Lawsuit challenges automatic tax increase

Saturday, February 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A recent automatic increase in the state income tax rate was challenged as unconstitutional on Friday in a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court by a Norman attorney and four legislators.

As result of action by the Board of Equalization and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, plaintiffs and ``hundreds of thousands of other Oklahomans are being subjected to unconstitutional taxation,'' the lawsuit argues.

Plaintiffs include Stanley M. Ward, a Norman attorney who helped pass a constitutional amendment restricting the ability of the Legislature to raise taxes.

He was joined by state Sens. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, and state Reps. Thad Balkman, R-Norman, and Keven Calvey, R-Del City.

Jim Satrom of Tulsa, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit argues that the tax increase is invalid because it was not based on definite standards which must accompany the Legislature's delegation of its authority.

The increase in the income tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent was triggered when the Equalization Board last December estimated that revenues for the 2003 fiscal year will be less than the board's estimate of 2002 fiscal year revenues.

Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode had been pushing for a lawsuit, but was not among the plaintiffs.

State Sen. Herb Rozell, D-Tahlequah, has warned that pursuing the lawsuit could wind up costing the oil industry millions of dollar.

Rozell said a tax break given to oil companies contains a similar provision to the one being challenged by Ward and the Republican lawmakers.

Bode argues the two taxes are different because a decrease in oil taxes is triggered based on a definite standard _ the price of crude oil _ and not mere predictions.