Contrasting State and National Debt

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The Oklahoman recently reported that Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn will be one of 18 members of a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission will be looking for ways to address the nation’s debt, which is approaching $13 trillion. If nothing is changed, our debt could reach 100 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product in 2020.

The new federal health care mandates will only make the deficit worse. Not only do they come with a huge price tag of $940 billion, but they create entitlement spending that could grow beyond the new taxes they have put in place to pay for it. State lawmakers intend to do battle with the federal government on this front. House Joint Resolution 1054 authorizes the Senate President Glenn Coffee and House Speaker Chris Benge to file a lawsuit on behalf of Oklahomans. In doing so, the Oklahoma Legislature is bypassing Attorney General Drew Edmondson. He has made his position clear in declining to file the lawsuit at their request. In addition to the cost, the federal mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. The lawsuit will also challenge the unfunded burden it will place on the state.

I am pleased to see Senator Coburn among those chosen to address our national government’s bad spending habits. Unlike the federal government, Oklahoma has little tax-supported debt. The adjusted annual payments for the state as a percentage of the 2010 appropriations is projected to be 3.76 percent. The state’s relative bond position was so strong last year that we got a better bond rating. Our state government reflects the values of its residents who are among the most thrifty, fiscally responsible people in the nation.

Lawmakers are also looking to stabilize Oklahoma’s economy with the passage of comprehensive workers’ compensation reform. The current workers’ compensation system has a 50 percent more attorney involvement than the national average, yet doesn’t produce consistent results for injured workers. Senate Bill 1973 will cut the number of workers’ compensation judges, limit the judges to a single, eight-year term, and exempt employers from liability for injuries arising outside the course of employment. The bill will make Oklahoma more business-friendly and help attract new jobs to the state.

Another bill that will be of great benefit to our state is Senate Bill 1921, which will increase the maximum penalty for felony and misdemeanor violations of the election code. The legislation was filed in response to the activities of employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and also establishes new felony violations that include the false submission or application for an absentee ballot and conspiracy to commit election fraud.

Two of my bills have been signed into law since my last update. Under House Bill 2968, registered sex offenders can no longer submit a P.O. Box or other address that cannot be mapped to the sex offender registry. Instead, they must submit a physical, map-able address. Senate Bill 2104 gives the county clerk an additional four days to mail a notice of lien by the affected property owner after filing a lien statement.

I would like to congratulate the entire city of Okeene for being featured in the Oklahoma Municipal League’s Oklahoma Cities and Towns for April. Okeene was chosen due to the dedication of its citizens to the community and the economic development it is experiencing.

I will keep you regularly updated on the activities of the Legislature through this column. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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