Oklahoma Bill to Reportedly Lure Volkswagen to the State Signed by Gov. Stitt

KOKH - March 3, 2023 1:35 pm

Gov. Kevin Stitt

The LEAD Act is now the first bill of the 2023 session to be signed into law by Governor Stitt.

SB1176 passed quickly by Oklahoma lawmakers, and could potentially bring a massive corporation to Pryor.

Not every member of the Oklahoma GOP is on board, including the one member it could impact the most.

The House of Representatives was divided, but not on party lines. Giving state funds to a company that’s reported to be Volkswagen pitted Republicans against each other.

If you blinked you may have missed it, but the bill that changes requirements for a company to qualify for a $698M state incentive passed the House Thursday morning and was signed by the Governor in the afternoon.

One of the thirteen House Republicans trying to slow the process down, Rep. Tom Gann, tried to speak up for his community in Pryor, home of the MidAmerica Industrial Park, the site in question for the reported Volkswagen expansion.

“We have a really big disconnect between what they want us to do, what they say is good for us, and I’m speaking for Pryor now, and what the actual people are thinking,” Rep. Gann said.

The LEAD Act would help with incentives intended to lure a massive company to Oklahoma.

The bill passed would lower the job creation requirement from 4,000 to 3,500 in the fourth and fifth years.

Question from lawmakers was shut down, but Rep. Gann’s concerns about accountability remain.

He said he hasn’t seen the papers himself, and his community might lack the labor.

“We have businesses in the park right now who are paying $74K a year for some of the jobs that the have, yet they can’t find employees,” Rep. Gann said. “They have to go to the corrections department to get inmates to work in some of their businesses.”

But not all his colleagues agree with the labor issues. Representative Ryan Martinez, (R)-Edmond, believes the company could draw in the workforce.

“My guess is when the average job is paying $75K a year, which in Oklahoma with cost of living that’s actually a pretty good wage, people are willing to move to do that,” Rep. Martinez.

The argument has become more about the price to pay for progress.

“We want smaller growth, we want it incrementally and we want to be able to develop overtime instead of a total distortion of the manufacturing base and the market,” Rep. Gann said.

But, Rep. Martinez isn’t for taking a backseat on a deal that could help drive the state’s economy.

“So if we want to sit out and just say we want Oklahoma to remain exactly the same as its always been, we’ll die as a state,” Rep. Martinez.

If Oklahoma doesn’t land the deal by April 15th, the money will be restored to the general revenue fund. The state is also in competition with Canada.

 

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