Oklahoma Senate not done with workers' comp reform
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, October 05, 2012
12/10/12 at 11:24 AM
An old legislative favorite, workers' compensation reform, may be returning to the top of the agenda in the state Senate.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, told the Tulsa Metro Chamber on Thursday that workers' comp reform is his top priority for next year's session, followed by education, tax reform and capital improvements.
"No. 1, hands down, is workers' comp," he said, referring to business obstacles in the state. "We have had reforms in the workers' comp system. They don't work. We've been nibbling around the edges.
"It's time we take a real strong look at workers' comp in Oklahoma."
Workers' comp law has changed considerably in recent years, and some observers say it is too soon to judge the impact of those changes.
Employers, however, continue to complain that Oklahoma has some of the highest workers' compensation insurance rates in the country.
Bingman said he favors "revenue neutral" tax reform and made a pitch for capital improvements that include as much as $200 million in renovations and restoration work on the state Capitol.
He also made reference to the stalled Native American Cultural Center, which he called an "albatross" that must be dealt with.
Bingman indicated afterward that he does not favor a general tax cut, saying he did not want a situation such as the one in Kansas, where state agencies have been told to reduce spending 10 percent after the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback slashed income taxes by $2.5 billion.
Bingman said Oklahoma's revenue outlook is fairly stable despite continued weakness in natural gas prices.
Term-limited House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, in one of his final official appearances before leaving office, spoke on behalf of four of the six state questions on the ballot in November and made an impassioned case for the state to address its health-care issues.
"It's high time that in Oklahoma we have a civil, productive and adult conversation about what our plan is going to be to meet the health-care needs of our citizens," he said.
"My take on this is that we've become paralyzed by the polarized politics of this particular issue, so much so that we can't even have a discussion.
"We have made progress," Steele said, "but by anyone's estimation we have some of the poorest health outcomes of any state.
"If President Obama is elected (on Nov. 6) or (Mitt) Romney is elected, I still say it is incumbent upon our state to have a plan in place."
Original Print Headline: Senate to revisit workers' comp, Bingman says
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (left) and House Speaker Kris Steele address the Tulsa Metro Chamber. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele (left) and state Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman speak to the Tulsa Metro Chamber on Thursday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World