Three days into the special session called by the Governor, the legislature stands in recess. A proposed cigarette tax, which some thought may be a major part of the solution to the budget gap, didn’t have the 75% majority required for passage. The State Chamber continues to support the cigarette tax, which would generate $215 million in revenue and reduce health care costs by improving the health of Oklahomans. With the cigarette tax off the table, it became apparent to legislative leaders that a budget deal will take more time to develop. No timeline has been given for special session to resume, but committees and interim studies will continue as scheduled.
"While we are closer to an agreement, we are not going to waste $30,000 a day negotiating. We pledge to continue negotiating in good faith with the governor and Senate, but we are going to do that off the clock," said House Speaker Charles McCall. "When there is an agreement in place, we will return and take care of the people’s business."
This special session is unique, with 197 bills being filed. Only 13 bills were filed in the two most recent special sessions combined. The large number of bills may have complicated the budget negotiations and made it more difficult to find solutions.
The delay leaves unanswered questions for Oklahoma businesses, many of whom could be negatively impacted by proposed tax hikes. Virtually all sectors of business are at risk of higher taxes, including health care, oil & natural gas, wind and manufacturing.