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Senate Leader Promotes Economic Growth Agenda

Jobs, Roads and Education Key to Continued Success

Continuing Oklahoma's economic growth will be the top priority of a wide-ranging Senate agenda this legislative session, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.

"We'll be addressing all of Oklahoma's needs, but our overall theme will be one of economic growth. We're experiencing an economic renaissance of sorts in Oklahoma, and we're going to do everything we can as legislators to make sure the success continues," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

Because of Oklahoma's growing economy, there is an additional $217 million available for appropriation this year. That figure is expected to grow even larger when the next budget estimate is conducted.

The Senate agenda calls for a variety of investments and incentives in programs ranging from education to roads, all designed to spur continued economic growth. Some of the agenda items include:

  • A $750 million investment in roads and highways. The proposed "lease-back" program would double Oklahoma's present road construction budget, allowing immediate and significant improvements to the state's transportation infrastructure;

  • An expansion of the nationally-recognized Quality Jobs Act. The latest amendment to the successful job creation program would reward new or expanding businesses, large and small, that paid wages above Oklahoma's per capita income levels;

  • A $54 million cut in the state unemployment tax;

  • An additional $165 million investment in education ($72 million for common ed, $75 for higher ed, $12 million for vo-tech, $5 million for OCAST, etc.). The investment would finance new school technologies (classroom computers, etc.), career teacher pay increases, classroom equipment, teacher training, etc. The program would be accompanied by reforms such as school deregulation that were vetoed last session by Governor Keating;

  • A "Children First" initiative designed to reduce child abuse and increase access to medical care.

"If we want our economy to keep firing on all cylinders, we must adopt a balanced approach that doesn't neglect any one of our job creation tools. We can't afford to neglect the big picture and get hung up on just one or two flashy agenda items," noted Senator Taylor.

In addition to those agenda items, the Senate will also address public safety needs, prison overcrowding and workers compensation reform among other things.

"We'll make sure violent criminals are kept behind bars, but at the same time, we have to be careful not to treat our convicts better than our law-abiding citizens and our kids when it comes to dividing up state resources," said Senator Taylor.

The Senate leader is quick to acknowledge that all ideas, not just the Senate agenda, will get a fair hearing in the upper chamber.

"There's a seat at the table for anyone and everyone who wants to engage in a reasoned discussion about the future of Oklahoma. Ideas aren't judged on the basis of whether they're rural or urban, Republican or Democrat, but whether they're in the best interest of Oklahoma," said Senator Taylor.

"We believe, and the Senate agenda reflects this, that good schools, good roads and good business policies are the foundation of a profitable and productive state. Others will undoubtedly disagree and work to put state resources elsewhere.

"There are bound to be differences of opinion, but as long as we put the good of the state above partisan politics, we'll make the right decisions.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division (405) 521-5605 1998