Oklahoma Lawmakers Playing Primary Politics with Tax Hikes

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, April 13th, 2016, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

In a stunning admission of tactics surrounding an effort to raise taxes in the Sooner State, Gov. Mary Fallin (R-Okl.) recently acknowledged that state lawmakers are postponing a public vote on her proposed tax hikes until after the candidate filing deadline has passed. 

"I think there are some members who are waiting to see if they draw an opponent during filing in April," Fallin said when asked about ongoing negotiations with the House and Senate on the budget. "They're slow playing things." 

The entire House and half of the state Senate is up for re-election this year, with a candidate-filing deadline coming up on Friday. In a letter to lawmakers yesterday, ATR president Gover Norquist expressed opposition to this tactic: 

“It is beyond reprehensible that legislators are postponing an open debate on the budget until they’re sure to get re-elected this year. Only cowards hide from voters when passing tax hikes on them in the dark of night.”

In February, Gov. Fallin proposed a number of tax hikes, including an expansion of the state sales tax ($200 million tax increase) and tobacco taxes ($182 million tax increase), tax hikes that ATR opposed. Fallin's support for these efforts constituted a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment that she made to Oklahoma voters when she was elected as governor in 2010.

Fortunately, the Oklahoma Constitution requires a ¾ vote by both legislative chambers and the signature of the governor to pass tax increases. Unfortunately, the threshold for referring a tax hike to the ballot only requires a simple majority. Voting to refer a tax hike to the ballot constitutes a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge unless voters are also provided the option of reducing their taxes at the same time.

ATR will continue to monitor these efforts in the coming days and weeks.

Click here for a copy of the letter sent to lawmakers. 

Photo Credit: Ben Dunham, Flickr

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