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Money was the big topic of discussion by two legislators at Okmulgee Tuesday evening.
Speaking to a group of Okmulgee County Republican Party members at their monthly meeting, State Representatives cost Fetgatter and Logan Phillips covered how the state was spending $1.8 billion in American Recovery Plan money and tax reform.
Fetgatter started off saying the last regular session was a good one but felt the legislature as a whole passes too many bills.
“We are getting to the point we are grasping for a reason for legislators to go back to their districts and say what bills they have run through.
“Next session I’m looking at laws I can repeal.” He said last legislative session 6,000 bills were filed.
“What laws do we have that are not needed or infringing on our rights,” he said.
Talking about the special session, Fetgatter said the governor wanted to come up with a plan to spend the ARPA funds.
“We began this meetings over a year ago. We made recommendations and he (Gov. Stitt) did nothing with them. We passed legislation that we will take those dollars and decide where they are going.”
As a result, 29 bills were passed and the governor only signed three into law while vetoing three others.
Among those receiving a veto was a bill that would have helped emergency management offices across the state as well as one for OETA that would have updated towers and helped the WARN network.
The other 23 bills that became law did so without Gov. Stitt signing them.
Fetgatter said some $24 million has been designated for rural water projects across the state. Some of that money is coming from tribal governments.
Phillips, who lost his re-election bid in the primary, said half a billion dollars will be used for broadband expansion statewide.
“It is a massive win and will impact a lot of people,” he said. Phillips said one example is the money allocated to Ardmore for development of the technology programs there. He pointed out that will bring drone and drone intelligence development to that region and is expected to bring some 35,000 new jobs.
“Oklahoma has the land, the people and the access. We have seen a once in a hundred year investment. It will never happen again,” he added.
Fetgatter pointed out the state now has $2 billion surplus but reminded everyone when he took office the state was $850 million in the hole. “Because of the actions we took, we were fiscally responsible and rebuilt the savings.”
Having said that, he said the state should not be in business to make a profile. “We have to figure out how to stop building a reserve.”
One of the biggest issues he sees coming will be the grocery tax repeal question.
He pointed out that, if all sales taxes are removed from groceries, municipalities will see an estimated 15 percent drop in their budgets.
“There’s a push for the state portion to be eliminated. You are going to the store and see a sales tax on the receipt and ask legislators why.”
Any tax reform is going to be complex and would have to be examined from every angle, he said. “To do a true tax reform we would have to be in session all year round for several years.”