Oklahoma City -- Governor Frank Keating today vetoed House Bill 2663, the Democrat-authored car tag bill that would have raised excise taxes on thousands of used car buyers.
"This was a difficult decision, but 1 believe the people of Oklahoma deserve car tag relief that doesn't help a segment of the population at the expense of raising taxes on those who are least able to afford it," the Governor said.
"On its surface, this legislation sounds very appealing by virtue of its flat car tag fees. But look closer. Beyond its seductive veneer, this measure would actually increase taxes by more than $80 million for thousands of used-car buyers. Under my watch, I have not, and will not, raise taxes. Consequently, I cannot in good conscience sip a bill that attempts to deceive the men and women of Oklahoma. It seems the Democrat- Legislature is so addicted to tax dollars, it can't draft a single piece of tax relief without turning it into a convoluted jigsaw puzzle.
"While I am pleased that the Democratic legislative leadership chose not to explicitly raise the excise tax - as they had proposed earlier this year -- it is a shame they effectively chose to do the same thing, albeit deceitfully, by eliminating the depreciation scale for used cars."
Nearly 75 percent of Oklahomans purchase used cars. By scrapping the depreciation scale and linking the excise fee to the purchase price, many used car purchasers would end up paying higher excise taxes than they do under existing law.
According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, a motorist who purchases a 5-year-old car with a sticker price of $20,000 pays $116 in excise tax. If HB 2663 were in effect, however, that same person would pay S345.
"While parts of this measure are very attractive, Oklahomans deserve a tag cut that isn't larded with a tax hike for those who can least afford it," Keating said.
The Governor stressed that there is still time for the Legislature to hammer out a true car tag bill. He urged the legislative leadership to adopt a gradual phase-in of Republican Representative Todd Hiett's measure, which would save Oklahoma taxpayers $138 million when fully implemented by lowering tag fees to $85, $45 and $15 without hiking excise taxes.
"The chief complaint that Democratic legislative leaders had about the Hiett bill was its cost. A phase- of the measure should ease those concerns, while giving car owners real tag relief that doesn't shaft used- buyers," the Governor said.
While Keating said he is hopeful that state lawmakers will present him with a car tag bill that all Oklahomans deserve, he stressed that the Legislature has much unfinished business left with only seven days remaining in session.
"Workers' compensation reform is on life-support and there has been no action on completing the very important second phase of the road construction plan," Keating said.
"The higher education bond issue, including key funding for the OU-OSU Research Center in Tulsa, has not been discussed in depth. We are in serious danger of losing vital federal funding and support for the Army Museum of the Southwest in Lawton and the National Weather Center in Norman. In addition, there has been only limited discussion regarding the Oklahoma Cancer Research Center, rural hospitals and Medicaid reimbursement.
"There are exactly seven days left in this legislative session, and these matters are far too important to be tossed off as a legislative afterthought. I am hopeful that such issues will be addressed quickly and thoroughly. The Legislature has the privilege and duty of conducting the public's business, but it must do so in a responsible manner. The citizens of Oklahoma deserve and expect nothing less."