OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives soundly defeated a measure Tuesday that would have increased decal fees on all coin-operated machines by 50%.
For example, on coin-operated music/amusement devices the fee would have been raised from $75 to $112.50; on vending machines that require a coin or other thing of value (such as a bill of some denomination), the fee would have been increased from $75 to $100. For a coin-operated bulk vending device that dispenses one or more products through six or more distribution mechanisms, the decal fee would have been increased from $15 to $22.50.
House Bill 2359 would have generated an extra $1.28 million for the state treasury, the Oklahoma Tax Commission calculated.
Among the legislators debating against the proposal was Democrat Rep. Forrest Bennett, a first-term lawmaker whose district includes midtown, downtown, and southside Oklahoma City.
He told his colleagues that he received an email from a constituent who is in one of Oklahoma’s seven veterans’ centers, asking him to refrain from raising the fees on vending machines.
Although the state’s vending machine fees aren’t imposed directly on the users, they typically get “passed on” to the consumer, Bennett noted. So his constituent “is asking us to not raise the cost of the Twinkies and the pretzels and the other things in the vending machines.”
Bennett rides the bus to the Capitol on most days when the Legislature is in session, and said that many of the people with whom he shares public transportation often rely on food dispensed from vending machines in the downtown transit center to “get some sustenance” for their bodies. “I watch them count their pennies to buy their bus passes and then see what’s left” so they can get something to eat from the vending machines.
HB 2359 is “going to hurt the people I see on a day-to-day basis,” Bennett asserted.
Also debating against the measure was Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who wrote recently about “the disastrous 2010 revenue grab” when the Legislature, faced with a huge budget deficit, “attempted to shake down” the vending machine industry by increasing the vending machine tax.
The governor and legislators wrote a budget anticipating that fees from vending machine would more than double: from $3.9 million to more than $8 million annually.
Instead, by 2011 the tax generated just $2.1 million, so the Legislature halved the vending machine fee. But it was too late. “To this day, this fee generates less revenue than it did in 2009 before the increase,” Murphey wrote.
HB 2359 barely passed the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, 12-11, and was trounced on the House floor Tuesday, 20-76.