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Bill would give $2,200 tax credit for college grads in IT workforce

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New graduates line up for a college commencement ceremony in this May 17, 2018, file photo. Oklahoma lawmakers are mulling a tax incentive for IT employees to help boost the state's technology sector. [AP PHOTO]
New graduates line up for a college commencement ceremony in this May 17, 2018, file photo. Oklahoma lawmakers are mulling a tax incentive for IT employees to help boost the state's technology sector. [AP PHOTO]

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering an attractive tax incentive for new software and cybersecurity employees in a bid to beef up Oklahoma's tech workforce.

Versions of the legislation have easily passed both the House and Senate this year, but lawmakers still have details to settle, including who can claim the income tax credits. The language is written to incentivize new graduates and workers taking on a "net- new" job, the bill's author said.

House Bill 2146 and Senate Bill 746 would give college degree-holders an annual $2,200 tax credit if they take an information technology job in Oklahoma after Nov. 1. The bills include a $1,800 tax credit for workers with an associate degree or certification. Only $5 million per year could be claimed.

The House author, state Rep. John Pfeiffer, said he plans to work with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to limit which industries are included in the tax break. In the most recent versions, applicable job sectors include the energy industry, manufacturing, transportation, information technology, finance, health care, entertainment, casinos and the government.

Unlike similar incentives offered by other states, Oklahoma would give the tax break directly to the employee instead of the business.

"Right now, our major problem with growing this industry is we simply do not have the skilled employees in the state. To try to move them here, this is an individual credit," said Pfeiffer, R-Orlando.

The percentage of new technology jobs is projected to grow by double digits over the next 10 years, according to federal labor estimates. In an analysis of critical occupations needed in Oklahoma, the state Office of Workforce Development estimates that more than 2,000 software and cybersecurity jobs will be created in the next decade.

"That’s a great move by the state to help bring in more people, and get more people into the industry," said Lucas Watson, an IT recruiter and board member of Techlahoma, a network of professionals, hobbyists, teachers and students based in Oklahoma City. "I can’t see it being a bad thing, and I can see it making hiring decisions easier for companies that are growing their security and development talent."

Danny Maloney, CEO of the technology and marketing company Tailwind, said the measure is a positive step toward attracting talented people to Oklahoma.

"I'd encourage the legislature to consider going further to include all existing software and tech workers in the state to help retain the great talent we have here, as well," Maloney said.

Another technology business owner, Debi Willis of PatientLink Enterprises, praised the bill but said it might not help her much.

"They talked about level of education, I prefer people with experience. Practical experience is worth more; I don’t require degrees," Willis said. "Really what I look at is how many years you’ve done it."

Dale Denwalt

Dale Denwalt has closely followed state policy and politics since his first internship as an Oklahoma Capitol reporter in 2006. He graduated from Northeastern State University in his hometown of Tahlequah. Denwalt worked as a news reporter in... Read more ›

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