POLITICIANS are often accused of wrapping themselves in the U.S. flag for self-aggrandizement. That critique could be made of two bills in the Legislature designed to incentivize hiring of military veterans.
Unless you think that soldiers find Oklahoma — with its strong military presence and citizens' proud history of military service — a hotbed of hippie intolerance, there's no need for government policies that attempt to influence private businesses to hire more veterans.
A review of employment data justifies skepticism. Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, notes the unemployment rate for Oklahoma veterans in 2012 was just 4.1 percent, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Nationally, veterans' unemployment is 7 percent. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for all Oklahomans at the end of 2012 was 5.1 percent.
This shows that Oklahoma veterans are actually slightly more likely to be employed than the average citizen, suggesting that any state incentives to encourage veteran hiring are a solution in search of a problem. But this hasn't stopped lawmakers from acting otherwise.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, filed legislation to require that veterans represent at least 10 percent of new hires at companies getting Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act incentive money. Put simply, Proctor wanted a quota system. Companies that didn't abide by it would be denied incentives they would otherwise get. Proctor's bill passed in a subcommittee but died without a hearing in the full committee.
Hall filed another measure, which easily passed on the House floor, increasing the Quality Jobs Act benefit rate for companies with at least 10 percent of their gross annual payroll going to veterans.
Proctor and other Democrats say they're angered that Republicans “stole” their idea. Apparently, helping veterans wasn't as important as partisan credit. But their complaint ignores the fact that the bills took very different approaches. Proctor chose to wave a stick at Oklahoma employers. Hall offered a carrot. This is a meaningful distinction, although the need to enact either bill is debatable.