The Oklahoma Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill by Senator Jay Paul Gumm to further ensure disabled veterans receive a tax benefit the senator wrote and passed in 2005.
As part of Senator Gumm’s bills enacting the largest tax cut in Oklahoma’s history was a measure granting a sales tax exemption to veterans with a 100 percent service-connected disability. According to news reports and complaints by veterans in the early days of the exemption, a number of vendors were reluctant to honor the exemption at the cash register.
That refusal forced veterans to file for reimbursement from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in order to receive the exemption. Filing took time, Gumm said, and showed an “unseemly disrespect” toward those who served in the Armed Forces.
“It was the sacrifice of these veterans that secured the freedom allowing these retailers to be in business,” he said. “It is a moral obligation for these retailers to follow the law; but it is more important that they join the state in honoring the sacrifice of these veterans – some of whom who gave almost the last full measure of devotion for our nation.”
Gumm said the small group of retailers which denied the exemption missed the point: the exemption is the law and the retailers are bound to follow it. That is why Gumm wrote and passed in 2006 a law that imposed a $500 administrative fine on retailers who continued to deny veterans the exemption.
After that bill became law, more vendors began to honor the exemption. Still, Gumm said, veterans still report some retailers continue to deny the exemption.
That led Gumm to introduce Senate Bill 1321 this year, which would make the fine a misdemeanor criminal penalty. The bill passed the Senate without opposition Wednesday.
“From the beginning of this important benefit our veterans earned on the fields of battle, a small minority of retailers have – for whatever reason – turned their back on these veterans and the law,” the lawmaker said. “These denials have become fewer and farther between, but there is still work to be done.
“SB 1321 would complete the journey and secure, in the clearest terms possible, this benefit for those who fought for us.”
Gumm’s measure now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.