The Conservative View
by Russell Turner
Word Games and Your Money
I have heard it said that nothing will get your attention faster than someone getting into your pocketbook. In the case of our state legislature, any time that they start funding more programs it is of special interest to me. Our citizens who are on the receiving end of those programs fail to understand that the money our legislators are spending can only come from one source, that source is the taxpayers of the state of Oklahoma. Several years ago the voters of Oklahoma voted yes on State Question 640, it was meant to slow down the ever increasing taxes that could be imposed upon the citizens of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Constitution states that revenue-raising measures cannot be passed in the final five days of the legislative session and that tax increases must receive three-fourths support in both the House and Senate or be sent to a vote of the people. Since the passage of SQ 640, the State Legislature has routinely passed user fees instead of taxes upon the citizens to supposedly get around SQ 640. In the final days of the last legislative session, HB 2347 was passed which would have levied a 1-percent tax on insurance payments, increasing the cost of health care for working families by $78 million per year. Fortunately the bill was challenged in court saying it was enacted unconstitutionally. House Bill 2437 was approved in the final week of session and did not receive the support of a supermajority in either chamber of the Legislature. The Supreme Court’s decision ruled that the provider fee is in fact a tax and issued an order blocking enforcement of the health care tax. State Rep. Mike Ritze, one of only two doctors serving in the Oklahoma Legislature, was quoted as saying, “House Bill 2437 would have added to the already heavy tax burden facing Oklahoma citizens, we need to reduce taxes on Oklahomans, not increase them, and calling a tax a ‘fee’ does not make it easier for the taxpayers.”
Anyone who tells you that getting involved in politics does no good needs to take a good look at the effects that SQ 640 had on our state. I, and people from all parts of the state, took of our time and carried petitions to get SQ 640 on the ballot in the first place; one percent doesn’t seem like much, but without SQ 640 Oklahomans would have had 78 million dollars less every year and that is one word game we all can understand.
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