The Edmond Sun

March 7, 2013

Speaker tries to rein in state agency fees

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon has set forth a bill to place a moratorium on agency fees.

The Oklahoma Appropriations and Budget Committee overwhelmingly passed the measure to place a moratorium on service fees Oklahomans pay to state agencies.

A fee hike is the same as a tax hike for hardworking taxpayers, Shannon said. Agency fees have increased by $113 million since 2007, according to Shannon’s office. House Bill 1914 will hold state agencies accountable, Shannon said.

“While we’ve done a good job in not raising taxes, if you look at the data, fees have risen over 34-36 percent in the last four years in Oklahoma,” Shannon said. “Those are expenses that are being passed down to families.”

HB1914 would allow time for lawmakers to evaluate taxation and the agency fee system, Shannon said. Existing fees could not be increased and new fees could not be implemented through Jan. 1, 2016. After that point, fees charged by an agency will be required to come forward with a fee justification statement if the legislation passes.

“I’m certainly a user-fee guy, but I do think we need to provide some type of oversight to state agencies that relates to fees,” Shannon said.

HB1914 would not prohibit an agency from benefiting its users and citizens, said state Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond.

“I think 1914 is a wonderful way to rein in an agency gone wild,” Turner said. “Fees can unfortunately act as taxes, or be an excess burden on users.”

Shannon’s goal to control and contain fee increases is also supported by state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond. Agency fees are often increased with little to no legislative oversight, said state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond.

“I support efforts to ensure fee increases are justified, so that individuals and families are not caught off guard by rising costs,” Grau said.

If approved, the measure will become effective Nov. 1. | 341-2121