The recent ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court has opened a dangerous can of worms for the Oklahoma taxpayer. By essentially eviscerating Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution, the Court now has given the Legislature free reign to hike taxes on Oklahomans in complete disregard of the will of the people as expressed in passage of SQ 640, which was intended to place strict limits on the increasing of Oklahomans’ tax burden by the Legislature.
Governor Fallin, who plans to issue a call for a special session, began the year by pressing for nearly $2,600,000,000 (2.6 Billion with a B) in new and increased taxes. $1.7B of that would have come by removing the sales tax exemption on services. Armed with this ruling, she may feel emboldened to continue that push for higher taxes. Legislators should resist her, and Oklahomans should flood the State Capitol with calls against raising taxes or fees or removing tax exemptions, or whatever other loophole the Governor and Legislature may try to use to squeeze more money out of taxpayers for the state’s coffers.
Justice Combs said this in his dissent, and I am in full agreement with him:
The aim of the people in adopting State Question 640 must not be thwarted by such parsing of words and definitions. The Legislature must not be allowed to circumvent the requirements of Okla. Const. art. 5, § 33 when the clear principal object and purpose is to raise new revenue.
$10 billion worth of tax exemptions in the Oklahoma tax code are now subject to removal by a bare majority vote, rather than the 3/4ths vote intended by the petitioners and voters who wrote and approved SQ 640 in 1992. Hold on to your wallets, folks, because Governor Fallin and the Legislature will be coming for them.
Former OKGOP National Committeeman Steve Fair wrote this on his blog in response to the ruling:
[W]e need a statute of limitations on removal of exemptions. If a good or service has not been taxed for eighty years, then it should be considered a new tax or fee. […] This was clearly a loophole the legislature was looking for to fill this year’s budget hole.
I think that’s a great idea. Hopefully, some taxpayer-defending legislator will take up the mantle next session and work to advance a measure along these lines.
Oklahomans will need to keep a close eye on the Special Session that will begin on September 25th. Your wallet will be placed on the table by a pack of hungry vultures who have complete disregard for the intent and purpose of Article V, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution.