Claremore Daily Progress

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July 9, 2013

Attorney maintains tax cut bill unconstitutional

OKLAHOMA CITY —

A bill celebrated by Republican leaders that slashes Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate and funds repairs to the crumbling Capitol building is unconstitutional and should be thrown out, an Oklahoma City attorney argued on Tuesday.

Attorney Jerry Fent, who has a long track record of successfully challenging legislative actions, argued before a Supreme Court referee that the bill is an example of “logrolling” because it violates a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that requires acts of the Legislature to embrace only one subject.

“The first part of the title is substantive law — reducing your income tax liability,” Fent told Supreme Court Referee Greg Albert. “The second section of the title is creating a fund and providing for an appropriation.

“Here we have two subject matters as quickly as you can use your eyes to look at the title.”

An attorney for the state, Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman, maintained the bill is constitutional because the revenue to pay for the Capitol improvements comes from income tax collections, and therefore the measure deals entirely with managing taxes.

“This is not a bill that lowers taxes and then separately appropriates money to an unrelated project. Had it done that, it might violate single subject,” Weitman argued. “Instead, the bill lowers taxes over time and it states how the money is to be divided up in the interim. Clearly this bill is a single subject. It’s all related to one purpose, and that is managing taxes.”

Fent argued the bill also is unconstitutional because it appropriates revenue to fund the Capitol over two separate fiscal years and that it wasn’t approved with a three-fourths vote in the House and Senate required for revenue measures. Fent acknowledged, however, those were “backup arguments” and that his main cause of action — the logrolling allegation — was a “slam dunk.”

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