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Oklahoma lawmakers waiting on court’s decision to determine next budget move

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Oklahoma flags blowing in the wind at Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – After the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional, Oklahoma lawmakers say they are waiting to see what else the court decides regarding taxes and fees that were approved last legislative session.

The ruling focused on a lawsuit filed by cigarette manufacturers over the $1.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes.

The justices’ ruling cited the act “did not indicate the purpose of the $1.50 assessment was to reduce the incidence of smoking, nor did they mention any non-revenue-raising regulatory purpose,” according to a written ruling obtained by NewsChannel 4. The court also agreed the bill violated a state constitutional ban on passing revenue raising measures in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote.

The Republican Caucus in the Oklahoma House of Representatives met on Monday to discuss possible ways to fill the approximately $215 million hole in the budget.

House Speaker Charles McCall said lawmakers are waiting to see what the Oklahoma Supreme Court rules on another challenge to a bill focusing on a sales tax for automobiles.

“We had a very productive meeting today, and our members are prepared to go back to work and deal with the budget when we know what the final budget picture will be,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “We have some ideas on how to address the budget, but there is some uncertainty right now regarding additional court challenges. We are very early in the fiscal year, so we do have some time to develop a sound plan that will give our agencies some certainty as they fulfill their duties and manage programs over the next 10 months. I have also communicated with Minority Leader Scott Inman and asked him to provide in writing any ideas the minority caucus is willing to support.”

Minority Leader Scott Inman previously told NewsChannel 4 that a compromise was necessary.

“For months, my colleagues and I rang the bell and told the governor and Republicans that, if they wanted to balance the budget and they wanted to do it in a constitutional way, it would require them to negotiate with us to compromise,” Inman said.

Gov. Mary Fallin has indicated that she will call a special session to force lawmakers to come together to create a new plan for the budget.