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Lawmakers take action after Gov. Fallin’s ‘State of the State’

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American dollars, Photo: tOrange.us / CC BY-SA 4.0

OKLAHOMA CITY – One day after Gov. Fallin’s ‘State of the State’ address, lawmakers are putting some of her plans into action.

On Monday, Fallin called for a change to taxes to help ease the $900 million deficit the state is facing.

Fallin proposes a budget that would cut agencies by 6 percent and would rely on recurring revenue.

It would also call for a consumption tax on cigarettes.

“Smoking is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death and it costs our state $1.6 billion in related health care costs each year,” said Fallin.

However, one lawmaker says that is a double-edged sword.

Rep. Dustin Roberts says he supports Fallin’s intentions to improve revenue by taxing cigarettes, but says her plan would have the opposite effect.

“Our current consumption tax on tobacco is competitive regionally,” he said. “Increasing it would encourage those of us who live near the borders of other states to simply get our cigarettes across the border or from one of the local tribes. This would hurt small local business revenue. Basically, if we hike up our tax, we will be surrounded by cheaper tobacco.”

Fallin also calls for $200 million to be collected by reforming the state’s tax exemptions. Oklahoma’s tax codes are similar to the tax codes from the 1980s.

Another lawmaker has proposed a bill that would close the state’s Internet sales tax loophole.

House Bill 2925, known as the “Oklahoma Retail Protection Act,” would amend current laws to allow the state to collect sales taxes on transactions between a buyer from Oklahoma and large online retail sites, such as Amazon.

“This bill is primarily about creating a level playing field between Oklahoma businesses that have to collect sales taxes and out-of-state businesses that do not,” said Rep. Chad Caldwell. “More and more shoppers are purchasing products from the Internet because they don’t have to pay sales taxes on those purchases, while they would if they went to one of our brick-and-mortar stores.”