Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
By State Rep. Josh Cockroft

I would like to begin this holiday column by thanking the constituents who have elected me to represent them at our state Capitol. I am constantly honored and humbled by your trust. Lawmakers will soon meet again for the legislative session in February and we have already been busy preparing ourselves.

House republicans attended a caucus meeting in which we discussed the details of our party’s agenda for the 2012 legislative session. Although we are all conservatives, each of us represent districts that vary in their priorities. We caucus together to try and resolve these differences so that we do not have to spend as much time debating amongst ourselves during the session.

We are in the process of filing legislation for the 2012 legislative session. The first step is to file bills without detailed legal language. Then, we consult with our legal staff to ensure the appropriate legal jargon is used to convey our intent. Laws are open to scrutiny and interpretation by Oklahoma’s judicial branch so it’s very important that we get the language just right.

I am looking forward to the challenges of the 2012 session. I believe that there is the political willpower to begin the process of phasing out the income tax. I will begin running my regular column again in January to keep you informed on what your lawmakers are doing.

The military men and women who protect our liberties and provide for our safety must regularly forgo the comforts of this holiday season. Firefighters, emergency responders and members of law enforcement also regularly work on Christmas to ensure the safety of their communities. I would like to thank you for your service and your protection.

I wish everyone a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

Governor Mary Fallin Wishes Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement wishing Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season:
“The Christmas and holiday season is a special and wonderful time of year. I am looking forward to spending the next few days with my family, celebrating the meaning of Christmas, and reflecting on the many wonderful gifts bestowed on us by God. I want to wish all Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and a wonderful, joyous holiday season on behalf of my entire family.” 
Note:  The Governor’s office will be closed on Monday, December 26 and Tuesday, December 27 in observance of the Christmas holiday. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Task Force Endorses Tax Credit Transparency, Pre-Approval Process

OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the Task Force on State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives voted today to require greater tax-credit transparency and mandatory pre-approval for those seeking tax credits.
            Those recommendations, along with several other reforms endorsed at previous meetings, will now be presented to the governor and legislative leaders.
            “There is a general consensus here that says tax incentives that create real, lasting jobs are worthy, while those that fail that basic test are not,” said state Rep. David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican who chairs the task force.
            In calling for greater transparency, Dank noted that it had become clear that until recently “few members of the Legislature had even the dimmest concept of how many tax credits we had on the books, how much they cost or even where they were going. The taxpayers certainly didn’t either.”
            He endorsed a system of reporting that will ensure that “everyone involved sees and knows exactly what is going on and what is at stake, down to a dollar-by-dollar accounting of where these credits and incentives are going and what they are achieving.”
            In calling for a pre-approval process, Dank noted that the current system for obtaining many tax credits seems “to be almost automatic” with no future cross-checking for re-approval process for recipients.
            “If I go down to buy a car this afternoon, it doesn’t matter that I bought one ten or twenty years ago,” Dank said. “I’m going to have to be pre-approved before I drive that care off the lot. The same rules should apply to tax incentives.”
            The task force voted to include both recommendations in their final report.
            The group has previously endorsed elimination of transferable tax credits and called for mandatory fiscal impact reports on all tax credits, caps on tax credits, annual audits of tax credit programs, routine analysis of each credit’s effectiveness at permanent job creation, and expiration dates for all tax credit programs with the option for legislative re-authorization.
            The group also endorsed a prohibition on hearing tax-credit bills during the final hectic days of the legislative session.
            Although elimination or restriction of many tax credits programs will likely draw strong opposition from the groups that have benefited from them, Dank urged lawmakers to consider the bigger picture.
            “Starting right now, remind yourself every day that the only lobbyist that counts is the people who elected us,” Dank said. “They may not hang around in the halls here at the Capitol, but they are here in spirit.”
            The Task Force on State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives’ final report will be submitted to legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin by Dec. 31. The report will be used to craft legislation for the 2012 legislative session.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Governor Mary Fallin Comments on Certified Revenue Figures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement on the Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified revenue figures. The governor will have $6.5 billion to craft her FY 2013 budget, an increase of $120.3 million over the previous year.
 “The numbers certified by the Board of Equalization today indicate that tax revenues are increasing as Oklahoma’s economy continues its rebound from the national recession. That’s the good news. The loss of one time funding sources, however, means the state is currently facing an estimated budget shortfall of $150 million. While that number may change, the bottom line is that next year’s budget will be flat at best. Moving into 2013, state agencies should redouble their modernization and efficiency efforts to ensure they are maximizing the value of their appropriated funds and saving taxpayer dollars.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fallin Praises New Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs for HealthChoice Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin applauded an action taken today by the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB) that will save taxpayer dollars and reduce prescription drug costs for thousands of consumers in Oklahoma. The plan was originally submitted by the Pharmacy Providers of Oklahoma (PPOk) as a way to reduce prescription drug costs while retaining a level playing field between local independent pharmacies, chains and mail service pharmacies. Total savings are estimated at $13.1 million per year for the state, as well as a total of $19.8 million in total savings for the 163,000 thousand prescription drug consumers currently enrolled in Health Choice plans.

Under the new proposal, Oklahoma pharmacists will offer deeper discounts on all drugs for Health Choice Plans resulting in savings to the plan and the members, which include many teachers, state employees, retirees, including all Medicare members, and their dependents. The new plan will result in an estimated 10% reduction in total prescription drug costs for HealthChoice members.

“Today’s agreement is a great example of how government can work with the private sector to find ways to save taxpayer dollars, lower the cost of health care, and support our local businesses,” Fallin said. “I applaud both OSEEGIB and our Oklahoma pharmacists for reaching this agreement and cooperating together on this complex and important issue.”

PPOk CEO Lonny Wilson also praised the new plan.

“OSEEGIB’s decision to accept the Community Pharmacy Proposal is a tremendous win for the Plan, the Participants, the State of Oklahoma, and Community Retail Pharmacies,” Wilson said.  “It provides savings to the plan, lowers total copayments and allows participants to choose the pharmacy of their choice without incurring copayment penalties.  Allowing 90 day dispensing of maintenance drugs from hundreds of community pharmacies provides optimum convenience and access to the many additional services provided by Oklahoma pharmacies.   Our thanks go out to OSEEGIB board members and management for putting Oklahomans first.”