Some 40 business and academic leaders hosted state legislators Tuesday morning during the 10th annual Enid Day at the Capitol.
The event featured a waffle breakfast and informal networking session.
Representatives from Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, Enid Regional Development Alliance and Main Street Enid hosted the event along with those from Autry Technology Center, Northern Oklahoma College Enid and Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid. Also attending were members of Leadership Greater Enid class 26.
Speakers included state Rep. Chad Caldwell, state Sen. Roland Pederson and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb.
The looming revenue failure and $878 million budget shortfall were the No. 1 items discussed, said Jon Blankenship, president and CEO of Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce.
“That is the dominant issue for the Legislature to contend with this year,” Blankenship said.
Caldwell discussed the proposed $1.50 per pack tobacco tax increase, which is expected to generate an estimated $200 million annually for state health agencies. He favors it because it will help health care providers, but also could deter young people from taking up smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
He also said headway has been made on leveling the playing field for Oklahoma retailers when it comes to competing with online merchants. Caldwell authored the Oklahoma Retail Protection Act last year. As of today, online retail giant Amazon will begin collecting sales tax on Oklahoma transactions.
“That could mean $300 million plus in new revenue if others follow suit,” said Blankenship.
Pederson discussed progress made by the Legislature in making Oklahoma drivers’ licenses REAL ID compliant. The measure has been passed by both the House and Senate. He also expressed optimism the Legislature is in a “cooperative spirit” to deal with the state’s budget shortfall.
Lamb reaffirmed his opposition to Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposed sales tax on health care visits, utilities and dozens of services. Pederson and Caldwell agreed the proposal is likely not going anywhere in this legislative session.
Lamb said he supports a review of state incentives and tax credits, eliminating the ones that aren’t working and keeping the ones that are.
“If they perform well they need to continue,” said Blankenship.
The delegation also talked about the importance of NOC and NWOSU to Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.
“About 80 percent of graduates stay in the region, which is much higher than OU and OSU,” Blankenship said.
Story provided by: Enid News & Eagle
Written by: Jeff Mullin