Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vending Fee Reduction Bill Advances; Action Follows Fox 25 News Report On Fee 'Shell Game'

Legislation headed for the floor of the House would reduce the fee on vending machines, potentially helping many small businesses survive.

The action follows by days a report by Fox 25 News about hidden taxes, or fees levied by the Legislature. In particular, the report focused on vending machines.

Rep. Charles Ortega:
Increase was 'bad policy'
“This is an important measure to reassess past policy decisions and provide some support to small business owners across Oklahoma,” said Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus. “The fee increase approved last year was clearly excessive and now threatens to drive many operators out of the business, ultimately reducing tax collections and harming our economy.”

Last year, lawmakers voted to triple the fee paid by vending machine operators, increasing it from $50 per machine to $150 apiece.

The increase was, in part, a response to last year’s budget shortfall. House Bill 1634, by Ortega, would reduce the fee from $150 to $75.

According to Tax Commission records, there are 54,323 vending machines across the state.

“While we will not know the full impact of the increased $150 decal for several months, members of the vending machine association and soft drink bottlers project a 30 percent reduction of machines on the market,” Ortega said. “As a result, instead of generating the estimated $8.5 million from the fee increase, that could potentially create a loss of $6.5 million to the state by the time you factor in job reduction. The $150 fee was simply bad policy and I hope we quickly correct it this year.”

Ortega noted that several other lawmakers have filed similar legislation this year, including state Rep. Al McAffrey (D-Oklahoma City) – House Bill 1041 state Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Edmond) – House Bill 1346 state Rep. Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) – House Bill 1740; and state Rep. T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) – House Bill 1810.

House Bill 1634 passed unanimously out of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. It now goes to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

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