Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday season and enjoyed ringing in 2020 with your loved ones. With each new year, I’m reminded of how blessed we are to live in this state and country where we can enjoy the freedoms and liberties so many across the world do not have. The Oklahoma standard rings true, and I love seeing our state come together to celebrate the holidays each year. There truly is no better place to live or raise a family.
The next legislative session is quickly approaching, and there are several important issues that will need to be addressed as we convene at the Capitol in February. The bill filing deadline is near, and most Senate Bills must be filed by Jan. 16 to be eligible for consideration this session.
Many of you have probably seen talks of Medicaid expansion on the local news, and this topic will be in the spotlight during session. There is a citizen-led ballot initiative that could be placed on the 2020 ballot to let the people approve or deny Medicaid expansion for our state. Governor Kevin Stitt has publicly opposed Medicaid expansion and is working on his own plan to expand healthcare access for low-income Oklahomans. While we don’t know the specifics of his proposal, it does use federal funds through block grants to expand access to care. This would allow the state to take federal money and use it to increase our health outcomes. While I think it is a great idea in theory, the devil is in the details. I will keep an eye on this issue as more specifics emerge in the coming months and keep you updated.
One issue I would also like to note is how costly it is for the state to reimburse ad valorem taxes. After passing State Question 588 in 1986, the ad valorem manufacturing exemption was created. This exemption is for all real and personal property that is necessary for the manufacturing of a product and facilities that meet certain requirements. The exemption lasts five years, meaning businesses are not required to pay ad valorem taxes during that time period. Originally created to encourage big businesses to settle in Oklahoma, it has mainly been used by the wind industry. For 2018 tax claims, 32 percent of the total exemption was claimed by electric wind generation. During the five-year period in which certain businesses are exempt, the state reimburses the ad valorem taxes to the counties and school districts that would originally receive the ad valorem funding. The state has spent millions of dollars reimbursing these taxes over the years, including $143 million in 2018 alone. Can you imagine what we could do with that money if this law was not in effect? While I support tax credits and incentives that show a return on investments, some incentives do not give the return taxpayers deserve. I will continue to work towards finding tax credits that are efficient and eliminating those that are not.
As always, it is an honor to serve District 2 as your state senator. My office is always open to hear your comments and concerns. If I can assist you in any way, please feel free to contact me or my executive assistant, Donna Garlick, at 405-521-5555.