Income tax-Capitol funding bill doesn't violate Oklahoma Constitution, state attorney argues

An Oklahoma assistant attorney general tells a state Supreme Court referee that the measure deals with one purpose of managing income tax revenue.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: July 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm •  Published: July 10, 2013

Fent said the law also is unconstitutional because the money is set aside over two fiscal years. He said the constitution restricts legislators to appropriate money only for the upcoming fiscal year.

Weitman said HB 2032 doesn't create a debt, and it doesn't indebt a future Legislature.

“They're just funding a fund that they created,” he said. “That's not a debt.”

Fent called HB 2032 a revenue bill and said it should have received 75 percent support in both chambers because it dictates how revenue should be spent. It passed 65-25 in the House and 32-14 in the Senate; 76 votes are needed in the House and 36 are needed in the Senate to get 75 percent support.

Weitman said the three-fourths approval requirement comes from State Question 640, which voters passed in 1992 with the intent to make it more difficult for lawmakers to pass tax increases, not more difficult for their taxes to be lowered.

“This bill … lowers taxes,” he said. “It does not increase revenue to the state and therefore is not a revenue bill.”

The Supreme Court in recent years has been critical of logrolling. Justices have tossed out sections of law or entire laws they found to be violating the single-subject rule. In a 2010 logrolling case, the high court said it was “growing weary of admonishing the Legislature for so flagrantly violating” the single-subject rule of the constitution.

“We hope that they see in this case this is a single subject,” Weitman said.

Fent said he's not arguing the bill's intent.

“That's probably a very worthwhile cause, to get some money to fix the Capitol building,” he said. “But, however, they need to do it constitutionally.”