MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

December 18, 2013

State Supreme Court shoots down income tax cut

High court finds bill unconstitutional

OKLAHOMA CITY — A sweeping agreement among Republican leaders to slash the state’s personal income tax rate and provide $120 million for repairs to the Capitol is unconstitutional because the bill passed by the Legislature contains more than one subject, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the legislation violated the Oklahoma Constitution’s ban on logrolling, or including multiple subjects in one bill.

“Taxation policy and the appropriation of state funds for Capitol improvements are not germane, relative or cognate to a readily apparent common theme and purpose,” Justice James Winchester wrote in the opinion. “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.”

The bill, which represented a political victory for Fallin, would have cut the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, beginning in January 2015, with a second cut to 4.85 percent set for 2016 if state revenues continue to increase. It also would have diverted $120 million over two years to fund an overhaul of the nearly 100-year-old Capitol, including upgrades to the electrical and plumbing systems.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor was aware of the decision but did not immediately comment.

But the bill, which was passed earlier this year, was challenged by Jerry Fent, a retired Oklahoma City attorney with a long track record of successfully challenging legislative actions.

The state’s highest court has shot down numerous bills in recent years for violating the state’s single-subject rule.

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