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Lawmakers favor vote on hot issue

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Two Tulsa Democrats on Monday said they agreed with a key House Republican that a statewide vote is a "great way" to settle the car tag reduction issue.

Rep. Russ Roach and Sen. Penny Williams are the authors of House Joint Resolution 1035, one of only three surviving car tag bills,
which proposes putting the tag question to a public vote.

Last week, Rep. Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, predicted the issue would wind up going to a vote, saying that is a good way to resolve the issue, the subject of heated partisan bickering all session long.

Ferguson, a former House minority leader, said the more "verbal pot shots and posturing we see, the more a vote of the people looks
better and better."

Roach agreed with Ferguson that putting the issue to a vote would "make it make it easier for House leadership," eliminating session-ending arguments over the budget.

Williams and Roach said partisan politics is "rapidly draining the life" from the tag issue.

"When I saw the Republican Convention had decided to make car tags a partisan issue last weekend, I knew nothing good can come of
it." Roach said.

"When Republicans attack what we're working on as the 'Democrat bill' and refer to their efforts as the 'Republican bill' it soulds like Washington, D.C.," Williams said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, issued a statement saying he hopes an agreement can be worked out with GOP Gov. Frank Keating that "will deliver meaningful tag reform Oklahoma motorists."

Taylor, however, said he was intrigued by Ferguson's suggestion.

"Given his standing as a former House minority leader who's viewed as one of the senior statesmen of his party, his analysis
may give some insight into the approach that a lot of his members may be favoring. I don't want to try to read too much into his analysis, but it's certainly food for thought."

However, Rep. Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, did not think much of the idea, saying there is plenty of time to pass "true car tag relief."

Hiett was author of a bill backed by Keating that would cut auto tags by $238 million, including about $68 million this year.

Democratic budget writers say there is little more than $30 million in extra money to devote to all government services in the
final weeks of the session, when obligations are met, including completing funding on Phase I of the $1.5 billion highway
construction program.

Keating issued a challenge to the Legislature on Monday to send him a car tag tax-cut bill this week. He made a similar plea last week.

The governor commented after signing a bill that makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to obtain a license plate from another state unless an Oklahoma tag also is displayed.

House Minority Leader Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, also saw no reason not to pass a car tag bill this session. Sending it to a vote, Morgan said, would be "a dodge."

He said Ferguson's opinion is his own and "I wouldn't attempt to try to change it."

Ferguson issued a news release last week on a possible car tag vote after House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, said he was "100 percent sure" a tag reduction plan would be passed.

Morgan joked that Ferguson "may be trying to sow dissension in the Democratic ranks" on tag reform.

Republican House members have voted against a bill that would cut car tag costs by $11 million, and the measure received little
GOP support in the Senate.

Benson said last week he is aiming at raising the tax-cut figure to $25 million.

Morgan said Democrats should put their plan on the table and "we'll vote either yes or no."

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