The Oklahoma Supreme Court has correctly ruled that the $1.50 cigarette tax is a tax and not a fee and was therefore unconstitutional.
During the legislative session, Republican leaders crafted four separate bills to raise the tax on cigarettes. This was promoted by Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who ran twice on conservative values but who earlier this year recommended passage of more than 150 new taxes.
The problem with the cigarette tax bills is that new taxes must have a vote of 75 percent to pass and none of those bills could get those votes. Fiscally conservative Republicans in the House and Senate would not vote for a tax increase and Democrats, who secretly wanted the tax, refused to support it because it gave them an opportunity to embarrass the Republicans. Also, it is illegal to pass a new tax in the last five days of the legislative session.
So, the GOP leaders in the House and Senate ran a bill that called the tax a “fee” and they pushed it through during the last week with a little more than 50 percent of the vote.
Tobacco companies and Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson (who is running for governor) sued because the tax was patently unconstitutional. And the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which has a liberal political bent, followed the constitution rather than the wishes of the chamber of commerce and struck down the tax.
State Sen. Nathan Dahm, who voted against the tax, said Oklahoma doesn’t have a revenue problem but a spending problem.
He’s right and for once, the fiscal conservatives won.