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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

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously tossed out a new state law that established incremental state income tax cuts tied to economic growth.

The legislation, which included provisions creating a fund for Capitol repairs, violates a constitutional prohibition against including more than one subject in a single bill, the court said.

“The bill concerns income tax rate reduction as well as the creation of a fund for repairs to the state Capitol building,” Justice James Winchester wrote. “We … hold the statute unconstitutional as it violates the single subject rule mandated by … the Oklahoma Constitution.”

The bill had been one of the top priority pieces of legislation for Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican legislative leaders. Tuesday, they expressed disappointment at its rejection.

“I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to unravel a plan that would have provided tax relief to Oklahoma families as well as a way of restoring our crumbling Capitol building,” Fallin said. “I will work closely with the Legislature to develop a strategy to move forward.”

‘Blow to ... families'

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, called the ruling “a huge blow to Oklahoma families who have been expecting tax relief.”

“I'm deeply disappointed the Supreme Court has once again ruled against the interests of those families,” Shannon said. “The good news is, help is on the way. I am prepared to act quickly with legislative leaders and the governor to restore what the Supreme Court has undone.”

The rejected measure, HB 2032, called for reducing Oklahoma's top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent on Jan. 1, 2015.

It also set up a mechanism that would have cut the top income tax rate to 4.85 percent in 2016 if total revenue growth in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, 2015, equaled or exceeded the fiscal impact of the 0.15 percentage point cut.

The bill also would have created a fund for Capitol building repairs, calling for $60 million to be used for Capitol repairs in fiscal year 2014, which began last July 1, and an additional $60 million to be set aside for repairs in fiscal year 2015.

Backers of the tax cut indicated about 62 percent of the state's 1.6 million tax filers would have received a tax cut if the court had upheld the law. None would have seen an increase.

The average return would have had an $82 tax break at the 5 percent maximum tax rate and a $143 tax break at the 4.85 percent level, but amounts would have varied considerably depending on income, Oklahoma Tax Commission officials have said.

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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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