Oklahoma policymakers tout 'business-friendly' issues
Oklahoma politicians and business people discussed lower taxes, regulatory obstacles and workforce training at the State Chamber's Public Affairs Forum and Governor's Economic Roundtable in Oklahoma City.
“Business-friendly” was a popular buzzword during a forum Wednesday that featured some of Oklahoma's leading policymakers and business people.
Lawmakers touted their recent changes to the state tax code and regulations governing workers' compensation and lawsuits to a crowd of about 300 business people at the State Chamber's Public Affairs Forum and Governor's Economic Roundtable.
Gov. Mary Fallin and House Speaker Kris Steele voiced support for a continued reduction of the state's personal income tax.
Fallin said further reductions in the state income tax would help the state compete with adjacent states that have proposed cuts in their income tax or that, like Texas, levy no personal income tax.
“It's a competition issue for Oklahoma to look at how we can be more business-friendly, more competitive with other states in the nation,” Fallin said. “The income tax is one of those things that has been identified as being harmful to being more business-friendly if it's not at the right level.”
Fallin said her goal is to lower the state's personal income tax to “around 3 percent” over a period of several years. The state's top personal income tax rate effective Jan. 1 for the 2012 tax year is 5.25 percent.
Democratic lawmakers in attendance, including state Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, said they support state economic growth but question how the significant revenue that flows from income tax will be replaced or cut from the state budget.
“Whatever reforms we have, don't do it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens,” Burrage said.
Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy, said delays caused by improper government regulation and advocacy groups are among the biggest obstacles his industry faces.
“In our country, the people who want to stop things seem to be winning,” Nichols said.
He cited the Obama administration's decision last month to delay action on the Keystone Pipeline from Canada through Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.