Senator Bingman's scrutiny of credits and incentives advances, as colleagues scrutinize budgets of lead agencies
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Published: 05-Mar-2015

OKLAHOMA CITY - The state Senate on Wednesday (March 4) advanced legislation that would develop a system for evaluating tax credits and economic incentives to determine their effectiveness.

The measures press forward a process Bingman said, early this session, would critically evaluate existing and potential tax credits and incentives. 

Authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, Senate Bills 806 and 815 would establish a process to provide lawmakers with independent evaluations of economic incentives, and a clear picture of those that encourage growth and those that do not. 

"Under current law, once tax credits and economic incentives are approved by the Legislature, we don't have a system to provide us with reliable data on their effectiveness," Sen. Bingman said in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK. "This legislation would correct that problem, and ensure that lawmakers have the information to determine whether incentives are working as intended. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that Oklahoma job creators are succeeding, and we can do that by making fiscally sound decisions on tax credits and economic incentives."

S.B. 806 requires that any economic incentive include a measurable goal or goals when enacted. 

The measure would provide legislators with measurable data on economic incentives, including

estimated fiscal impacts and assessments of whether incentives are achieving their goals.

Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, presented both proposals on the Senate floor.

"It's time for us to give greater scrutiny to the numerous tax credits and incentives offered by the state and determine whether they are providing us with a return on our investment," Sen. Brinkley said in the Senate staff release.

"This legislation will help give us the data we need to accurately evaluate incentives both before we consider them and after they are advanced through the Legislature. We currently provide more than $1.7 billion in economic incentives, and in order to protect taxpayers we need to ensure they are accomplishing their goals."

The pair of bills have advanced to the state House for consideration.

In related news, the Senate Appropriations Committee met Wednesday (March 4) to revisit the budgets of the 12 agencies receiving more then 90 percent of all state appropriated dollars. While these agencies made budget presentations to the committee earlier this year, Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said revised revenue figures have dramatically changed since agency heads first appeared before the panel.

In December, lawmakers were told to expect a revenue decrease approaching $300 million compared to the previous year. Last month the final figures certified by the Board of Equalization projected the total budget would be about $611 million less than previously anticipated. 

"This is about an eight percent decline compared to a year ago. We're going to look to see what options might be available to minimize the impact, but the fact is budget cuts will have to be a part of this process," said Jolley. "Even these big 12 agencies will see reductions, so we've asked them to present scenarios showing how they would handle different sizes of cuts so we can make the best choices possible in the midst of our challenge to write and pass a balanced budget."

The Department of Corrections appeared before the committee at this week's meeting. Other agencies that will appear again include the Department of Education; Higher Education; Career Tech; Oklahoma

Health Care Authority; Department of Human Services; Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Office of Juvenile Affairs; Department of Public Safety; Department of Health; and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Senate President Pro Temp Bingman said the hearings would give members a better perspective on agency budgets

"Senator Jolley and our members are working to take the most thoughtful approach possible, which means gathering additional information and taking a closer look at agency budgets to see where we can identify savings," Bingman said. "At the same time, we are working on a number of reform measures that will help us improve the budgeting process as we move forward."

All senators serve on the Appropriations Committee. Jolley said that despite Wednesday's worsening weather conditions, over two-thirds of members stayed to attend the hearing with the Department of Corrections.

Higher Education is expected to appear before the budget panel next Tuesday, with other agencies following in the coming 

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