Storms possible this weekend

Bill would let voters reduce threshold for passing tax hikes

Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma voters would decide whether to make it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes under a bill that has cleared its first hurdle.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution asking voters to reduce the current threshold for passing a tax increase from a three-fourth’s majority of the Legislature to a three-fifth’s majority. The proposal would only apply to sales taxes.

The current three-fourth’s majority requirement for tax increases proved to be a major stumbling block for lawmakers last session.

Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote. The fee was expected to generate $215 million for several state agencies.

As a result, Gov. Fallin ordered lawmakers to head back to the Capitol during a special session to fix the budget shortfall. Lawmakers continued to struggle with the majority requirement during the special session, which led into a second special session.

Some proponents of the rule change say the budget issue would have been solved sooner if the majority requirement wasn’t in place, adding that the final agreement resulted in $44 million worth of cuts to state agencies. 

Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed into a law a budget that imposes across-the-board cuts to state agencies for the rest of the fiscal year.

The bill now moves to the full Senate.