Senator Mike Mazzei was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2004 and brings a broad range of financial and business experience to the legislature. In 2008, Mike was re-elected for a second term of office. He currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and as Chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Pensions. In an exclusive interview with Tulsa Today that follows, he speaks on his service, goals, and the legislative process.
Question: What are the three top accomplishments of your service to date and why are you proud of them?
Mazzei: My most significant financial accomplishment is the broad comprehensive pension reform we achieved in 2011 to save Oklahoma tax payers $ 6 billion and secure our retirement commitments to teachers. I am also very proud of helping to eliminate the Oklahoma state tax in 2010. In 2007, I presented to the entire Senate SB861 which accelerated the state income tax reduction from 5.65% to 5.25%; established our first back to school sales tax holiday; and eliminated the franchise tax for most small businesses.
Question: What are your top three goals for the upcoming term and why they are important?
Mazzei: We must pass meaningful workers compensation reform to lower premium costs for our businesses. We must also reform our tax code in order to lower our top tax rate to make Oklahoma more competitive for job creation. I also want to work on significant education reform in addition to increase funding for classrooms.
Question: During your last term medical issues limited your physical activity. Could you detail how you overcame those challenges, how you kept in the loop on important legislation and the state of your health going forward?
Mazzei: My back injury, although painful and difficult, did not prevent me from working on our top priorities in the Oklahoma Senate. Thanks to a caring family, father, senate colleagues and a wonderful Executive Assistant, I executed my responsibilities as Chairman of the Senate Finance committee and Chairman of the Select Committee on Pensions. My father, Jim Mazzei, has faithfully helped me get to and from the capitol. Through a constant regiment of ice, heat and stretching, I have been at the capitol nearly every day to handle all of our finance issues and author extremely important legislation. In 2011, I led the Senate efforts for pension reform and here in 2012, I led the Senate efforts to reform our tax code and authored the legislation which should hopefully prevent all Oklahoma businesses from paying taxes on intangible property. Once I get past a little left over nerve damage from the injury, I am eagerly looking forward to a complete recovery.
Question: If you could wave a magic wand; what in Oklahoma government would you most like to fix that would be the most difficult to address – that others may think impossible?
Mazzei: A complete transformation of our Workers Compensation System from an adversarial lawyer driven approach to an administrative process which most other states have. This would greatly reduce business costs for our businesses and lead to significant job growth.
Question: How has your service helped defend us from Constitutionally questionable regulations and programs from the Federal Government?
Mazzei: I fought vigorously against the establishment of an Oklahoma insurance exchange. I believed we did not need to spend time and effort putting in place a network which would ultimately support Obamacare and I’m hopeful that the United States Supreme Court would rule that Obamacare is unconstitutional.
Question: On a regular operating basis, how functional or not is the Oklahoma Legislature?
Mazzei: Many people don’t realize that over 60% of the votes in the Oklahoma Legislature are nonpartisan, non-contentious unanimous votes. A handful of issues are contentious. I have a background in retirement questions and finance issues. The members have gained some confidence in my advice so, for example, in last year’s effort to reform the pension system in Oklahoma we worked together and saved taxpayers $6 billion. I am not an expert on Workers Compensation issues so on that topic I follow the leadership of Sen. Anthony Stykes (R-Dist. 24).
Just like Thunder basketball, we each work best as a part of a team recognizing our skills and talents while working together with various specialties targeted to details.
Question: How stands the state of the State and Nation from your perspective and how can citizens help you fight the good fight?
Mazzei: From a national perspective, our economy and entrepreneurs are dealing with serious head winds coming from excessive debt, excessive government spending, excessive corporate tax levels and excessive new regulations. Our federal government needs to pay attention to what Oklahoma has been doing to reduce long term debt, lower taxes, control spending and create a job friendly environment. We are fortunately bucking the national trends with low unemployment at 5% and employee income growth.
About: Mike Mazzei was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2004 and brings a broad range of financial and business experience to the legislature. In 2008, Mike was re-elected for a second term of office. He currently serves as Chairman of the important Senate Finance Committee and as Chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Pensions.
Mazzei, CFP®, is the President of Tulsa Wealth Advisors, which operates a branch of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. (Member FINRA/SIPC) in Tulsa. He created The Financial Freedom Process® to help individuals leverage their wealth in order to achieve their lifetime visions.
He is a graduate of George Mason University and the College for Financial Planning, and is a member of the Financial Planners Association. Mike belongs to Asbury United Methodist Church and serves on the board for The Salvation Army. With his wife Noel, they are raising five children; Maria, (triplets) Caleb, Carissa and Mykaela, and youngest son Jackson.