It appears the Oklahoma Legislature will be heading to a special session after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Thursday the Legislature unconstitutionally passed the $1.50-per-pack cigarette fee during the final days of this year’s session.
The measure would have generated approximately $215 million.
“We go back to the drawing board first thing tomorrow (Friday) to develop a better plan to properly fund important health care services for vulnerable Oklahomans,” Senator A.J Griffin said in a message to Guthrie News Page.
The Oklahoma Constitution states “no revenue bill should be passed during the last five days of session.”
“I will be discussing with legislative leaders from both parties the need to address the $215 million shortfall this will create for the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the three agencies that received the bulk of the money that was to be generated by the cessation fee,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement.
Griffin, who serves as the Chair for Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services, says its time for members to come together.
“I’m hopeful that the political divides that got in the way during the session will be resolved and that the members will come together to make choices for the state and not their own political ambitions. If cuts are needed I’m not supportive of across the board reductions but feel we should follow through with the senates line-item detailed budgets the house failed to take up during the session.”
House Democratic Leader Scott Inman urged the governor to call lawmakers back to the Capitol.
“Once again, Gov. Fallin and Republican legislators have failed Oklahoma,” Inman wrote in a news release. “My caucus and I sounded every alarm bell we could to stop this from happening, yet here we are, just as we warned.”
However, Republican House Speaker Charles McCall said, “The fee was our only opportunity to balance the budget without deeper cuts. The minority party decided to play games with the budget, and now that opportunity has passed.”
If a special session is called it could cost tax payers around $30,000 a day.