Electing the House Speaker

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

I wish you all a healthy and blessed 2011. The Oklahoma House of Representatives kicked off the new year this week with the swearing in of the new House leadership. Speaker of the House Kris Steele and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Hickman both spoke on the need to fix the state’s unfunded pension liability of $16 billion, to increase transparency and bipartisanship through new procedural rules, and to overhaul the state workers’ compensation system.

I cannot yet predict how the procedural rules will change, but I do know that both the state pension system and workers’ compensation system are in need of large-scale reforms. According to official actuarial reports, the Oklahoma Retirement System has a combined unfunded liability of over $16 billion. Pension reform is critical to ensure we meet our current obligations and that our future obligations are manageable. The current workers’ compensation system is stock full of problems that create hardships for both workers and private businesses.

The unfunded liability of the pension system threatens to take tax dollars away from core government services. With our current revenue shortfall, this is unacceptable. The current workers’ compensation system hurts our state economically while underserving the workers that are supposed to benefit from it. I believe that we will enact meaningful reform to fix both of these broken systems this session.

I would like to congratulate the Okeene State Guaranty Bank on serving the community for 111 years. The bank began as a frame building as the Bank of Okeene on January 1, 1900, with a first day’s business of $4,798. The bank remains locally-owned and managed by the Durham and Graalman families.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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