State Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan sees gas tax break momentum

Saturday, September 3rd 2005, 10:55 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan said Friday his plan to suspend collection of gasoline taxes for three months is picking up momentum.

Morgan, D-Stillwater, referred to a decision by Sonny Perdue, Georgia's Republican governor, to suspend gas tax collections in September to ``relieve some of the financial burden'' being experienced by Georgia residents.

The Stillwater Democrat renewed his call for Gov. Brad Henry to act to bring lawmakers into a special session to pass a three-month moratorium on fuel tax collections in Oklahoma, where prices have climbed past $3 per gallon.

``Oklahomans need emergency relief from the high price of gasoline and they need it now,'' Morgan said. ``I'm asking Gov. Henry again to expand the call of the current special session to include suspension of motor fuel taxes in Oklahoma.''

He said market forces are causing gasoline prices to skyrocket ``and I believe other states will move to do all they can to ease the pain their citizens feel every time they fill up their tanks.''

Henry has said he will consider the plan and it ``very well may be something we will proceed with.'' He said he wants to make sure the proposal would be legal.

House Speaker Todd Hiett said he supports easing the financial burden of Oklahomans, but has not made a commitment.

Rep. Richard Morrisette, D-Oklahoma City, held a news conference Friday to demand that Hiett support the Morgan plan, which calls for dipping into the Rainy Day fund to make up the $103 million that would be lost by suspending gas tax collections.

Morrisette also proposed that legislators cut the cost of the proposed special session by giving up their per diem.

``If Hurricane Katrina has taught us anything it is that those at the bottom of the economic scale are the ones affected most by disasters like this,'' the lawmaker said.

Prices at the pump in Oklahoma shot up more than 50 cents a gallon in the days following the Katrina, prompting a public outcry.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Friday he and about 40 other state attorneys general will conduct a joint investigation of the price increases.

``I have visited with attorneys general from several states, and the concern is nationwide,'' Edmondson said. ``We will be looking into all aspects of this industry to determine if these price increases are justified.''

He said his office and the Corporation Commission have been looking into price gouging allegations, but so far had found nothing criminal.