- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that income tax cut legislation approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin last month is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit asks the state Supreme Court to invalidate the legislation and prevent it from going into effect because it did not originate in the state House and was not approved by three-fourths of the members of the House and Senate, as required by the Oklahoma Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenged other legislation in the past. Fent said the lawsuit does not challenge the merits of the income tax cut, just the way it was enacted.

“I don’t take a position about whether the bill is good for the people or bad for the people,” Fent said.

A hearing is scheduled for June 24 before a referee who will recommend whether the state’s highest court should take up the case. Representatives for Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, but the leader of the state Senate said he disagrees with its allegations.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said constitutional guidelines for revenue bills that were approved by voters in 1992 and are cited in the lawsuit were “meant to protect Oklahomans from tax hikes, not tax cuts.”

The lawsuit alleges the income tax legislation must meet constitutional mandates regardless of whether revenue is increased or decreased.

Fallin, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year, had made the tax cut one of her top goals for the 2014 Legislature.

The measure reduces the personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in 2016 if revenue projections in December 2014 are enough to cover the reduced income tax revenue. A second reduction from 5 percent to 4.85 percent will occur no sooner than two years after the 5 percent rate is enacted, providing there’s enough money to cover the cost of the reduction.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has said that if the cuts are fully implemented by 2018, income tax revenue will be cut by almost $200 million a year.

The lawsuit alleges the income tax bill is void because it originated in the state Senate, though the state constitution requires that “all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”

The lawsuit also alleges the income tax cut was approved by fewer lawmakers than required by the constitution, which mandates that revenue bills not submitted to a vote of the people may become law only if approved by three-fourths of the membership of the House and Senate.

The measure was approved in the 101-member House on a 54-40 vote and in the 48-member Senate by a vote of 32-10, less than three-fourths of the membership of both chambers.

Fent said the income tax bill is one of many adopted by lawmakers over the years that do not meet constitutional requirements.

“There’s too many of them,” Fent said. “They don’t think about the law.”

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