Oklahoma Senate revamps LEAD Act in anticipation of major announcement

(The Center Square) – The Oklahoma Senate approved changes to the LEAD Act Tuesday as the state awaits a decision from a major corporation.

The LEAD Act is a nearly $698 million incentive package passed last year to draw large companies to Oklahoma. The Legislature passed the bill last April, hoping to lure Panasonic to the state. The company decided to put its electric vehicle battery plant in Kansas instead.

Now the state hopes to use the act to draw another major manufacturer. The state’s competition this time is Canada, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt. An announcement is expected by Friday, he said.

The bill approved by the Senate would require the State Department of Commerce to return the funding if the state by April 15 does not receive a binding commitment from a “primary establishment for an investment” that qualifies for the program. The $1 billion would go to the general fund, according to the bill.

Companies that want to utilize the LEAD Act must meet certain conditions, including capital expenditures of at least $500 million and adding a certain number of jobs.

The number of new jobs required dropped from 4,000 in a four-year period to 3,500.

Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, asked if the reduction of employees required would result in a change to the estimated economic impact.

“I actually believe the economic impact will be greater,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. “The project that we are now visiting with will have an average salary of about $20,000 higher [than the state average].”

Thompson said the expected starting pay for employees would be between $75,000 to $85,000.

“That’s well above the state average,” he said.

Kirt said she was supporting the bill because of the opportunity for the state but ideally wanted better pay guarantees.

“I’d like to urge us to improve the salary expectations for companies who are receiving this level of support from the state,” Kirt said. “I think that if we raise that standard, we’re going to be investing in jobs that will benefit our state for years to come and will actually make livable wages for years to come.”

The bill goes to the House for approval.

This article First appeared in the center square

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