President Pro Temp Bingman details Republican agenda in CapitolBeatOK interview

In an exclusive interview with CapitolBeatOK, Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman laid out several highlights in the agenda members of his caucus will pursue in 2012. The Sapulpa Republican said the agenda is “mainly pro-growth and jobs-oriented. Anything that we can do to create an environment that is pro-business, helping small business in Oklahoma, trying to attract new business – that’s where we want to concentrate.”

He pledged an aggressive but responsible look at competing income tax rate reduction proposals, including Governor Mary Fallin’s. He noted, “There are several measures that have been filed out there. We are going to be very judicious as we look at the income tax. We want to make sure that we can take money and put it back into the pockets, the hard-earned income of Oklahomans. “

Concerning the controversial health exchange, he noted many members object to any growth in federal power, but said members of a task force have a report (forthcoming) with an Oklahoma approach to the issue. 

Bingman observed, “The insurance exchange, as we all know, has been a very challenging issue in the Legislature. We had a task force over the summer, and looked at all areas of that. …

“We do have a federal law out there. Hopefully, our attorney general in his challenge will be victorious on getting, if not with all of it, then part of it, overturned. In the meantime, we’ve got to move forward.”

Bingman elaborated on his answer this way: “We’ve got to make sure we look at what’s best for Oklahoma. When you talk the exchange, we don’t want the federal government coming in and telling us what we need to do. We want to put together something that makes sense for Oklahoma. That’s what we’ve been engaged in.”

On the role of government, Bingman praised the work carried out by Senator Clark Jolley of Edmond. He promised the Senate is exploring “best practices” and “ways to be more efficient in what we do.”

Bingman said, “Clark Jolley is doing an excellent job. We’re always looking for ways to be more efficient in the way we do things. As you know, money has been tight. Agencies have taken some massive cuts over the last three years. 

“We want to make sure that we’re exploring the best practices and best way to get our job done. When looking at the role of government, we want to make sure it is right-sized, and take care of the core areas that we need to address, and make sure any efficiencies — where we can do more with less — those are areas where we want to concentrate.

In a Senate GOP press conference yesterday (Tuesday, February 7), leaders of key committees detailed what will be driving issues in debates through the end of the session in May. 

Sen. Rick Brinkley of Owasso said that in addition to income tax deliberations, the upper chamber would seek to “identify and eliminate ineffective taxes, credits and fees, reduce and repeal burdensome stat regulations which hinder job growth, and oppose overreaching federal regulations.” 

Senator John Ford of Bartlesville detailed the education goals, including efforts to “honor our current commitment to Oklahoma’s National Board Certified personnel, promote greater parental choice in education, including quality online and virtual course offerings, and increase the number of Oklahomans with degrees and industry certifications.” 

In discussion of health and human services issues, Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa said his members would “address the challenges involved in providing for children’s issues such as infant mortality and foster care, respect for the unborn, increase the number of doctors and health care professions in underserved areas throughout Oklahoma, work for alternatives to federal health care mandates, and promote the healthy integration of our returning war veterans.” 

In response to questions, Crain said deliberations over costs and other issues from the Children’s Rights litigation involving the Department of Human Services would require scrutiny. 

Discussing public safety, Senator Don Barrington of Lawton expressed support for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and predicted support for “effective tools in putting non-violent offenders back on track.” He said Republicans would “affirm protecting our families and children from violence, as a top priority, support effective alternatives to incarceration such as drug courts and veterans’ courts, and combat the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs.” 

Republicans also reiterated their support for the Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan. 

Bingman told CapitolBeatOK, “We’re all excited. … There are a lot of challenges out there, but look at those as opportunities.”