Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Contractors: Oklahoma Needs to Crack Down on Out-of-State Companies

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Contractors: Oklahoma Needs to Crack Down on Out-of-State Companies

Article excerpt

Even though the market for state higher education and public school construction projects tops $1.5 billion, Oklahoma-based contractors have captured only about 35 percent of that work, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Masonry Contractors Association said Monday.

And the problem, Mark Rose said, was unfair competition.

Speaking at an interim meeting of the Oklahoma Senate Industry and Commerce Committee, Rose said many out-of-state contractors don't register with state agencies, which lets them avoid paying taxes or for workers' compensation insurance. Because their costs are so much cheaper, he said, the out-of-state contractor captures more work.

Rose said the problem has gotten so bad that many local construction businesses have lost as much as 60 percent of their normal work and many of their workers are now unemployed. By not registering their companies, the out-of-state contractors have an unfair advantage, he said, and this costs the state tax revenue as well as employment opportunities for local firms and workers.

"State law requires all nonresident companies to register with the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and post a bond to assure that all state taxes are or will be paid," he said. "But currently, there is no way for the state to know these out-of-state companies are even operating in the state, particularly when those companies choose not to or fail to register with the Tax Commission as Oklahoma-based businesses do."

Nathan Powell, former state Construction Industries Board director, said part of the problem rests on how the laws regulating the industry are enforced.

"There are two issues," Powell said. "One is does the local district attorney want to prosecute someone who didn't register, but came in and bid and then brought themselves into compliance by subsequently registering? …

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