Budget & Tax

Michael Carnuccio | November 21, 2014

Free Market Friday: A threat to all

Michael Carnuccio

Over 23 years ago, Dan Brown, a middle-class husband and father of school-age children, was noted by various media outlets for his sacrificial work to educate Oklahomans about the myriad tax increases that had been passed for several years prior by Oklahoma lawmakers. Brown headed a more than 6,000-member group called STOP New Taxes. He later formed Oklahoma Taxpayers United.

“I’m doing it because I’m frustrated,” he said. “Taxes are nickel-and-diming the middle class to death.”

A review of newspaper archives from that time reveals there was no mistaking that State Question 640 was about the out-of-control growth of new taxes and revenue-raising measures in Oklahoma. As I have noted previously, many have forgotten March 10, 1992, when a majority of Oklahoma voters decided, with the passage of SQ 640, that state lawmakers’ ability to raise taxes and revenue needed to be restrained. The subsequent constitutional restraint requires that bills creating or increasing taxes, or making new revenue sources for the purpose of funding government, start in the House of Representatives. Also, they must be submitted to a vote of the people or receive three-fourths approval by both legislative bodies.

A misguided lawsuit has been filed against the most recent tax cut approved by the Legislature and the governor, asserting the measure violates SQ 640, because it didn’t received three-fourth approval and wasn’t originated in the House of Representatives – thereby asserting any bill associated with state money is subject to SQ 640.
Constitutional scholars note that the lawsuits are not supported by precedent, intent or record.
Lloyd Noble II and former state Sen. Gary Gardenhire were heavily involved in promotion and passage of SQ 640. Both were board members of Oklahomans for State Question 640, a committee organized to promote the amendment ahead of its appearance on the ballot. Both emphatically say the provision does not restrain efforts to reduce taxes.

Dozens of lawmakers are warning this new interpretation threatens previous tax rate relief for low- and middle-income families, rate relief for oil and gas production, repeal of the estate tax, increases in the standard deduction, specific tax relief for retirees, military veterans and disabled veterans, and tax exemptions for in-state manufacturers.

Redefining SQ 640 will lead to massive tax hikes for all. It’s that simple – and dangerous.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

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