Small Businesses Skeptical About Future; Optimism Dips
Small-business owner optimism did not “crash “ in September, but it did fall, dropping 0.20 from August’s (corrected) reading of 94.1 and landing at 93.9. The largest contributing factor to the dip was the significant increase in pessimism about future business conditions, although this was somewhat offset by a notable increase in number of small-business owners expecting higher sales. Overall, four Index components improved, four fell and two remained unchanged from August. While it is premature to measure the impact of the government shut-down on the small-business sector, it’s possible that the pending “crisis” impacted economic outlook. October’s reading will reveal the full effect of Washington’s latest crisis on the small-business sector, which has remained cautious throughout the recovery.
Oklahoma Department of Commerce Reveals Oklahoma NOW Recruitment Video
“We have created a united state, built by an unwillingness to fail, connected by our abundant resources.” This first line sets the tone in the newly released Oklahoma NOW video the Oklahoma Department of Commerce revealed on Friday morning.
The video highlights the state’s business ecosystems and boasts the state’s national rankings and Oklahoma advantages for each industry. It was developed to encourage further investment in Oklahoma and bring about interest from in-state and out-of-state jobseekers in key areas of economic opportunity.
Governor Fallin Announces Extension of Insure Oklahoma
In a major victory for Oklahomans, Governor Mary Fallin today announced the state of Oklahoma has negotiated a one year extension for the Insure Oklahoma program. The program provides health insurance for nearly 30,000 working, low-income Oklahomans. It is funded by the state’s tobacco tax matched with federal dollars. Earlier this year, the federal government announced it would not continue its support of Insure Oklahoma and the state should expect the program to expire at the beginning of 2014.
After the announcement that Insure Oklahoma would expire, Fallin directly contacted both President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to underscore the importance of the program to the state. Officials with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, at the governor’s direction, also spent months in negotiations with their federal counterparts. These negotiations have been successful, as an extension has now been agreed to.
Double Digit Decrease for Oklahoma Workers Compensation Loss Costs
An annual filing most insurance carriers will use to develop rates for workers’ compensation insurance shows a dramatic decrease in loss costs, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak announced today. The overall loss cost decrease of 14.6 percent takes effect Jan. 1.
“This is fantastic news for Oklahoma businesses,” said Doak. “Reducing workers compensation costs by enticing new companies to come to the state and allowing current businesses to expand operations can trigger a new wave of economic prosperity. These decreases over a period of time will help to make Oklahoma much more competitive.”
Governor Calls Lawmakers Back to Take Up Legal Reform
Gov. Mary Fallin announced she’ll call lawmakers back to Oklahoma City on Sept. 3 for a special session of the Legislature to address the issue of legal reform.
The governor wants legislators to pass components of House Bill 1603, a comprehensive lawsuit reform package signed into law in 2009. HB 1603 was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma, making the state more business friendly and protecting Oklahoma physicians from frivolous lawsuits.
It passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry, but the state Supreme Court this year ruled that the law violated Oklahoma’s “single-subject” rule, which prohibits lawmakers from passing a single bill that address many subjects.
Governor Fallin Appoints New Secretary of Energy and Environment
Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of Col. Michael Teague to the position of secretary of energy and environment. The position of secretary of energy and environment is new, combining the positions of secretary of energy, previously held by Michael Ming, and secretary of environment, previously held by Gary Sherrer. Fallin said the two policy areas are linked, making it practical to combine them under one cabinet post.
“Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy,” said Fallin. “In Col. Teague’s new role, his mission will be to help develop policies that encourage energy exploration and production as well as responsible environmental stewardship. His years of experience dealing with energy production and distribution, infrastructure development, and water management will serve him well as Oklahoma’s first secretary of energy and environment. I am proud to have him on my team.”
Optimism Among Small Business Owners? Not So Much
Small-business optimism sighed in July, with NFIB’s monthly Index increasing just over half-a-point (0.6) for a total reading of 94.1. This month’s report continues the historically weak trend of owner confidence which has led some observers to suggest that Index should be renamed, Small Business Pessimism Index. On the positive front, while the two labor market indicators remained weak, both improved and are beginning to push into “normal” territory. But uncertainty about the future remains endemic among jobs creators, only nine percent of respondents think that now is a good time to expand their businesses.
“In an attempt to ‘make lemonade’ from the lousy bushel of lemons the administration has handed the small-business community, owners gave the July optimism Index the great distinction of being the fourth highest reading since December 2007—when the economy slipped into official recession. But let’s not get too excited: The level is still well below the average reading of 100 in the prior 35 years and still half a point below the December 2007 reading.” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.
Fiscal year income, sales tax gains show growing economy
Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston L. Doerflinger announced Wednesday that strong income and sales tax collection growth during the recently-ended fiscal year indicates continued economic expansion in Oklahoma despite steep declines in gross production tax collections.
“The sustained growth in income and sales tax collections is a key indicator that Oklahoma’s economy had another nice year and remains on solid footing going forward,” said Doerflinger, who is also director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). “It was a good revenue year that would have been even stronger if not for losses stemming from gross production tax changes passed in 2010.”
During Fiscal Year 2013, the General Revenue Fund (GRF) saw a $248.4 million gain in income and sales tax collections over FY 12 that helped offset a $208.9 million or 48.5 percent drop in oil and natural gas collections, according to a preliminary year-end GRF report for FY 13, the 12-month fiscal year between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
Long-lost pieces discovered at State Capitol during restoration
Nearly one hundred years after beautifully ornate light fixtures were installed in the Senate Chamber, 11 of the original 20 fixtures have been discovered in attic space above the sixth floor of the Capitol. The artifacts were discovered during the ongoing historic restoration of a large conference room on the fifth floor that had been divided up into small offices decades ago. In connection with the project, Senate Information Systems Director John Warren was moving computer cables above the fifth floor ceiling and happened to notice an opening to a long-forgotten part of the attic. That led to the discovery of the fixtures.
Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State Historical Society said a black and white photo of the chamber from 1918 helped confirm they were the original fixtures, or sconces. He said the discovery was important for the historic preservation of the State Capitol, the symbol of unity for Oklahoma.