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Area legislators not in favor of sales tax plan

Lawton area legislators aren't convinced the governor's proposal to levy sales taxes on goods and services now without them will be part of the state budget when the session ends in May.

During Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State address in February, she suggested state sales tax on 164 categories of goods and services now without, a proposal that has drawn fire because it would tax things ranging from funeral and medical services to housing construction and utilities.

While the proposal drew heavy comments when it was proposed, there has been little movement on it in recent weeks beyond a commitment to look at the idea of raising the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 and the state tax on gasoline and diesel to 24 cents per gallon.

While Fallin said the proposed taxes would modernize the state's sales tax system, Republican legislators questioned the wisdom of those taxes. The proposal prompted Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb to resign his post as small business advocate on Fallin's cabinet after he said he couldn't support the governor's idea.

Three Lawton area legislators said action has been delayed because the House and Senate want to look at other options to balance the state budget and its $900 million shortfall before considering the idea of raising taxes.

Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, said he really hasn't had a chance to review the proposed items in detail.

"There may be some in there that may be possible candidates. The problem is the amount of revenue that is actually going to be raised," he said, adding that he has other problems with the proposal.

In particular, he calls the proposal "anti business," saying it puts those who are just trying to earn a living at a disadvantage because of the paperwork that would be required to satisfy the requirements of the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

"It is a difficult proposal for somebody who is mowing yards or running a cleaners or laundry, or a mechanic, making them take the time they need to be earning a living to comply with an additional regulation from the state. It's hard for small business people to absorb that time off.

"That's the viewpoint I have and I think it seems to be a similar viewpoint to a lot of the representatives that I've talked to."

Worthen said he would rather consider other proposals before doing "a blanket tax on all these services," adding that House leadership already is exploring options.

Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield, said he doesn't believe new taxes are the way to balance the state budget and doesn't believe most Republicans expect taxpayers to provide the solution.

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