The Pryor Times

Opinion

March 4, 2013

Fee increases lurk in shadows of Capitol

The House of Representatives finished its first committee cycle this week, after four weeks in session. Bills not passing out of their assigned committee are effectively dead for this year's session.Five of the eight bills I filed remain alive for consideration in the process.

One thing I have noticed these first few weeks of session is the amount of fee increases being quietly run through the legislature by House leadership. It appears they may be choosing to make up for lost revenues by increasing fees instead of actual tax increases. This is a tricky way to raise revenue to fund State agencies in the shadows of bold tax cut talk.

I strongly feel these fee increases will negatively affect the middle class and the working poor at a disproportional rate.

For example, one proposed fee increase would double the cost of a disability fishing license. Another imposes “a processing fee of not more than Five Dollars…per controlled hunt.” There is a bill to statutorily authorize the District Attorney to charge a fee of up to $40 a month for the duration of a probationary period. These fees are ultimately the culmination of the legislature's failure to fund the operations of state agencies.

Though the Speaker of the House has a bill that would place a moratorium on all fee increases, it seems there is a rush on running these fee increases through the legislature as fast as possible before the moratorium becomes law. In short, it appears the only way the governor's proposed income tax cut and budget proposal will work is if they pull maneuvers with fee increases to make the math work - even if it's like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Our economy works best when policies are enacted to help the middle class. We should enact policies that create opportunity. Whether it's a tax or a fee increase, it still takes money out of working Oklahomans' pockets. A further tax cut will only increase the pressure to raise fees and even property taxes.

 It is an honor to serve as your State Representative. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at (800) 522-8502 or at bensherrer@okhouse.gov. Until next week, God bless you.

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