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House passes sales tax holiday measure


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahomans looking for back-to-school bargains would reap additional savings from a sales tax holiday under legislation passed by the Oklahoma House on Wednesday.

But the author of a similar bill said there is little chance that sales tax holiday legislation will be signed into law this year because of a budget shortfall estimated at $350 million for the 2003 fiscal year.

``The odds of passing that with the revenue picture we face now, let's face it, it's nil,'' said Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman.

The measure passed Wednesday was proposed by Rep. Greg Piatt, R-Ardmore, who said his southern Oklahoma district needs the legislation to compete with a sales tax holiday program in Texas that has become popular with shoppers on both sides of the Red River.

Piatt said retail stores in Ardmore are practically empty during the Texas sales tax event, which began in 1999. ``We have people who are sent home from their jobs,'' he said.

The legislation would waive the state's 4.5 percent sales taxes on the purchase of clothing, footwear and school supplies during a weeklong period in August as long as the price of each article is less than $100.

It would permit cities and towns to also waive their local sales taxes but would not reimburse them for lost revenue.

Piatt said the measure carries a fiscal impact of $6.2 million a year in lost revenue, which prompted Rep. Lloyd Fields, D-McAlester, to quiz Piatt on where the money would be carved out of the state budget.

``There's lots of different areas that the money could come from if we're serious about doing something for the people of this state,'' Piatt said.

Nations' measure would waive state sales taxes on the purchase of clothing and footwear valued at less than $100 during the first weekend in August to coincide with the Texas event.

``Oneupsmanship with Texas has got to end someplace,'' he said.

It also exempts local sales taxes and requires the state to reimburse revenues that are lost by cities and towns. He said it carries a fiscal pricetag of $5.5 million.

Although popular among back-to-school shoppers, Nations said his measure has little chance of being signed into law because of concern about the loss of sales tax revenue.

Similar sales tax holiday programs were proposed in the 2000 and 2001 Oklahoma legislatures but failed to win final passage.

Nation said he plans to tack his measure onto a sales tax reform bill scheduled for debate next week to give it a better chance of passage.

Piatt's measure, House Bill 2014, passed 94-3 and was sent to the Senate for action.
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