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Oklahoma Court Reverses State's Cigarette Fee

Attorneys argued ‘cessation’ fee a budgetary ploy

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared the state’s $1.50-per-pack fee on cigarettes unconstitutional, sparking a reported $215 million budget shortfall and forcing the governor to suggest legislators reconvene to address the matter, according to Reuters.

Signed into law June 1 by Gov. Mary Fallin, the fee would have gone into effect in early fall.

On Aug. 10, the state’s highest court cited faulty lawmaking practices as the reason for declaring the law in violation of the state’s legislative process. According to its rules, the legislature could not pass revenue-raising measures in the last five days of its session.

Denying opposition claims of blatant revenue motives, attorneys representing the state said the main purpose of the fee was to reduce smoking rates and, as a result, did not have to follow the constitutional process.

In a statement following the court’s decision, Gov. Fallin said invalidating the fee would cause a $215 million budget shortfall. She said the agencies that would have received funding from the fee “and the people they serve cannot sustain the kind of cuts that will occur if we do not find a solution. My belief is we will have to come into special session to address this issue.”

Lawmakers were attempting to make up for an $878 million shortfall.

Oklahoma has a balanced-budget requirement. Its fiscal-year 2018 budget totaled about $6.8 billion, Michael McNutt, a spokesperson for Fallin, told the news agency.

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