CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
The Senate Finance Committee has given approval to House Bill 1593, a measure designed to help Oklahoma better compete for major economic development projects and the jobs that go with them, by creating a fund with money the governor could use to leverage business recruitment deals for the state.
House Bill 1953, by Sen. Mike Mazzei and Rep. Skye McNiel, has been a top priority this session for Gov. Mary Fallin.
“Oklahoma has a great package of economic development incentives, but we’re lacking a very important item,” said Mazzei, a Tulsa Republican. “About 30 other states have a special closing fund to attract high impact projects by providing resources for infrastructure and capital needs. If we want to remain competitive, we need this same tool in our toolbox.”
Under H.B. 1953, the Department of Commerce will administer the fund. The program will include a “claw back” provision so that the state will be reimbursed if the project does not generate projected results. Although no public funds will be appropriated this session, the bill does contain a five-year sunset provision that will take effect beginning the fiscal year after the program is funded. The measure also requires disclosure of all payments from the fund on the Department of Commerce website.
Mazzei, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said in the short time Arkansas has had a Quick Action Closing Fund, the program has been credited with creating 3,000 new jobs and $100 million in capital investment. The Texas Enterprise Fund has generated more than 56,000 new jobs and $14.7 billion in capital investment.
“In the last few years there have been several companies that have given serious consideration to locating in Oklahoma, but ultimately picked states that had economic incentives like this proposed closing fund,” Mazzei said. “House Bill 1953 puts the structure for a closing fund in place, so that when we do have additional resources to invest, we can put that money to work generating jobs and investments in Oklahoma.”
H.B. 1953 cleared the state House last month on a vote of 79-17. The bill shepherded to that point by Rep. McNiel, a Bristow Republican, makes significant changes to the “Opportunity Fund” created in 2006. A thumbnail of its provisions provided at that time included:
changing the name to the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing fund
◦ addressing the project approval process by authorizing the governor to make the final decision on a project, subject to consultation with the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate
◦ requiring a project to enter into an agreement with The Department of Commerce, who shall administer the Fund, and mandating that the agreement be performance based, providing a “net economic benefit” to the state
a “claw back” provision for failure to meet performance provisions.
H.B.1953 is now pending before the full Senate.