OKLAHOMA CITY - In an effort to keep Oklahoma's current economic growth on track and boost the personal income of individual Oklahomans, Senate leaders will be pursuing a stimulus package this legislative session that will cut business taxes and encourage higher wage jobs.
"We've been able to post 10 consecutive years of economic growth with the help of targeted tax cuts and incentive programs like the Quality Jobs Act. This package will build on those successes while launching a new initiative specifically designed to increase the personal income of Oklahomans," said Senator Ted Fisher, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee.
The package would cut the unemployment tax that businesses currently pay, a reduction that would result in $20 million in savings. It would also expand the Quality Jobs Act to encourage new and existing businesses, most notably smaller businesses, to offer higher wage jobs. Industries would be given a cash rebate if they paid workers at a greater rate than the personal income level of a specific area.
"In the past, the objective was full employment. Having accomplished that, our goal now is increased wages," noted Senator Fisher.
"What we're trying to do is make it more attractive for businesses to offer high-wage jobs in Oklahoma. If they reward their workers properly, we'll reward them for being good corporate citizens. The end result will be better wages and higher personal income in Oklahoma.
"What's especially exciting about the initiative is the fact that it will pull many small businesses into the Quality Jobs net."
The nationally-recognized Quality Jobs Act has already been credited with creating more than 50,000 new jobs in Oklahoma since its inception in 1993.
"This is a first-of-its-kind initiative that will be anchored by the proven track record of the Quality Jobs Act. I'm expecting an enthusiastic response from businesses and the same kind of positive results we've come to expect from Quality Jobs," said Senator Fisher.
The success of economic development programs like Quality Jobs will make a cut in unemployment taxes possible. Because Oklahoma's employment levels are so high, there is a large surplus in the state's unemployment insurance fund.
"There's no reason businesses should keep paying the same rate of taxes into a fund that is running a large surplus. We need to give them a break on unemployment taxes and encourage them to roll that money back into the economy," said Senator Fisher.
Two years ago, the Oklahoma Legislature reduced the unemployment taxes on new businesses. The current proposal would apply to all Oklahoma businesses.