Oklahoma's legislature convenes Sept. 25 for a special session. The need for this special session stems from the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision that the $1.50 cigarette cessation fee is unconstitutional, deeming it a revenue-raising measure that required approval from three-fourths of the legislature. This fee had been allocated to three agencies: the Health Care Authority ($70 million), the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services ($75 million), and the Department of Human Services ($69 million). Another $1 million had been allocated to the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission.
During this special session, legislators will be required to limit their work to five key needs identified by the governor. These are:
- Address the $215 million budget shortfall caused by the cigarette fee’s demise
- Potentially address long-term solutions to budget shortfalls
- Address consolidation and government efficiencies
- Clarify intended exemptions for the 1.25 percent tax increase on new vehicle sales
- Address pay increase for K-12 teachers
Ahead of the special session, Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal made the following remarks:
“The Tulsa Regional Chamber strongly supports Gov. Fallin’s call for a special legislative session to address the immediate budget crisis. We urge legislative leadership to do the right thing for Oklahoma, and to use this special session to tackle sustainable, bipartisan solutions — not simply redistribute the cuts or delay action.
“The loss of $215 million in health care funding is a critical blow to our state’s ability to foster a healthy workforce, and it will certainly cost jobs in the health care industry. But this crisis goes beyond health care. After many years of severe cuts and revenue failures, funding for education and other core services has eroded to a level that threatens the future prosperity of our citizens and the national competitiveness of our economy.
“It is time to demand bold, collaborative leadership from the highest echelons of our legislature."
Additional information on the governor’s call can be found here.