Capital update

Senator Dan Newberry

Senator Dan Newberry

The Governor’s Energy Conference was held last week, and state and industry leaders came together to discuss strategies to leverage our natural resources to expand the economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The impressive growth of our state’s economy has been due largely to the health and success of the energy sector. Gross production taxes on oil and gas have been critical to revenue growth, allowing the state to reinvest in its infrastructure and cut taxes. The continued health of the energy sector is of tremendous importance to the economic direction we take as a state.

We heard good news that energy leaders report the industry is experiencing a renaissance, with new technologies driving increased production and job growth. These advances have allowed the U.S. to reduce its dependence on foreign oil from 60 percent in 1997 to 35 percent today. Governor Mary Fallin discussed a comprehensive energy plan for the state, embracing all available technologies and resources to fully support continued production and development.

A Senate committee will soon begin examining possible strategies for reforming Medicaid.

Oklahoma is spending more on Medicaid than ever before, with appropriations to the program exceeding $953 million in fiscal year 2013 or, said another way, 13.3 percent of the state’s overall budget.  In fiscal year 2000, the state spent $333 million on the program, or less than 7 percent of the overall budget. That growth percentage threatens to soon engulf more than $1 billion in state funding if we don’t take steps to bring the program under control.

I am confident that we can find an approach to Medicaid in Oklahoma that will improve health outcomes while controlling costs. We will hear from representatives in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Kansas about their successful transitions to new management structures for Medicaid soon. Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will testify regarding the success of KanCare, the program Kansas adopted as it transitioned its Medicaid system to a managed-care model.  KanCare saved the state $160 million this year, and its efficiencies have allowed the state to add coverage for life-saving procedures like heart and lung transplants.

Similar reforms can give the Oklahoma Legislature tremendous flexibility as we consider our needs and seek to provide additional tax relief to Oklahomans.