Oklahoma business owners could benefit from another reduction in the state unemployment tax if Senator Lewis Long gets his way. The Glenpool legislator is currently drafting legislation that would cut the tax by another $38 million, in addition to boosting benefits for displaced workers.
"Thanks to the economic growth we've experienced, the state is piling up surplus money in the unemployment fund. I think we should return that money to the people who paid it in the first place and give unemployed workers a helping hand at the same time," said Senator Long.
Officials with the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission have indicated the unemployment fund could support a tax reduction of up to $38 million without jeopardizing its solvency. That would amount to a 25 percent reduction in the unemployment taxes businesses currently pay.
"Businesses shouldn't have to pay a penny more than is necessary. The fact that there's a surplus indicates they've been paying too much and deserve a tax cut. That's what I'm trying to give them," said Senator Long.
If the latest proposal is successful, it would mark the third time Senator Long has authored legislation cutting the unemployment tax in the past four years. In 1995 for example, lawmakers voted to cut the unemployment tax by approximately $21 million. Last year, lawmakers reduced the tax by another $54 million or 25 percent. Senator Long's latest legislation would implement another 25 percent reduction totaling $38 million beginning in July of 1998.
"When you add it all up, you've got a $113 million tax cut. That's a pretty big shot in the arm for Oklahoma, especially small businesses. It's basically new money that business owners can pump into their operations to create even more economic growth and job opportunities. It's a win-win proposition for everyone," said Long. Long, who chairs the Senate Business and Labor Committee, is also trying to give displaced workers a helping hand in his legislation. Although details are still being worked out, the Glenpool legislator is hoping to craft a provision that will increase the benefits unemployed workers receive by approximately $20 million.
"I think workers should benefit from our economic successes just as much as businesses do. I've been told that the fund can support a benefits increase and a tax cut, and that's exactly what I intend to deliver," said Senator Long.
The legislation in question is still being drafted and will be filed for consideration in the 1998 session in the next few weeks.