Oklahoma House passes sales tax holiday measure

Monday, April 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Legislation that would give back-to-school shoppers a break from state sales taxes won approval Monday in the Oklahoma House.

But supporters said they believe the measure does not go far enough to ease the tax burden on Oklahoma families with school children who require new clothes and school supplies each year.

The measure, patterned after a popular sales tax holiday program in Texas, would exempt clothing and footwear with a purchase price of less than $100 from the state's 4.5 percent sales tax during a three-day period in the first weekend in August.

It would also permit county and municipal governments to waive local sales taxes during the same weekend.

Rep. Greg Piatt, R-Ardmore, whose own sales tax holiday bill died in the Senate, said he wants to include school supplies among the articles that would be exempt from state sales taxes.

``I will continue to work for it,'' Piatt said.

The measure's author, Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, said he is opposed to changes that might interfere with the measure's final passage.

``I've worked on this for three years. I don't want to mess with the bill,'' Crutchfield said.

Piatt said he is disappointed that his bill was not heard by the Senate Finance Committee before a legislative deadline last week. Piatt's bill would have included school supplies among exempted items and extended the program to a full week each August.

Piatt's bill would have lowered state revenues by about $6 million a year. The fiscal impact of Crutchfield's measure is $3.1 million.

Piatt said lawmakers should be less concerned with government revenue than with taxpayers' ability to make ends meet.

Crutchfield's bill is similar to legislation proposed during the past three years that has failed to win final passage.

``I am very glad something is still alive,'' Piatt said. ``How many times do we have to vote on this issue before we pass it?''

Crutchfield said a sales tax holiday program is an important issue for merchants and residents in southern Oklahoma, where many shoppers travel south of the Red River each August to take advantage of the sales tax holiday in Texas.

``We're on the Red River. We all feel the pinch more than other places,'' he said.

Crutchfield said a sales tax holiday in Oklahoma might lure Texans to spend their money north of the Red River.

``They might want to come up here and fish or something. You never know,'' he said.

The measure, Senate Bill 816, passed 92-4 and was returned to the Senate.