By REP. RICK WEST
Happy New Year, folks! I have always liked January because it allows for time to reflect on your previous year and focus on the one ahead.
These last 12 months have been eye-opening, to say the least. My first full year as a lawmaker was one that I could have never expected: many Republicans were pushing significant tax increases, and I found myself not voting along party lines. I made headway with policy issues like agency reforms and budget management on issues like central purchasing, too.
2017 was also a year that lawmakers were at the Capitol far more than originally intended. While regular sessions last February through May, legislators were at the Capitol for special sessions in September, October, November and December as well.
The plan is to head back up to Oklahoma City later this month, too. While I never saw my job as your representative as a part-time job, I certainly didn’t expect to be spending the majority of my year at the Capitol. Even still, it was an honor to make sure you received the representation you deserve, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Looking forward into 2018, I plan to stand firm on conservative principles. Getting something done at the Capitol does not have to mean we increase taxes. Instead, we should look at other ways to find revenue, like the land trust and the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. We can achieve policy wins that better Oklahomans through creating business-friendly climates and ensuring this state is one where people want to raise their families.
Along those lines, I have requested a few bills for the 2018 legislative session. Lawmakers passed this bill last year making it more expensive to purchase cars, and I want to see the new car tag fee repealed. It had an immediate impact on people in LeFlore County and families across the state. I’ve filed legislation to remove this additional fee in hopes that Oklahomans can keep more of their hard-earned cash in their wallets and out of the government’s coffers.
Perhaps the most encouraging news about 2018 is the rebounding economy. Unemployment is down, people are getting back to work and revenue for this coming fiscal year is supposed to be hundreds of millions of dollars more than last year. Oklahoma’s economic signals are the up and up, and let’s continue these trends without hampering them with permanent tax increases on everyday folks.
I’m hopeful you all will spend some time reflecting on 2017 and refocusing for 2018. I think fresh starts are just what we need this time of year. I’ll be up at the Capitol within a few weeks, but please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need me. I’m at 405-557-7413 or [email protected]. Thanks, and God bless you.
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