Walters Pocket Vetoes Trucking Industry Bills
Wolfe, Lou Anne, THE JOURNAL RECORD
By failing to sign them into law, Gov. David Walters killed two major trucking industry bills enacted this year by the Oklahoma Legislature.
"I'm very disappointed, of course," said Vince Robison, president of the Associated Motor Carriers.
"I suspect that activity, in concert with the other things that have happened, will end the trucking industry's efforts here in Oklahoma to develop our state as a marketing, warehousing and distribution center."
Pocket vetoed were Senate Bill 185, which would have established a Trucking Commission to take over the responsibilities of the TISRAD committee, or Trucking Industry Self-Funded Research and Development, and Senate Joint Resolution 16, which would sanction vehicle weights up to 90,000 pounds on the federal interstate highway system in Oklahoma.
Both measures were co-authored by the legislative transportation committee chairmen, Sen. Gene Stipe, D-McAlester, and Rep. Larry Adair, D-Stilwell.
The loss of Senate Bill 185 means the demise of a funding source for the trucking research projects established in 1987 with the creation of the TISRAD effort. The TISRAD committee was funded by a $75,000 annual appropriation, which was dropped from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's funding bill for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Under Senate Bill 185, funding for the research projects was to come from an assessment on vehicles, based on weight. The bill gave truckers the opportunity to opt out of the program, sort of like the checkoff promotion program for beef.
TISRAD would have been phased out, effective Dec. 31.
"We've been dealing with a company for about two and a half years to come to either Oklahoma City or Tulsa," Robison said. "Their equipment value for their tractors is $50 million, and $31 million for their trailers. The employee range would be about 1,000 employees," he said.
"We'll be having some lengthy discussions with them. They specifically wanted to come here, because they wanted to participate in what we were doing in Oklahoma," Robison said. "But we're just going to have to tell them the truth."
Walters said the funding mechanism for the Trucking Commission "would unfairly require the small farmer, rancher or businessman to subsidize the funding of the commission, since operators of larger vehicles would be given the option of opting out of the assessment put into place to fund this new state agency."
According to Senate Bill 185, trucking operators could opt out of the assessment, but no refund would be allowed for amounts of $15 or less. Trucks weighing 30,001 pounds to 51,000 pounds would be assessed $12 per year; those from 51,001 pounds to 72,000 pounds, $15 per year; and above 72,001 pounds, $18 per year.
Oklahoma Tax Commission data showed that 85 percent to 90 percent of independent owner operators register to the maximum truck weight of 80,000 pounds, and "only a very small percentage of the vehicles registered in categories below 72,000 pounds are independent owner operator vehicles."
Under those circumstances, 85 percent to 90 percent would owe $18 per year, so they would have been eligible to opt out.
"I know there's been a mixed debate as to the effectiveness of all of it," Walters said, referring to the TISRAD research. "I'm not anxious for all of it to go away," but the terms of Senate Bill 185 and the Trucking Commission didn't seem like a fair trade off, he said.
The governor added that he "doesn't write the legislation," but he tried to weigh it up and down when he received the bills to sign.
In his prepared news release, the governor said he supported public-private partnerships to "further develop and enhance Oklahoma's transportation system." But "creation of a fully staffed, stand-alone state agency to foster the development of one element of this industry was unwarranted, when the people of Oklahoma are asking for a reduction of the overall size of state government. …