Commentary: Same Report on Oklahoma's Economic Development Policies, Diverse Perspectives

Article excerpt

A continuing philosophical cleavage over economic development policies between Democrat and Republican leaders in the State Senate was revealed last week in a Journal Record article by David Page.

Sen. Jeff Rabon, D-Hugo, assistant majority floor leader and Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Tulsa, assistant minority floor leader apparently read the same report by Ronald R. Pollina ranking states according to their pro business climate. They did not share the same perception of it, taking nearly opposite viewpoints in separate press releases.

The variant perspectives doubtless were the result of different motivations.

Oklahoma's continued inclusion in the report as one of the top 10 business friendly states is a result of work by the Legislature to foster an environment to grow existing Oklahoma businesses and attract new firms, Rabon asserted.

Pruitt disagreed pointedly noting while Oklahoma ranked 10th in this year's survey, it ranked third last year.

That is not exactly a progressive step forward.

He maintains the report shows Oklahoma is in dire need of economic reforms.

Agreeing we should all be promoting the positives of this report, he insisted Oklahoma's lack of workers compensation reform, lack of comprehensive lawsuit reform, and our high income tax rate, are big reasons why the state still ranks near the bottom nationally in job growth and wages.

Continuing with his rosy view, Rabon said we're in the top 10 because of pro business programs - like the Quality Jobs law and targeted incentives - because we've worked hard to manage our capital and use our resources wisely.

He said the Pollina report tells us the Legislature, in working with Governor (Brad) Henry has done a very good job of striking the right balance between providing incentives and making sure the proper infrastructure is in place when business and industry come calling.

Pruitt admits the report gives Oklahoma high marks for targeted tax incentives, an abundance of quasi-governmental economic development organizations, and low costs for real estate.

But he claims the biggest reason for the state's drop from No. …