Supreme Court justices grill solicitor general on tax cut
By Rick M. Green, Capitol Bureau

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices interrupted the state’s solicitor general repeatedly with tough questions Tuesday as he sought to defend the way legislators passed an income tax reduction measure.

“Why don’t they just follow the constitution?” Justice Noma Gurich asked. “All this whole issue is about is follow the constitution of the state of Oklahoma.”

The nine-member court took oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by attorney Jerry Fent against Senate Bill 1246, which was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on April 28. It calls for a gradual reduction in the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent. The cut is set to take effect for the 2016 tax year if general revenue meets certain benchmarks.

Fent said the constitution requires that revenue bills originate in the House, and this bill started in the Senate. Such bills require a three-fourths vote in the Oklahoma House and Senate, and approval of this bill did not reach that threshold.

Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick argued these requirements apply only to bills that increase revenue, and this bill decreases revenue.

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