On February 1, 2016, Governor Mary Fallin kicked off the start of the 2nd Session of the 55th Legislature with her State of the State Address. View her speech and executive budget.
When the Board of Equalization last met in December, they predicted a $901 million shortfall in revenue collections and declared a revenue failure. This number is expected to rise; the December projection was based around the assumption that oil would average $42.83 for the remainder of the fiscal year, considerably higher than current trends.
Given the fiscal constraints, Gov. Fallin's argued Monday that her budget offers a "realistic, responsible way forward." Without any political maneuvering, she said, all agencies would be forced to take a 13.5% cut—including education, which consumes over half the state's annual appropriated budget. Finding this unacceptable, Fallin outlined how her budget would cut most agencies 6%, some agencies 3%, all the while allowing for modest increases for teacher salaries and corrections.
The governor's plan largely relies on drastically reducing off-the-top spending, eliminating sales tax deductions, and raising the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), and Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (OMHSAS), were among agencies selcted to receive 3%—rather than 6%—cuts.
Dr. Cox, Oklahoma's House District 5 Representative, has authored three bills that would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, as described by Gov. Fallin. Under Rep. Cox's bills, two-thirds of the revenue generated would be allocated to Common Education to increase teacher salaries, and the remaining third would fund Insure Oklahoma with a small portion going to pediatric cancer research.
A recent report by Tobacconomics, a research coalition dedicated to tobacco policy, found that Oklahoma stood to benefit from "$830 million in total new annual revenues" over a five year period by enacting a $1.50/ cigarette pack tax increase. This figure does not include the economic impact of improved health outcomes from potential cessation or decline in use.
View OKPCA's bill tracking list here.
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Posted on Tue, February 2, 2016
by Cassidy Heit