A group of 35 state legislators released an open letter Thursday voicing concerns about the possibility that many tax relief measures passed in Oklahoma over the past decade could be overturned, should the state Supreme Court rule that tax reductions must meet the guidelines of State Question 640.
Passed on a statewide ballot by voters in 1992 as an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution, SQ 640 was intended to make it more difficult for the state Legislature to increase taxes. According to the provision, all proposals increasing state taxes must either be sent to a vote of the people or receive three-fourths approval in both houses of the Legislature. Such measures also cannot be approved in the final five days of the legislative session.
At question is the fate of Senate Bill 1246, an income tax reduction measure passed by the Legislature during the 2014 session. The new statute’s constitutionality has been challenged in a lawsuit, filed with the state Supreme Court, on the grounds that it did not meet the standards of SQ 640. The Court heard arguments on the suit last month.
The 35 lawmakers who endorsed the letter hail from all four quadrants of the state. The two legislators who carried SB 1246 in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively – state Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang – endorsed the letter.
In the letter, the lawmakers make the case that it was not the aim of Oklahoma voters in 1992 to make it more difficult for the Legislature to reduce taxes. Rather, the intent was to make it harder to increase taxes.
If the Court were to rule against SB 1246 on the grounds that tax relief measures must meet the standards of SQ 640, numerous previous tax reductions could be overturned, including: income tax reductions, estate tax repeal, increases in the standard deduction, gross production tax rate reductions, manufacturing exemptions, and tax relief for retirees, military veterans and disabled veterans.