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Oklahoma Supreme Court tosses income tax cut

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously tossed out a state law that established incremental state income tax cuts tied to economic growth.
by Randy Ellis Modified: December 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm •  Published: December 17, 2013

Oklahoma taxpayers with federal adjusted gross incomes of up to $25,999 would have gotten back $8 or less, with some receiving nothing, at the 5 percent maximum tax rate, officials said.

Taxpayers would have needed adjusted gross incomes of $80,000 to $99,999 to get back an average of $108. Those with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $499,999 could have expected savings averaging $371 and those earning $1 million or more would have gotten back an average $1,377.

The tax cut bill was successfully challenged by Jerry Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney who has a long history of challenging legislation that he believes to be unconstitutional.

Justices ruled that HB 2032 violates the constitutional single subject rule that is designed to prevent log rolling — the practice of piggybacking an unpopular law with a popular measure so lawmakers can't approve one without the other.

“Taxation policy and the appropriation of state funds for Capitol improvements are not germane … to a readily apparent common theme and purpose,” Winchester wrote. “A voter could certainly be for one measure and not the other, but forced to approve the entire bill in order to pass the desired legislation. The single subject rule prohibits this unpalatable choice.”

Not everyone was disappointed by Tuesday's court decision.

State Rep Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said he was “very pleased that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state Constitution today, despite the fact that the bill included a tax cut that would have helped all Oklahomans.”

“At the end of the day, it is far more important that Legislators abide by their oath to defend the Constitution as the state Supreme Court has done with this ruling,” said Ritze, who removed his name as a co-author of the bill when the language was added concerning Capitol repairs.

State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, called the ruling “a victory for transparency.”

“I've been disappointed in House leadership constantly attacking the Supreme Court's decisions on the single-subject rule,” he said. “It would have been very easy to pass the tax-cut bill without the leadership's pet project of Capitol improvements.”

“Today all Oklahomans have lost a tax cut — not due to a ruling of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but due to the refusal of the Legislature to abide by the Constitution,” Reynolds said.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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