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Legislature passes measures increasing fees on vehicle purchases and cigarettes

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Debate raged in both the House and Senate on Wednesday over whether two measures passed were constitutional.

The legislature is not supposed to hear revenue raising measures in the last 5 days of session.

But proponents of the measures argued these were being passed for reasons other than revenue and plugging the budget hole.

The House passed a measure that repeals a tax exemption on purchases of new and used vehicles.

Oklahomans buying vehicles will now have to pay a 1.25% sales tax on these purchases.

Proponents argued that this is simply repealing an exemption that's been in place for years and that it's good policy.

"This still keeps Oklahoma with a competitive advantage with every state around us with the exception of New Mexico. This will not stop the sale of vehicles," said Rep. Jon Echols.

Opponents said it is a new tax and a way to try and plug the budget hole at the last minute.

"We are increasing taxes and raising revenue to balance the budget," said Rep. Emily Virgin.

The measure passed 52-47.

Over in the Senate, a similar debate raged over the $1.50 per pack of cigarettes fee.

"This is a fee, not a tax," said Sen. Greg Treat.

Other members expressing apprehension that this bill won't stand up in court.

"But if this does not work out the way we want to. If this is found to be overturned, that it is because we made the decision to move forward today instead of taking the safe play, going into concurrent or special session and making sure we were covered if this is found to be a revenue bill," said Sen. Kay Floyd.

That bill passed as well.

Members of both the House and Senate expressed frustration that more had not been done before now.

"And we look like fools because we're having to stay up past midnight to pass a budget," said Sen. Greg Treat.

"Here we are in the last week because we waited all session long without doing anything," said Rep. Jason Dunnington.