Oklahoma Subcontractors Seek Help from Legislature

Article excerpt

Their message was simple: Enforce the law.

More than 200 subcontractors took their case to the Oklahoma Legislature Tuesday afternoon, seeking better enforcement and regulation of the state's building industry.

The issue, an American Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma official said, was fairness.

"Out-of-state subcontractors are coming to Oklahoma, participating in Oklahoma's relatively strong construction economy and reaping the benefits and profits of both public and private construction dollars, but they are failing to abide by the laws, rules and regulations of the state," said Mark Nestlen, ASAO executive director.

Nestlen said the problem was compounded by the state's failure to enforce the law.

"The result: nearly a billion dollars of taxpayers' money being funneled out of state, millions of dollars in lost state revenue, thousands of jobs lost by Oklahomans, and Oklahoma businesses unfairly being forced out of business," he said.

Nestlen said the state's strong construction economy has drawn subcontractors to Oklahoma who refuse to obey state law.

"They are coming into the state to take these jobs without registering with the (Oklahoma) Tax Commission, without registering with the secretary of state's office, without being involved with the Employment Security Commission, so they are coming in and underbidding the in-state contractor," he said.

He said in some instances, out-of-state subcontractors are underbidding state businesses by as much as 50 percent.

"It's not right from an Oklahoma taxpayer's perspective that a Texas subcontractor was paid public funds to do the masonry work on the Yukon High School, and then did not pay an estimated $160,000 in employment taxes," Nestlen said.

Further, some out-of-state companies are forcing Oklahomans to work as independent contractors if they want to do the job, without the benefit of workers' compensation insurance.

Daniel Colquitt, a 28-year-old bricklayer from Chelsea, said he was forced to sign a document saying he was an independent subcontractor. The document specified that there was no workers' compensation insurance, he said, and no taxes were withheld from his check. …