Legislative Study Work Continues

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The Task Force for the Study of State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives examined Oklahoma Capital Investment Board tax credits on Aug. 24. The board was created to cultivate the venture capital industry in Oklahoma. OCIB is allowed by statute to use a certain amount of tax credits to guarantee loans associated with venture capital investing.

The meeting began with a presentation by the OCIB President Devon Sauzek. He noted that OCIB has invested $138 million in 31 Oklahoma companies and that they played a lead role in bringing the NBA Hornets to Oklahoma temporarily.

However, Jonathan Small, a certified public accountant and the fiscal policy director for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, argued that OCIB has recognized losses of more than $42 million. Small noted that the creation of the board was a “significant departure from the general purpose of public entities in Oklahoma. For the first time, on a large scale, a government entity was going to direclty own equity positions in funds or companies with no direct or transparent public interest clearly defined.”

Lawmakers from Tulsa and Oklahoma City both outlined transparency problems with the board. It is the opinion of some lawmakers and the task force chairman that the use of the tax credits has not been focused on Oklahoma venture capital opportunities and investments. Additionally, some lawmakers believe that there are issues with the returns on investment of what they believe to be taxpayer funds. The program is currently set to expire in 2015 and as such, the task force is evaluating the program.

A Joint Legislative Water Committee is also working to develop a comprehensive water plan for Oklahoma. Although the state has access to enough water to sustain its residents for some time, that water is not evenly distributed throughout the state and is claimed by individual tribes and sought after by out-of-state entities. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board developed an initial plan that is being reviewed by lawmakers. The mission of the legislative water committee is to review the components of this plan and determine what we should adopt as water law for the state. Our first meeting on Aug. 17 was dedicated to Oklahoma, federal and tribal water laws. Lawmakers will be reviewing water supply and demand projections that will help us determine exactly how much water will be needed in different regions of the state for agricultural, industrial and residential use.

I want to wish everyone a safe and happy Labor Day weekend and wish all local high schools good luck in their upcoming football seasons.

I look forward to new constituent requests that I can turn into legislation next year. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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