The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 6, 2013

State lawmakers look to policy goals in the new year

Enid News & Eagle

— In less than a month, lawmakers will return to Oklahoma City for the first session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.

Republicans strengthened their majorities in the House and Senate in November’s general election, so we can expect a more conservative bent on legislation coming out of the Capitol.

The Oklahoma State Chamber has set its priorities, chief among them a change in the workers’ compensation system. The chamber has sought the change to an administrative approach for years.

The chamber also wants to see the franchise tax for small businesses eliminated, and the corporate income tax cut.

The chamber, though, did not endorse cutting the state income tax, which Gov. Mary Fallin has talked about again, and which failed to gain support last session. We’ve cautioned lawmakers again about that subject. State revenues were up again in 2012, but the rate of increase fell dramatically from 2011. In 2012, state revenue collections were up 3.8 percent over 2011. In 2011, though, they were up 9.6 percent over 2010.

Yes, it’s better to have revenue increasing still, but the slower rate of increase has to bear watching. And, with the situation in Washington, D.C., the way it is, state revenues are going to be even more important.

There are some things we’d like the Legislature to consider this session.

For one, after two years of prolonged drought, we’ve seen how critical water is for Oklahoma. According to estimates from Oklahoma State University, the drought has cost the state some $2 billion the last two years in agriculture losses. The state needs to make sure to take care of this precious natural resource.

We also are anxious to see what lawmakers, particularly our local lawmakers, do about the situation involving Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid. Department of Human Services plans to close NORCE and its sister facility in Pauls Valley and put clients in community-based group homes.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson and Reps. Mike Jackson and John Enns have said they will fight the closure. We’ll be interested in seeing what they come up with.