One of Oklahoma’s two U.S. senators made a brief stop this week in Yukon to answer questions about the national budget, banking reform and the tariffs on agriculture and steel products.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, participated in a short roundtable discussion during his visit to 10 West Main, where more than 70 people gathered in a hallway to hear from the senator.
Much of his time was spent on frustrations of getting a federal budget approved.
“The budget deal has its own frustrations,” Lankford said, pointing out that Congress has approved an omnibus package that allows the government to continue operating.
However, he pointed out that the 2,238 pages of legislation were given to senators less than 28 hours before it was approved.
“We’re still learning what is in it,” he said.
Since 1998, there have been 18 omnibus bills approved, and only four times since the 1970s has the budget law worked successfully.
“It never gets better. This includes $300 billion in new deficit spending this year alone. We have to get on top of this,” Lankford said. “I know it is not exciting stuff, but we’ve got to make changes.”
Meanwhile, Lankford did say that the Senate’s approval of changes to Frank-Dodd legislation will benefit rural and community banks.
Frank-Dodd was approved after the 2008 near-collapse of several major banks.
Under current regulations, banks are strictly regulated on to whom they can lend money.
Lankford said legislation approved last week could lessen those restrictions for community banks.
He told a story about a rancher who sought a loan to purchase some property in northern Oklahoma, but was turned down. He purchased it with cash.
“There were 17 Democrats who came on board,” he said, pointing out the bill is waiting House approval. However, there could be amendments added that may kill the bill.
“It wasn’t that banks didn’t want to do the loans for small businesses, they couldn’t do them,” he said.
“These changes open it back up so the individual banks can do lending again.”
Another subject that drew praise from Lankford was the tax bill approved and signed into law last fall.
He said it has resulted in companies expanding and hiring more workers.
Lankford told the story of a college student who has a part-time on-campus job. The tax bill means her income is going up $14 per month.
While that is not much, the student was happy because she will now be able to go to a movie.
“That brought it home. When we think about what it means to change rates, and for the people to keep more of their money and invest it how they choose, it does make a difference,” he said.
Also during the roundtable, Lankford was asked about tariffs on imports, such as steel, to which he replied that the focus at this moment appears to be on charging more for items coming from China.
He also discussed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as gun laws.
Lankford said the omnibus bill included two items related to gun laws. One was a way to improve background checks on those seeking to purchase firearms, while a second would renew a grant program to purchase security equipment in schools.