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Wrinkle added to car tag vote proposal

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A prominent House Republican on Tuesday added a new wrinkle to his proposal for a statewide vote on car tag
reduction, while the idea was denounced by other GOP lawmakers.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, said he is still working on a bill to cap license costs at $85, while "keeping the excise tax stable" and basing it on the actual price of a vehicle instead of an inflated sticker price.

Rep. Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, former House minority leader, suggested last week that the Legislature would ultimately refer car
tags to a vote of the people since Republicans and Democrats appear hopelessly deadlocked on the issue.

On Tuesday, he said the financial impact of a plan submitted to a vote could be eased by placing an extra cost on higher priced

"For example, if somebody buys a personal vehicle that costs $30,000, charge 'em $150 for their tag," he said. "Let's make the high rollers pay their share."

Ferguson said the tag price could be $100 for vehicles between $20,000 and $30,000 and $85 for vehicles below $20,000.

"To me that seems pretty fair," he said, "and we still have managed to cut the cost of tags."

At a news conference earlier, House Minority Leader Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, said a statewide vote "solves nothing."

If any plan goes to a vote, he said, it should be the proposal by Rep. Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, which would cut car tag costs by $138 million, a cost Democrats say the state can't afford.

On Monday, two Tulsa Democrats -- Rep. Russ Roach and Sen. Penny Williams -- agreed with Ferguson that placing the issue before the
public may be the only way to keep it alive.

That prompted other Republican members to accuse Democrats of "a shell game."

Morgan had no comment on Ferguson's support of such a vote, although some House Republicans have said privately they are upset
about it.

"I'm not trying to make anyone mad," Ferguson said. "I'm just trying to get people off their rears."

He said with only 31/2 weeks left in the session, leaders of both sides are at a stalemate on the tag issue and do not seem to be having any serious discussions on resolving key budget issues, including how much tobacco money to spend.

"We're hung up on everything because nobody's talking about anything," he said.

Ferguson appeared to disagree with his GOP colleagues by saying lawmakers have a difficult job ahead in balancing the budget and
meeting obligations on things like roads and replacing education funds provided out of the Rainy Day Fund a year ago.

Republican House members are contending there is plenty of money left to spend on a major tax cut.

Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said he is surprised some of Ferguson's fellow Republicans had rejected
the idea of a state vote on car tags.

"Maybe they're afraid that Oklahomans will realize that House Republicans unanimously voted to kill a car tag bill last year that would have delivered them millions of dollars in savings," Taylor said.

He said he is still hopeful an agreement can be worked out with GOP Gov. Frank Keating that will be meaningful "without devastating Oklahoma's education system."

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