- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Republican candidate for Oklahoma governor filed a lawsuit Wednesday that asks the state Supreme Court to invalidate three revenue-raising measures passed by the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature that the lawsuit alleges are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit filed by Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson alleges the measures were adopted by the Oklahoma House in the waning days of the legislative session in violation of a state constitutional provision prohibiting passage of new taxes in the final five days of a legislative session and without a 75 percent supermajority of lawmakers.

“We are a nation of laws and when our lawmakers refuse to follow our constitution, then we the people must rise up and ask the courts to defend our constitution,” Richardson said in a statement.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s general counsel, James Williamson, said in a statement he hopes the state’s highest court “will make a ruling in a timely manner.”

Oklahoma lawmakers considered a variety of revenue-raising measures earlier this year in an effort to close an $878 million hole in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and avoid catastrophic cuts to state agencies and services.

One bill challenged by the lawsuit creates new fees for registering electric and compressed natural gas vehicles that is estimated to raise more than $1 million a year, the lawsuit states.

Another measure adds a 1.25 percent sales tax on motor vehicle sales on top on the existing excise tax already charged on car sales, a fee estimated to raise $124 million a year.

“In the final days of the session, when the budget looked bleak, the Legislature decided to take matters into their own hands to pass an unconstitutional bill to fix a mess that they made,” the lawsuit states.

The third measure uncouples Oklahoma’s standard deduction rate from the federal rate for income tax returns, which is estimated to raise $4.4 million a year.

The petition is one of at least three lawsuits that challenge similar measures adopted by lawmakers before they adjourned the legislative session on May 26.

A lawsuit filed by cigarette companies earlier this month alleges Oklahoma’s new $1.50 fee on a pack of cigarettes is an unconstitutional “tax” that was passed in the final five days of a legislative session and without a supermajority of lawmakers. A separate lawsuit filed last week also challenges the new state sales tax on vehicles.

The Supreme Court’s nine justices have scheduled oral arguments for Aug. 8 on all three lawsuits.

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