Governor-elect Fallin, legislators talk jobs & growth at Chamber forum

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 09-Dec-2010

More than 300 business and community leaders were reminded at the annual State Chamber Public Affairs forum Wednesday (December 8) of the challenging economic picture for Oklahoma in the coming year, and the importance of continued efforts to retain and recruit jobs to the state.

Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and Governor-elect Mary Fallin all agreed that the state’s budget and growing Oklahoma’s economy needs to be the top priority when legislators return to session in February.

House Speaker-elect Kris Steele and Democrat leader Scott Inman discussed their plans in the House for the legislative session while Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Schulz and Democrat leader Andrew Rice gave their preview of the Senate agenda.

“We have a historic opportunity to put Oklahoma on the map,” Fallin told the business leaders. “Getting Oklahoma’s economy back on track, I think that is the most critical issue of the day. I will be focusing on jobs and the economy and creating the very best business atmosphere.”

The legislative leaders all agreed that creating jobs will be a primary focus of the upcoming legislative session.

“A strong, vibrant, healthy economy with plenty of job opportunities actually helps to strengthen our families,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican. “We need to take advantage of the national attention we are receiving right now and move the ball forward when it comes to job opportunities for Oklahomans.”

Inman, a Del City Democrat, said three of his priorities will be 1. making sure that government does not get in the way of business growth in Oklahoma, 2. to ensure tax incentives that are working stay in place to help foster economic development, and 3. to strengthen Oklahoma’s education system to help develop a competitive, educated workforce.

Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat, concurred, saying that cuts to certain tax incentives could in fact have a worse effect on the state’s economy. He said the Legislature needs to focus on improving the state’s economy, creating jobs and balancing the state budget.

Issues like education, lawsuit and pension reform will also be priorities, along with adjustments needed to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system and streamlining government.

“We have put some good building blocks in place,” said Schulz, an Altus Republican. “I think this next legislative session we’ll see an opportunity to build on what we have done in the past.”

State Chamber President Fred Morgan thanked Fallin and the legislative leaders for previewing the next legislative session at the forum.

“In spite of challenging fiscal conditions, we have made great strides in recent years to create and maintain a pro-growth business climate in Oklahoma, and we cannot let the momentum fade,” said Morgan.

“We are poised to attract jobs and wealth to our state like never before. Our limited regulation, reduced taxes, low cost of living, high quality of life and abundance of natural resources and space has put us on the map, but it is more important than ever that we seek opportunities to grow our economy and create jobs,” Morgan concluded.