Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cockroft Column: Cost-savings legislation progresses

Initial proposals for an income tax cut and phase-out have been altered significantly, because of budget concerns and opposition to the elimination of key tax exemptions and credits. Although the cuts will be smaller than we had originally believed, I believe we are still paving the way for future, responsible taxt cuts, through legislation that will improve our management of State resources. The large focus of this years legislative session has been our budget. Even though major tax cuts aren't on the table for this year, we have passed numerous cost-saving measures. Here are just a few examples:

House Bill 2262 authorizes the sale of excess state properties in order to pay for the maintenance needs of important state-owned buildings like the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Senate Bill 1096 initiates an energy conservation program for state agencies, institutions and assets. This program would save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by directing all state agencies and higher education institutions to achieve an energy efficiency and conservation improvement target of at least 20 percent by the year 2020.

An energy conservation program that began in 2007 at Oklahoma State University has decreased energy consumption campus-wide by 19 percent, resulting in some $19 million of savings. Conservative projections show the state could potentially reduce energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent, resulting in approximately $300 to $500 million in net savings over ten years.

Under House Bill 2204, anyone who knowingly continues to receive unemployment benefits after securing a new job would be required to pay back all of the falsely obtained benefits plus a penalty equal to 25 percent of the overpayments. The money raised by the penalties would go back into the unemployment trust fund which helps keep taxes low, while a portion will be used to pay for fraud investigations. The bill also allows employers that terminate employees who test positive for drugs or alcohol without being required to provide those terminated employee’s unemployment benefits.

    The entire budget process has been a long continued conversation. I believe it’s been a great process of bi-partisan work to meet in the middle on this issue. You can be proud that your legislators are working diligently to iron out the details to do what is best for Oklahoma. When this happens, the result is a better, safer Oklahoma!  

To contact my office, call (405) 557-7349 or e-mail I am also available on Facebook and on Twitter at votecockroft27.

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