination of "over 50 different boards and agencies," many of which had duplicate roles as other agencies.

For Sanders this "historic session," also included successes in the form of adding $91 million to the common education budget, passing of a workers comp reform bill, and approving a state income tax cut.

He spoke about how the workers comp reform "changes the system as a whole from a judicial system to an administrative system, which means that it speeds things up so that we can get injured workers back to work as soon as possible and back to contributing to the economy."

In addition to providing for a quicker turn around on claims, the Kingfisher representative said the workers comp bill (SB 1062) also seeks to reduce the legal and medical costs associated with injury claims.

This in turn reduces costs for the companies providing workers comp insurance, he said, which is a benefit to business owners and encourages them to do business in the state.

Marlatt agreed, saying that passage of the workers comp reform "sends a message that we're trying to make Oklahoma as business friendly as we can."

As for the tax cut issue, Sanders described it as "tax relief for all Oklahomans."

The bill that was passed would cut the state income tax from its current 5.25 percent to 5.0 percent in 2015, and then if the state's revenues remain strong and/or improve, hitting certain benchmarks, then the rate will drop to 4.85 percent in 2016.

"It's based on the revenue in the state, so that if we don't hit the marks, it won't drop to that lower rate," Sanders said.

However, for State Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, that wasn't enough of a protection for ensuring that the state could afford the tax cut.

"My concern is that it doesn't take effect for a couple of years and we can barely see into what revenues will do next year, let alone 2 years from now," he said.

That's why he voted against the tax measure, especially considering how the state could soon be facing a $400 million bill if it loses the lawsuit that has been filed over the capitol gains exemption.

"It's hard enough to know what the economy will be like in 12 months, so to have a tax cut go into effect when you have a major lawsuit on the books like that is risky," Hickman said.

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