Oklahoma voters will get to decide in August whether they would like to slash the cost of annual car tags. State lawmakers voted Friday to place the question directly on a state ballot, bypassing Governor Keating, who had vetoed two previous car tag reform efforts.
"We think we have a very good proposal that not only gives Oklahoma motorists a break on tag fees, but reforms a very flawed vehicle licensing system in the process. We shouldn't make Oklahomans wait another full year to get tag relief, just because one person disagreed with the plan" said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
Determined not to let Governor Keating stand in the way of a major car tag reduction again, lawmakers took advantage of a state constitutional provision that allows the Legislature, without gubernatorial review, to place referendums directly on a statewide ballot. HB 2189 by Senator Stratton Taylor would put the question on the August primary ballot.
"We tried our best to reach a compromise with the Governor over the past two years, but he rejected every offer that we put on the table. Instead of continuing to butt our heads against what seemed like a brick wall, we decided to bypass the middleman and give voters a chance to decide for themselves," said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
The proposal that will be submitted to voters will junk Oklahoma's unpopular tag system, switching to a flat annual fee ranging from $85 to $15 depending on the age of a vehicle.Vehicle Age Tag Fee 1-4 years old $85 5-8 years old $75 9-12 years old $55 13-16 years old $35 17 years and older $15
The measure will also reform the excise tax, assessing it against the actual sales price of a vehicle rather than the inflated sticker price as current law requires. The change will end inequities in the current system that require new car buyers to be charged higher taxes on vehicle purchases than many used car buyers.
The tag reduction provision of the measure will deliver immediate tag relief to the vast majority of Oklahoma motorists. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, two-thirds of annual vehicle transactions are tag renewals.
When excise tax reform is included, Oklahoma motorists should save a total of $22 million a year.
"Judging from the feedback I've heard from people in my area, I think this is going to be a very popular proposal. We're going to give voters an opportunity to decide whether to keep the old system that no one likes very much or try a new approach that cuts tag costs," said Senator Taylor.
Lawmakers decided to pursue a statewide vote after the Governor vetoed a car tag reform compromise last week. In attempting to explain his veto of the $22 million tax and fee reduction, Governor Keating admitted that 75 percent of the people who called his office asked him to sign the legislation.
"I may be wrong, but I think it's pretty obvious that Governor Keating is swimming against the tide of public opinoin on this issue," said Senator Taylor.
Unlike other tag bills considered this session, the proposal protects vehicle revenue that is earmarked for education, road construction and other services. The measure contains a provision mandating that any funding losses be absorbed by the state general fund.
Tag proposals advocated by Governor Keating and others were rejected because they would have cut too much money from public schools and highways, in addition to preserving the current inequities in the excise tax system.