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Oklahoma House passes bill that would add fee to cigarettes

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OKLAHOMA – The Oklahoma House passed a bill today that would add a $1.50 cigarette fee per pack.

SB 845 passed with a vote of 51-43.

It is expected to bring around $215 million to help fill the nearly $900 million dollar shortfall Oklahoma is facing.

Some lawmakers are worried the bills will be found unconstitutional, putting legislators back to square one.

“They were only able to find about $300 million worth of recurring revenue and of that, most of it comes from a car tax that may be unconstitutional because of when it was passed. And a cigarette tax that, I believe, is unconstitutional because of the way it was passed. So, there is a very real possibility that when these things get challenged in court, the 300 plus million dollars worth of recurring revenue that they believe they found to try and change the structural problems within our budget, could all go away and we’ll right back here this summer with the same fight over on how we find a way to really and truly balance the budget,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman.

However, others are speaking out saying the funding was needed to help Oklahomans.

“We are deeply thankful to the thousands of Oklahomans who contacted lawmakers in support of a cigarette tax to help fund our state’s hospitals, nursing homes and mental health services. While the Legislature took action to increase funding for health care with this budget deal, more work remains. Our citizens demand and deserve a health care system with stable, reliable, adequate funding, and we will continue to fight for a long-term solution to make Oklahoma better.” – Craig Jones, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

The bill now heads to the Governor Fallin.