Cigarette Tax

Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Cigarette Fee

Aug 10, 2017
Flickr / Fried Dough

The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma has ruled that a fee on cigarettes approved during the 2017 legislative session is unconstitutional.

Flickr / Fried Dough

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices considered arguments Tuesday that challenged the constitutionality of four bills passed during this year’s legislative session.

The legal challenges throw into question millions of dollars of state revenue that fund government agencies.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about constitutional challenges against a state law to crackdown on drunk drivers and another to increase fees on a pack of cigarettes by a $1.50 and calls by the state's two biggest universities to ask for tuition increases in light of budget cuts from state lawmakers.

Brian Hardzinski / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Two of the largest tobacco companies in the U.S. are suing Oklahoma over the state’s new cigarette fee.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. filed a brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court Wednesday, along with several Oklahoma companies and individuals.

In the brief, plaintiffs argue the $1.50-per-pack cigarette fee, or the “Smoking Cessation Act,” “flagrantly violates” the Oklahoma constitution.

The fee is scheduled to take effect in August, and would generate about $215 million per year for the state.

okhouse.gov

Lawmakers are slowly working on measures to increase revenue.

House Appropriations Chair Leslie Osborn says over the next three weeks bills will be coming out of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, also known as J-CAB.

The Mustang Republican says most of the measures appear to be getting support from both sides.

okhouse.gov

A $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes is getting moved to later in the legislative session at the State Capitol.

Representative Leslie Osborn says the tax increase will go before lawmakers on what's known as a J-CAB measure rather than a regular bill.

"We kind of got bogged down with a lot of other policy issues. We need to work both sides of the aisle, make sure we have the support. I expect we will because this one polls 76% across the state to pass with Ds and Rs."

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Coming into Mary Fallin’s 7th state of the state address as governor of Oklahoma on Monday, there was one big question: 'How will the state deal with another revenue shortfall, and not cut funding to agencies that provide services?'

The state faces an estimated $870 million budget gap in the upcoming fiscal year. That comes after clawing out a $1.3 billion deficit last year.

"Today, I am proposing a series of bold reforms to stabilize our state regarding both recurring revenue and repairing the structural deficit of the budget."

Each time New York state increased its tobacco tax — now at $4.35 per pack of cigarettes — calls to the state's Quitline spiked.

In New York City, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg hiked the tax even more.

"I was so angry with him, I could hardly afford it," says Elizabeth Lane, a Harlem resident who paid $12 a pack. "I had to beg, borrow and steal to get money to buy cigarettes."

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about a bill to increase taxes on cigarettes fails in the House as the clock starts to run out at the State Capitol to create any new revenue to fix the $1.3 billion dollar shortfall.

The Oklahoma House rejected a proposed $1.50 per-pack tax on cigarettes to help shore up the state's health care system.

Updated May 19, 10:36 a.m.

House Bill 3210 failed on a vote of 59-40 against the measure even after House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, held the vote open for more than two hours Wednesday night to fix what he called a “health care disaster.” Republicans blaming Democrats for the bill's failure.

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