Despite Republican claims to the contrary, car tag reform is alive and well at the State Capitol, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor pointed out that two tag bills have been reported out of Senate Committee and will soon be heard by the full Senate.
"Make no mistake about it, car tag reform is alive and well at the State Capitol. We will pass a significant reduction for Oklahoma motorists, no question about it. Republican legislators know that, but they're afraid that they might not get any credit for it. They're just playing election-year politics with a very important issue," said Senator Taylor.
Taylor noted that the Senate will soon consider HB 2663 by Senator Jim Maddox and Representative Ron Kirby. That legislation would cut the car tag costs, charging a flat fee of $85, $45 or $15 depending on the age of the vehicle. The end result would be $11 million in savings for Oklahoma motorists.
A similar piece of legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support last year, but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Keating.
"The Republican members of the Senate enthusiastically supported this measure last year, but now that an election is looming on the horizon, they seem to be more interested in making political hay out of the issue. I think it would be a lot more constructive if they would work with us to pass a car tag cut, instead of pandering for votes in an election year," said Senator Taylor.
HB 2663 offers a more responsible approach on tag reform than other legislation, according to the Senate leader. Through a slight increase in the excise tax, HB 2663 protects vehicle revenue earmarked for schools, road construction and other important services.
"Unlike some of the other approaches, this legislation cuts tag fees in a responsible manner. It delivers savings to Oklahoma motorists without jeopardizing support for our public schools or our road programs. The proposal that some Republican legislators are advocating would hit education and highway construction pretty hard," noted Senator Taylor.
In addition to lowering tag fees, HB 2663 also changes the method for calculating vehicle excise taxes, giving motorists a break that they currently do not receive.
Under the legislation, excise taxes would be calculated on the actual sales price of a vehicle, minus the value of any trade-in. Under current law, Oklahomans get no credit for their trade-in and pay taxes based on the higher, factory delivered price.
The Senate leader noted that a recent article in the Daily Oklahoman documented that HB 2663 would actually deliver greater savings to Oklahomans who trade in vehicles than the legislation touted by Republican legislators.
It cited the case of a new car purchase of $22,500 with a $7,500 trade in credit. According to the Oklahoman, under HB 2663, excise and tag fees would total $760 during the first year; under the Republican proposal fees would total $898.
"In their zeal to make a political issue out of tag reform, I think Republican legislators have ignored the benefits of HB 2663, much to the detriment of Oklahoma motorists. I hope they'll ultimately drop the rhetoric and join with us to pass a bipartisan tag bill," said Senator Taylor.