The Altus Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club held the 3rd Legislative Luncheon on Friday at the Western Oklahoma State College.
Chamber staff member Bonnie McAskill welcomed everyone, and chamber President Brian Bush introduced Steve Carson, field representative and director of security for U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). Carson discussed briefly the issue of health care in rural areas.
“Continue to stay engaged and be aware the health-care issue for the people of Southwest Oklahoma is not forgotten,” he said.
State Representative Charles Ortega gave appreciation and thanks to everyone.
“The budget continues to be the main topic and subject at the capital and by looking at the numbers you are aware of what we are faced with. The gas prices are increasing which helps us to remain hopeful,” Ortega said.
Ortega reported that he attends every budget meeting scheduled except those with the governor and the Senate. The challenges with balancing of the budget have many contributing factors. Many legislative from larger areas of the state do not have rural hospitals, two-year colleges and career technical schools. The services and needs of metro and rural Oklahoma are very different and therefore must be researched carefully.
Ortega said when discussion of reducing funds for the Oklahoma Strategic Planning Commission or BRAC is on the table, he stresses the importance of funding. Communities of Enid, Altus, McALester, Midwest City and Lawton build relationships with theses military installations. The outcome is the billions of dollars in financial investments the military contributes to Oklahoma. The Department of Human Services is another area of budget battles and by talking about the needs of his constituents, he hopes to keep dollars where they are needed.
State Sen. Mike Schulz said this is the most interesting campaign year ever because there are 30 seats in the House, one-third of the chamber, projected to turn over.
When asked about a possible tobacco tax, he explained that there are many political issues involving the tax.
“Southwest Oklahoma does not have to deal with a lot of the issues that take part,” he said.
Oklahoma must have long-range vision plans in education and health care, Schulz said.
The Senate joint resolution topic on a constitutional convention was brought up and Schulz explained the process and the way it works.
He also said the Tax Incentive Review Commission still needs to review a possible tax on services.
Both Ortega and Schulz said by working work together frequently, they fight for the best interests for the State of Oklahoma and the people of Southwest Oklahoma.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.