By Rep. Scott Fetgatter
FetgatterIt looks like I will be joining my colleagues in the Oklahoma House and Senate and be heading back to the Capitol at the end of this month. If you haven’t heard, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled that the smoking cessation fee passed last session was unconstitutional. Due to this ruling, we now have a $215 million hole in our current state budget that must be addressed.
At the moment, I don’t know how this will shake out, and anybody who tells you that they do know is lying. The Capitol is being torn apart both physically (Capitol Renovation Project) and ideologically. Part of the lawmakers in the legislator believes that we need more revenue to fund core government, and the other portion believes that government needs to rein in spending and the size of government agencies. Now, I am not saying everyone fits into one of these camps, but they are certainly the loudest.
There are some legislators, like myself, who fall in the middle of these groups. Some of us believe that government could be more efficient, but we also see the need to increase funding to some of our most important government agencies. However, I don’t think it is necessary to raise a billion dollars in taxes to accomplish these things. Instead, we need to make a strong commitment to creating jobs and elevating the Oklahoma workforce.
My greatest strength as a lawmaker is that I have had to worry about ledger balances and paying employees. As I make voting decisions, I can put myself in the place of small business owners and understand their plight.
To be frank, many of the lawyers and career politicians at the Capitol don’t have that experience. When I tell constituents that I want better jobs for rural Oklahoma, it’s because I have worked in rural Oklahoma. From that experience, I can tell you that Oklahomans don’t need more taxes. They need leadership with vision – vision that will create an environment for more middle-class jobs in rural towns just like we have in District 16.
Oklahoma needs to redevelop an economy that sees more people in middle-class and upper middle-class families instead of in poverty and lower middle-class. Why? It’s good for business. Look, I own a company that designs outdoor oases for people’s homes. Already, my customers have to at least own a home. Then they have to be able to afford renovations. Then they have to decide that the luxury that I am offering is worth it. So, right out of the gate, I have to find someone who has a home, money to put toward renovations and then a desire to do it. If we can add better jobs, how many more customers would companies like mine have? How many more tax dollars would that generate? How many more employees would be hired?
So, as my colleagues and I try to come to an agreement on the budget, I am also using this time to focus on a plan on how to bring more jobs back to rural Oklahoma. I am coleader of a House Commerce and Business Development working group that is talking to industry leaders across the state and getting their feedback on how to grow our rural economies. Because here is the deal, until we change our lower income wages into mid-range wages though economic development, we will never fix our problems.
As always, I consider it a great joy in life to serve you in the Oklahoma Legislature. If you have questions, concerns or feedback, please reach out to my office at (405)557-7373.