Americans for Tax Reform: H.B 2359 is a tax hike

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 26-May-2010

Late Tuesday evening, the day’s last transaction in the Oklahoma House of Representatives happened quietly, but the action was significant. A conference committee substitute for House Bill 2359 was sent back to conference, where its fate is uncertain. Some have pegged the bill a tax increase, while others say it is a compilation of fee hikes.

Whether tax or fee, the bill’s return to conference may signal further “kinks” in the budget agreement announced last Thursday. If challenges do not get worked out by Friday (May 28) at 5 p.m., a special session is likely.

As one of several “revenue enhancement” measures, H.B. 2359 could add as much as $83 million to the budget for appropriation in Fiscal Year 2011. Described as a “compliance” measure when the budget accord was unveiled, at least one critical analysis is pegging H.B. 2359 as a tax hike.

After the measure was pulled last night, one Capitol observer emailed CapitolBeatOK, “It was so quiet and late only the lobbyist behind it and a handful of others knew what was happening.”

In possibly related news, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a group based in Washington, D.C., announced its opposition to H.B. 2359. ATR President Grover Norquist wrote, in a letter dated May 25 and circulated to members of the House and Senate this morning, the bill “contains a package of tax increases and budget gimmicks. A majority of the bill attempts to force out-of-state and online retailers to collect tax and report private consumer information to the state.” CapitolBeatOK obtained the letter this morning.

Norquist said the measure would increase taxes $80 million and “contains provisions that fly in the face of the U.S. Constitution and severely infringe on Oklahomans’ privacy rights.” ATR, originators of the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” has scored H.B. 2359 as a tax increase, Norquist said in his letter, and “a vote in favor of this bill as a violation of the Pledge.”

Norquist predicted the bill would trigger lawsuits and, among other objectionable features, would infringe on rights of privacy. He also said the $40 million other tax hikes and “budget gimmicks” – including diversion of money intended for highway maintenance — should be opposed.

To read the Americans for Tax Reform letter, click on the “more information” link above.