The House Republican Caucus today unveiled their 2013 legislative agenda, which included a three-point plan addressing economic development, education reforms and infrastructure funding and maintenance.
“Oklahomans have spoken loud and clear this year by voting in the largest Republican majority in Oklahoma history,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton. “They want overreaching regulations that limit their freedom repealed. They want policies enacted that protect their rights, that encourage job growth and prosperity and that improves our education system so their children can have a brighter future.”
On infrastructure, Speaker Shannon proposed an eight-year, pay-as-you-go plan to directly fund the upkeep and repair of infrastructure.
“In the past, the model has been to neglect infrastructure to the point of decay and then to take out bonds to repair those needs,” said Shannon. “Our plan will be similar to the eight-year transportation plan we introduced last year that allows us to prioritize projects based on need and to pay our way as we go without adding more debt onto the backs of hardworking Oklahomans.
Regarding the state budget, State Rep. Scott Martin addressed the budget discussions that will be taking place during the upcoming session and indicated that a tax-reduction proposal would be included.
Rep. Martin noted that he has introduced a measure that would reduce the tax rate by .25 percent this session.
“We need a budget that covers our core services and is responsible with our taxpayers’ money,” said state Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman and chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. “We are going to continue the efforts of the past few years to craft a fiscally conservative budget that takes into account the daily needs and burdens of our citizens and businesses. We need to reduce the tax burden on families and businesses so they can have more money at the end of the month to put food on the table and gas in the tank.
“We also need to pay attention to what is happening at the federal level, where their inaction on fiscal issues will impact our state spending. Unlike the federal government we will pass a balanced budget on time.”
The caucus also stressed the importance of making additional reforms to the state’s expensive workers’ compensation system and the debt-burdened public pension system.
“One of the main issues we will be looking at will be fundamental changes to workers compensation system,” said state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang and chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “We have passed several important reforms to the workers compensation system during the last several years, but we want to look at possible ways to improve on those changes.
“In particular we want to make sure that injured workers are properly taken care of and even retrained if need be so they can get back on the job as quickly as possible. We want to create an environment where existing businesses can grow and add jobs and also look at ways to encourage new employers to relocate to Oklahoma.”
“We will offer a pension plan that will be competitive with the private sector and that will give more investment mobility to state workers,” said state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City and chair of the House Pension Oversight Committee. “We believe in giving workers more opportunity and choices for greater economic prosperity.”
On education, the caucus committed to increasing local control, accountability and finding ways to fund previous reforms.
“We believe it’s important to restore as much local control on education issues back to the local communities,” said state Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing and chair of House Common Education Committee. “We want to look at ways to increase accountably for our schools, our teachers and our administrators so we can focus on providing a quality education for our children.
“We also want to find a way to fund past reforms that our schools simply cannot afford to implement and to push back against one-size-fits-all federal mandates that restrict our ability to make improvements to our education system.”
The House Republican Caucus agenda in its entirety is as follows:
Oklahoma House Republicans 2013 Strategic Plan and Agenda Guiding Principle
Economic Opportunity for All
- Enact workers’ compensation, pension and unemployment reforms to ensure a pro-business environment
- Reduce tax burden on Oklahoma families, individuals and businesses to promote greater economic prosperity and quality of life
- Reduce burdensome state regulations and resist federal and state intrusions on Oklahomans
- Encourage workforce development through promoting coordination among common education, career tech and higher education institutions
Commitment to Quality Education
- Restore local control of education by fighting “one-size-fits-all” federal regulations and mandates which constrain learning in the classroom
- Sufficiently fund mandated reforms to Oklahoma schools through targeted increases in funding
- Increase accountability among schools, teachers and administrators to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars
Investments in Infrastructure
- Protect our current investments in ODOT's eight-year plan for improving Oklahoma roads and bridges
- Develop and implement a long-term infrastructure plan to repair and maintain state assets