House Democratic Caucus Releases Statement in Response to Oklahoma Court Ruling
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Senate Bill 845 is unconstitutional.
SB845 was projected to raise more than $200 million for the current state budget by charging cigarette wholesalers a $1.50 per pack tax. During the legislative session, however, House Democrats warned Republicans that passing the unconstitutional legislation would have a detrimental impact on our state budget and state agencies. The measure passed the House with a partisan vote of 51 to 43.
The proposed revenue from the tax affects 7 percent of the appropriated budget to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, 10 percent of the appropriated budget to the Department of Human Services, and 23 percent of the appropriated budget to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
The court’s ruling will likely prompt a special session, costing the state an additional $30,000 per day, and requiring lawmakers to return to the capitol to fix the now incomplete budget.
“In order to appease special interests, Republicans made a decision to ignore the House Democratic Caucus, Oklahoma citizens and the Oklahoma Constitution,” said Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. “As a result of that decision, we are now facing a $200 million hole in our current budget. It is time for the Republican Leadership to stop playing political games and to start working on real solutions to fund state government. As we have been all year, the Democratic Caucus stands ready to negotiate a long-term solution to fix Oklahoma’s funding crisis.”
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