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Bingman: Despite Slow Progress, Tax Credit And Exemption Talks Underway

State seal in Capitol rotunda
Serge Melki
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Senate leaders say they're still discussing changes to state tax credits and exemptions, despite the fact that legislation with most of those changes still hasn't been heard on the chamber's floor. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, told reporters this week lawmakers are continuing to work through their caucuses to make sure the members have the details about legislation dealing with tax credits and off-the-top spending.

“Probably in the next couple of weeks we can focus more on what plans we want to try to introduce and work with the House, get any agreement on what we can and cannot do,” Bingman said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, told eCapitol's Shawn Ashley talks are ongoing regarding changing tax credits and exemptions to help deal with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2017.

At his committee's meeting Tuesday, Mazzei distributed a memorandum that explains how adjustments to tax credits and exemptions are not revenue bills and not subject to the provisions of State Question 640. "Revenue bills are those laws whose principal object is the raising of revenue and which levy taxes in the strict sense of the word," Mazzei said, referring to the Oklahoma Supreme Court's 1975 decision in Board of County of Commissioners of Lincoln County versus Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System. "The phrase does not cover laws under which revenues may incidentally arise."

State Question 640 put a provision into the constitution in 1992 saying any legislation that raises taxes would have to be approved by 75 percent of both the House and the Senate, and signed by the governor.

Mazzei stressed that a revenue bill's primary purpose is "to raise revenue." He said that bills that have sunset or suspended tax credits have not been successfully challenged in state courts as revenue fills. He pointed to his own 2010 bill, Senate Bill 1267, which placed a two-year moratorium on 30 tax credits as an example. Sen. Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland, asked Mazzei if the bill was challenged. Mazzei noted, and his memo states, it was not. "But it did not levy a tax in the strict sense of the word," the memorandum notes.

During a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday, House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said his fellow Democrats are interested in working with Republicans on overhauling the tax incentives, but he chastised his fellow lawmakers for taking time off this week.

"We're now eight weeks in, and not one piece of legislation to solve the budgetary crisis facing the people of Oklahoma has been put before the House of Representatives,” Inman said.

You can hear more from Sen. Mazzei Monday morning at 11:30 during Oklahoma Voices.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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