Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Gas Tax Moratorium: Politics or Good Sense?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Gas Tax Moratorium: Politics or Good Sense?

Article excerpt

A well-intended proposal or a creative stunt, Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan's plan to suspend the state's gasoline tax of 17 cents per gallon for three months raises interesting political ramifications.

Creating talk, but little action so far, it may be much ado about nothing. Chances are the basic reason is the Senate Democrat leader from Stillwater wants to pressure the House of Representatives to come back into session to consider $11 million in appropriations for the Department of Corrections and $10 million for the state's 2007 centennial celebration.

It has been an ongoing battle since the regular session adjourned.

Republican House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, steadfastly refuses to reconvene the House for a costly special session, since the Legislature can consider the appropriations next February when it returns in regular session.

He opposes spending more money in a special session, but if reconvened for the gasoline tax suspension the other issues would become involved.

Morgan's tax holiday would begin in October, and apparently only apply to the gasoline tax. No mention has been made of the 14-cents- per-gallon diesel fuel tax. According to the senator, it would save motorists $103 million in three months. To replace the lost road user funds he wants to take money from the state's Constitutional Reserve, or rainy day, Fund.

Endorsing the idea in principle, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of more than 2,400 legislators from 50 states, urged lawmakers to give motorists relief by temporarily suspending state gasoline taxes for September because of the shortages caused by Hurricane Katrina. The organization has offered model legislation.

Bruce M. Bell, CEO of Post Oak Oil Co. and chairman of the Mid- Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma, suggests the idea is a good one.

The current gasoline spike is a temporary run-up that will hit consumers hard, Bell said. This three-month moratorium on the gasoline tax will help counterbalance the impact during that time.

He suggested the lost revenue could be offset by increased gross production tax revenues and the income tax resulting from much higher oil and natural gas prices. …

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