By rejecting a bipartisan solution to Oklahoma's car tag dilemma,Governor Keating has confirmed that he is more interested in partisan politics than he is in affordable tag prices, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Today, the Governor vetoed a car tag reform bill for the second year in a row.
"Any Oklahoman who pays more than $85 for their car tag can blame Governor Keating. He's had two opportunities to deliver tag relief to Oklahomans and on both occasions he's opted to deny them affordable license plates. This is a very serious issue for Oklahoma motorists, but to Governor Keating, it's apparently just a political football," said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
HB 2663 would have slashed the costs of annual license plates, charging a flat fee of $85 to $15 depending on the age of the vehicle. It would have also reformed the vehicle excise tax process, levying the tax on the actual sales price of a vehicle rather than the inflated sticker price as current
"Democrats and Republicans voted to get rid of an unfair system and replace it with one that gave Oklahomans a break on car tag fees. Governor Keating rejected the common sense solution and stuck with a very flawed status quo instead, much to the detriment of Oklahoma motorists," said
The Senate leader noted that legislators offered the Governor several compromise pieces of legislation over the past two years, moving from a revenue neutral bill, to an $11 million tax cut, to a $22 million tax cut. Governor Keating, however, never budged from the original position he
"We came to the Governor with compromises, but he never indicated a real interest in resolving the issue in a responsible way. Governor Keating apparently decided that tags were more valuable to him as an election-year issue," noted Senator Taylor.
In his veto message, the Governor claimed he vetoed HB 2663 because it wasn't a big enough tag reduction, but that claim is just a smokescreen designed to cover Keating's real reason for vetoing the bill, according to Taylor.
"The Governor is blowing smoke when he claims that he had to kill the tag cut to ensure real reform. That's like saying he had to destroy the village to save it. It's just political double talk," said Senator Taylor.
"If the Governor really wanted a bigger cut, he could have signed this year's bill, checked the state's economic conditions next year and pushed for a larger reduction then. Governor Keating may think that no loaf is better than half a loaf, but I don't think many Oklahoma motorists would
agree with him."
Although HB 2663 received overwhelming Republican support in the Senate, many House Republicans voted against the bill, apparently upset because their pet tag proposal was defeated earlier in the session. Most political observers believe the Governor vetoed the bill to mend strained relations with the House GOP, not because he objected to the legislation itself.
"Unfortunately, as has happened so often in this administration, partisanship triumphed over the needs of the people. I never thought I'd see the day when any governor, especially a so-called conservative Republican, would veto a $22 million tax cut. I know Governor Keating was hoping to boost his sagging approval ratings in the final weeks of session, but given the fact that he's killed another car tag reduction, I don't see that happening," said Senator Taylor.
The Senate leader said he plans to discuss the matter with House Speaker Loyd Benson, but added that he expects lawmakers to consider putting the car tag question to a statewide vote. If approved by both Houses, such a proposal would bypass the Governor and go directly to the November ballot.