A Man True to His Words
Tulsa area attorney and gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson proved true to his word last week after he filed a lawsuit at the Oklahoma Supreme Court, on behalf of the citizens of Oklahoma, asking the courts of Oklahoma to invalidate House Bills 1449, 2348 and 2433.
Richardson has had a very successful private law practice after serving as a U.S. Attorney during the Reagan years, charged with cleaning up the County Commissioner corruption scandals in the 80's.
Richardson laid out why each law violated the state constitution. HB 1449 created the Motor Fuel Tax fee that charges owners of electric and CNG vehicles a "fee" despite state tax credits encouraging people to purchase both types of vehicles. And there is that pesky word "Tax" in the bill name, that one is going to leave a mark.
HB 2348 raises taxes on millions of Oklahomans by limiting their standard deduction and uncoupling or freezing that standard deduction from the federal deduction rate.
HB 2433 added a new 1.25% sales tax on top of the already existing 3.25% excise tax on new and used vehicles, in effect a 41% increase in state taxation on purchasing a vehicle. Keep in mind that the excise tax is an "in lieu" of tax that was placed upon vehicles sales instead of the sales tax so this is in effect double taxation.
Richardson said that all three laws were in violation of Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution as none received 76 votes in the State House and House Bills 1449 and 2433 were enacted in the last five days of session.
Richardson retained Stan Ward, the original author of SQ 640 in 1992 that placed Article 5, Section 33 into the state constitution. Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent has also joined the fray and the Oklahoma Auto Dealers Association has filed a seperate lawsuit against HB 2433. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has refused to stay the new sales tax despite the harm it will wreck on the auto industry as sales grind to a halt while people wait for a decision on the constitutionality of the new tax. Tobacco companies also filed suit on the new smoking tax or "fee" added in the session, a supposed smoking cessation "fee" despite the billions we spend out of the Tobacco Settlement Fund for the very same purpose.
House and Senate leadership are spinning things like an F-5 going over Moore, claiming that the revenue increase was incidental to the goals of passing the new taxes and tax increases. However even the Oklahoman is admitting that the legislators own words are coming back to bite them.
Meanwhile State Attorney General Mike Hunter is making whimpering noises to the effect that Gary Richardson lack standing to sue the state, claiming that Richardson hasn't had to pay any tax. Clearly A.G. Mike Hunter is signaling that Richardson is the main threat to these unconstitutional laws and that the other litigants can be intimidated or bought off.
Hunter's arguments are flawed in his published brief on the lawsuits. He claims that electric cars are heavier than conventional gas or diesel cars and tear up the road more but the fact is that the vehicles with about 100 mile ranges are comparable in weight to gas cars and the Telsa is built much lighter and has a comparable weight to the same class of car with a gas or diesel engine. Hunter also falsely claims that the gas tax is a classic fee, with the proceeds going to support roads and bridge repairs yet some of the money is siphoned off for alternative transportation projects, the Corporation Commission budget, the DEQ fund, for fuel tank clean up projects, and for the Aeronautics Commission Fund.
Hunter also plays word games claiming that tax exemptions are actually tax expenditures so that raising taxes on people by eliminating deductions isn't raising taxes. This idiot needs to remember that he will have to run for office in a few years.
Oral arguments are to take place on all the lawsuits challenging the legislation on August 8th. Both Gary Jones and Todd Lamb refused calls to join the lawsuit or call for the laws to be overturned by the court. No surprise there, no man bites dog story.