OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson said the veto of a bill restoring a sales tax exemption to the University Hospitals Authority and Trust will hurt Oklahoma’s efforts to improve access to health care. Thompson, R-Okemah, and Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, were principal authors of Senate Bill 1703 which was vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday.
Thompson said the bill restored a sales tax exemption University Hospitals had for 80 years but lost during a period when they partnered with a for-profit, out-of-state joint operator, HCA in 1998. That partnership ended in 2018. OU Medicine had hoped to use the funds from the reinstated exemption to address the critical physician shortage in Oklahoma.
In his veto message, the governor pointed to an anticipated economic impact in FY 2022 of $11 million, which he said would increase next year’s projected $1 billion revenue shortfall. Thompson questions the size of the projected shortfall. He said the bill would have helped Oklahoma address a critical shortage of health care professionals.
“This was a workforce initiative that would have improved access to health care, particularly medical specialists in our state,” Thompson said. “We’re currently ranked 46th in physicians per capita. OU has 90 unfilled spots for resident training. The exemption could have enabled us to fill those residency slots over the next three years, recruit new teaching doctors, and ultimately improve access to physicians and specialists throughout Oklahoma.”
Martinez said the bill would have been an effective tool for expanding the number of doctors practicing in Oklahoma.
“Our state ranks 11th for retaining medical residents—being able to increase our residency positions would result in more of those doctors deciding to stay in Oklahoma once their residencies end. This would have helped our overall efforts to improve health outcomes and ultimately reduce health care spending,” Martinez said.
Thompson said the veto was a missed opportunity to invest in Oklahoma’s future.
“We need to look at long range medical care in Oklahoma,” Thompson said. “This would have helped us address that need for a reasonable cost.”
For more information, contact Sen. Roger Thompson at 405-521-5588 or email Roger.Thompson@oksenate.gov.