In The Know: Cigarette tax hike down, but not out

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Cigarette tax hike down, but not out: The Oklahoma House couldn’t muster enough votes to raise the cigarette tax rate on Monday, potentially throwing budget talks into more of a tailspin. The measure needed 76 votes to pass unimpeded, but the final tally was 63 to 34. Both Republicans and Democrats voted against it, but the Democrats have said they have enough votes to put it over the edge if Republicans also move a production tax on oil and gas [NewsOK].

Five days to find revenue: Oklahoma lawmakers hoping for a deal in last days of session: Oklahoma lawmakers have until Friday to find about a billion dollars’ worth of revenue or adopt a budget with more agency spending cuts, an act that could draw a veto from Gov. Mary Fallin. The past few weeks of session have been fraught with tense negotiations and false starts on new revenue as budget writers in the House, Senate and governor’s office try to cobble together a coalition willing to raise taxes while curtailing valuable tax incentives [NewsOK].

Budget deals suffer another setback: An integral part of both chambers’ budget plans got spiked Monday afternoon, but officials insist the measure can be revived. Both plans to fill the state’s nearly billion-dollar budget hole while protecting essential services such as education and corrections hinge on a $1.50 increase per pack tax increase on cigarettes. That would pay for health care services, such as Medicaid and mental health. Budget officials project that would bring in about $180 million. Although a majority in the House of Representatives voted to approve the cigarette tax, supporters didn’t meet the elevated bar set on revenue measures [Journal Record].

House eyes suspending back-to-school sales tax holiday, cutting state agency sales tax exemptions: House members voted narrowly Monday to pass several bills out of a budget committee, including two that would suspend the state’s back-to-school sales tax holiday and eliminate sales tax exemptions for state agencies. The House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget narrowly passed SB 862 Monday evening by 13-12 margin that would suspend the state’s sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping. Five Republicans joined the committee’s seven Democrats in opposing the measure [KFOR].

How much new revenue will ending oil and gas tax breaks bring in? As the budget debate has intensified in recent weeks, legislators and advocates have heard dramatically different estimates of how much additional revenue could be raised by ending or reducing the special tax rate for oil and gas production. Some have claimed that ending the gross production tax break would only bring in an additional $20 million next year, while others have suggested the impact could be as high as $350 million [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Senate fashions its own budget bill: Apparently tired of waiting for state House members to come up with a revenue plan, state senators gutted a minor House revenue bill Monday and inserted their own broad plan. The comprehensive plan, which the Senate passed Monday by a 36 to 9 vote, includes several revenue-raising measures designed to generate $510 million. Major tax hikes would include a $1.50 per pack increase in the price of cigarettes designed to raise $212 million and a 6 cent per gallon hike in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel projected to raise $125 million [NewsOK].

Budget uncertainty: House, Senate working cigarette tax differently: A $1.50 hike to Oklahoma’s cigarette tax failed to receive a three-fourths majority in the House of Representatives this afternoon, but its passage 63-34 makes it eligible for a statewide ballot question if the Senate were to pass it in the same form. However, the Senate sent a different revenue package — including the cigarette tax — back to the House later in the day. Despite broad disagreement over HB 2372, the House vote occurred without debate for or against it. It needed 76 yes votes to pass the chamber without ballot approval from the public [NonDoc].

Oklahoma kills ‘American Rule,’ no one notices: A widely popular bill expanding rights for child victims of sexual abuse was amended quietly in the Oklahoma Senate to eliminate an important legal tenet called the American Rule. The amended bill passed its final three votes by a combined total of 146-2. Gov. Mary Fallin signed it last week. Shortly thereafter, attorneys around the state began to realize the American Rule had been terminated, thus forcing the losing party in civil cases to pay the legal fees of the prevailing party. Functionally, that would disincentivize citizens — especially low-income ones — from filing lawsuits in Oklahoma courts [NonDoc]. The authors of the bill said that it was a mistake [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects challenge to income tax law: The Oklahoma State Supreme Court on Monday upheld legislation that reduces the tax credit for some Oklahomans. In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected a challenge to Senate Bill 1604, which became law last year and changed the way the Oklahoma Earned Income Credit is administered. The law made the tax credit nonrefundable, meaning qualifying taxpayers still will receive a credit on the state taxes they owe, but they will not receive payment if they owe less than the full amount of the credit [NewsOK]. Last year’s change placed the burden on those least able to afford it [OK Policy].

Juvenile System Shifts to More Focus on Treatment: The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs is undertaking a major shift in culture away from being a corrections’ system to more of a mental health and treatment agency. Brad Gibson of Oklahoma Watch reports [Oklahoma Watch].

Edmond and Oklahoma receive Amazon sales tax money: Edmond’s May sales tax collection check includes money remitted by Amazon — the first time the city has received such funds since the online company started collecting sales tax from Oklahoma customers March 1. City Finance Director Warren Porter estimates that Edmond will receive $600,000 from Amazon over the next fiscal year. Sales tax from Amazon will boost state and local budgets, but the actual amount that governmental entities receive will not be made public because Amazon is a private business and its tax information is protected [NewsOK].

Sen. Inhofe Says Oklahoma Could Benefit From Trump’s National Infrastructure Plan: Speaking at a media event atop an interstate overpass construction site in Norman, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe told a small crowd Friday that President Donald Trump is serious about a proposed $1 trillion national infrastructure plan. The Republican is chair of a Senate subcommittee that oversees such programs and he said Oklahoma stands to benefit from a new focus for federal funding. Inhofe joined state transportation officials for a day-long media tour at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, one of the country’s largest inland river-ports [KOSU].

Quote of the Day

“I think it’s being used as a ploy, a leveraging point. If there’s a will there’s a way. There’s just no will right now.”

-Craig Jones, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, on the failure of a cigarette tax increase in the House of Representatives yesterday (Source)

Number of the Day

$14.26 billion

Total federal funds awarded to Oklahoma companies, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals through contracts, grants, and loans in FY 2017, as of May 16, 2017.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Nurse Licensing Laws Block Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Confronting an opioid overdose epidemic that is killing at least 90 people every day, two federal agencies this month gave more than 700 nurse practitioners and physician assistants the authority to write prescriptions for the anti-addiction medication buprenorphine. The goal: To let them help treat as many of the more than 2.5 million people addicted to painkillers or heroin in the nation as they can. Tens of thousands more nurse practitioners and physician assistants could be helping, too, by applying for a federal license to prescribe the potentially life-saving medicine. But laws in more than half the states are likely to prevent nurses from using their licenses in rural areas that need it most [Pew Trusts].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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