With the legislative session set to begin in two weeks, the State Chamber of Oklahoma is working hard to advocate for more pro-business reforms. It’s time to build on the recent successes of tort reform and the workers’ comp overhaul, so the State Chamber’s legislative agenda for 2014 aims to protect previous accomplishments and make the state a job creation leader.
As the third branch in state government, the judicial system has a tremendous effect on jobs and the economy, so it’s time to restore common sense to the judiciary. The State Chamber supports having a conversation about making state appeals court justices more accountable to the public. In order to provide clearer direction to the Legislature, the single-subject and special-law constitutional provisions need to be amended by a vote of the people.
The energy industry is vital to Oklahoma’s economic success. A stable tax structure for oil and gas that promotes the investment of drilling capital is crucial to ensuring that success continues. For the same reason, Oklahoma’s aerospace engineering tax credits need to be preserved to continue the creation of high-paying, high-skilled jobs in the state.
Four years ago the Legislature passed more rigorous education standards into law. It is important that those standards not be watered down. Oklahoma’s children need to graduate from high school ready for either college or a career, and going back to old standards will not accomplish that.
The $11 billion hole in Oklahoma’s pension system needs to be addressed. While it can’t be fixed overnight, lawmakers should make sure they are on the path to being fully funded. At the same time, reforms are needed so that a stable retirement system for current and future state workers is in place and does not unnecessarily burden taxpayers.
With health care being such an important issue for businesses, the Insure Oklahoma premium assistance program for small businesses needs to be expanded while assuring that the funding source remains dedicated to the delivery of health care.
The State Chamber looks forward to working with Oklahoma’s pro-business lawmakers to make 2014 another successful legislative session.
Fred Morgan is president and CEO of The State Chamber of Oklahoma.